The rector of Dundee High School bullied a long-serving principal teacher and forced him to resign after he refused to apologise to a pupil who stormed out of his class, a judge has ruled.
An employment tribunal found John Halliday, 64, who will retire as head of the institution in January, held “extremely threatening and unpleasant” meetings with the staff member following the incident at the school.
Judge Ian McFatridge ruled Daniel Goodey was bullied out of his job after he “sighed in frustration” at the schoolgirl as she left his classroom in a “teenage huff”.
The tribunal heard the pupil was late in handing in an assignment and took exception to being told to work with a classmate to finish it. As she left, the teacher made an exasperated noise and told her “don’t walk away angry”.
The incident led to a complaint from the girl’s mother, who said her daughter no longer wanted to be taught by Mr Goodey, and following an investigation, the school agreed to allow the girl not to attend his classes.
Mr Goodey had 14 years of service and was principal teacher of religious, moral and philosophical studies at the school when he found himself wrongly accused of unprofessional conduct after he refused to provide a written apology to the girl.
He felt this left him with no option but to quit and he wrote in a resignation letter that there are “serious implications for the future standards of the school when teachers become afraid of expecting pupils to do work set and concerned that they may have to apologise for doing their job if a pupil is not happy”.
Judge McFatridge ruled Mr Goodey had “simply been carrying out his job” and instead of dealing with the matter properly, bosses at the school “sought to bully the teacher into apologising”.
He said: “When the teacher complained about bullying and harassment, he was faced with the threat of a bespoke investigation into his own conduct.
“When he raised a grievance, the investigation was not carried out correctly. There is no doubt in my mind that the dismissal was unfair.”
The judge said he was “not entirely satisfied” that Lise Hudson, the deputy rector, was credible or reliable, and described Mr Halliday’s evidence as “equally unreliable”.
Judge McFatridge said: “He spoke of having received a copy of all of the documents in the case at a time it was clear from other evidence that practically nothing existed.
“I am in absolutely no doubt that the claimant found the meetings between himself and the rector extremely threatening and unpleasant.”
The judge ordered Dundee High School to pay £60,000 to Mr Goodey.
In a letter to parents on Friday, the school’s chairman Iain Bett said the board and senior management team were “extremely disappointed” with the outcome.
He said: “In this case the rector, staff and directors involved acted in good faith and took all reasonable steps to resolve the issue promptly, thoroughly and as fairly as possible in the interests of all concerned.
“We are therefore dismayed by the judgement, which we believe does not provide an
accurate representation of the facts of the case which were presented in the hearing.
“We will of course be considering the outcome in detail in the weeks ahead and are taking legal advice as to our next steps.”