Teacher sacked over racy novel loses claim for unfair dismissal

Leonora Rustamova, 40, an English teacher who was sacked after she wrote a racy novel about her pupils at a Calderdale school, yesterday lost her tribunal claim for unfair dismissal.  Picture: John Giles/PAWire

Leonora Rustamova, 40, an English teacher who was sacked after she wrote a racy novel about her pupils at a Calderdale school, yesterday lost her tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. Picture: John Giles/PAWire

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A TEACHER sacked after writing a risqué novel that referred to pupils swearing, drinking and fantasising about her has lost her claim for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal hearing.

Leonora Rustamova, 41, known to her pupils at Calder High School, Hebden Bridge, as Miss Rusty, was sacked in May 2009 after writing Stop! Don’t Read This!

The book was littered with swear words and it also named several teachers and Year 11 pupils who were described as Miss Rusty’s favourites.

She wanted to publish a few copies of the book for the pupils and her Russian husband Denis put the book on the internet. She was then suspended from her job.

During a hearing at Leeds Miss Rustamova acknowledged the mistakes she had made and said: “I’m wrong, I’m an idiot. I had good intentions. My life is in ruins.”

In a reserved judgment published yesterday the three-man panel was split over its decision, the judge chairing the tribunal, Judge Burton, dissenting from the majority.

The report says: “It is with considerable regret that we cannot, as a tribunal, reach an agreement – the employment judge dissenting from the view reached by the majority non-legal members...

“The majority concludes that a teacher has very high standards of professional conduct to maintain.

“Miss Rustamova was an experienced teacher... issues relating to confidentiality and propriety of professional conduct should be second nature to a teacher...

“Miss Rustamova repeatedly acknowledged her faults and acknowledged that, in many respects, she had failed to meet the standards that her profession was entitled to require of her.

“The governors formed a view as to the seriousness of that conduct and the majority did not differ from their view, or even, if they privately did, they recognise their obligation not to substitute their view for a view reasonably held by the governors.

“The acknowledgement of fault on the part of the claimant demonstrates to the majority that the governors’ beliefs were reasonably held.”

Judge Burton, however, said he was troubled by the involvement of the headteacher Stephen Ball who praised Miss Rustamova in lavish terms after he had read the first few chapters of the book.

Giving the minority judge’s views, the report says: “He knew that the claimant intended to provide copies of the book to the five young men involved and that, as a consequence, the book would be out in the community beyond the school’s control.

“He could have taken steps to prevent its distribution at that stage but chose not to do so.

“It is, of course, accepted that he did not, at that stage, know that the book was available on the internet.”

Miss Rustamova, who has a 15-year-old daughter, and lives in Salendine Nook, Huddersfield, commented: “The judge was on my side and the panel voted against him.”

The book is now due to be published by Hebden Bridge firm Blue Moose Books at the end of April.

She said: “It will be very largely as it was originally written.

“We were proud of our project and what it achieved for us and we would like people to be able to read it and judge for themselves.”

The chairman of the Calder High School governors, Rob Good, said: “The only comment I would have is that dismissing anyone is a serious matter and that the governing body takes this matter very seriously.

“We are pleased that the issue has finally been resolved and we can all go back to improving education at Calder High.”

Calderdale Council’s director for children and young people Janet Donaldson said: “I am aware that a decision has been reached. We note that the tribunal has dismissed the claim.”

Miss Rustamova can appeal the decision within six weeks if she wishes.

robert.sutcliffe@ypn.co.uk

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