‘Bullied’ teacher claims she was put on hit list

A PE teacher who claimed she was bullied out of her job after being placed on a head teacher’s “hit list” can seek compensation after a court ruled she had been a victim of negligence and a breach of contract.

Christine Johnson, who had worked for Morley High School for 27 years, was subjected to a deliberate campaign to persuade her to give up her job, a judge has ruled.

However he also ruled that the school’s actions were not severe enough to be harassment.

Mrs Johnson, who was suing Leeds Council, claimed that she had been harassed and that there was a failure to protect her from stress while working.

At the civil hearing at Leeds County Court Judge James Spencer said that Morley High’s head teacher John Townsley wrote “a spiteful” reference when Mrs Johnson was trying to find work in other schools.

He was said to have described her as negative and lacking the mental strength to operate as a teacher in secondary education.

Giving evidence at the hearing last month, Mrs Johnson said a meeting had been held and it was suggested that she give up her post to make life easier for her.

She said: “It was the start of my real fear because Mr Townsley’s reputation had come before him.

“Once he got hold of you, you were history. He was proud of his hit list.”

During the previous hearing, the court also heard from former headteacher Ronald Walker, from whom Mr Townsley took over.

Mr Walker hit out at the “spinelessness” of education bosses when it came to its staff and sickness policies and said the overall sickness policy was the real problem.

He had praised Mr Townsley as an exceptional head who had played a major part in the school’s turnaround in recent years.

Mr Townsley was appointed head of the school in 2003. Mrs Johnson went on sick leave with stress at the start of 2006 and was dismissed in September of that year.

The judge said the council had not followed its long-term sickness policy and failed to provide her with adequate support during her absence.

He said: “There was no such support given in this case. Instead, I find that there was a deliberate campaign to persuade her to give up work.”

The judge added that Mrs Johnson was being “pestered” to give up her job when she was off sick.

He said: ”I am satisfied that when they knew of her stress-related condition they carried out this campaign.

“This was negligent because they had a duty and they could have made her situation worse.”

After the case she said she was pleased with the decision.