A teacher has been awarded almost £70,000 in compensation after she was told she was not doing enough to promote equality and diversity in class.
Betty Knight was given the ‘humiliating’ feedback after her English lesson was monitored for just 25 minutes in December 2019. She argued she was challenging racial stereotypes by her very presence teaching a majority of white students at Havant and South Downs College, Hampshire, but was placed on an improvement plan as a result.
Her assessor Claire Scott then sent an email to a colleague complaining Ms Knight was ‘throwing the E & D [equality and diversity] Black comment at me too’.
When Ms Knight launched a grievance case against the college, she was shown the email and felt she had been discriminated against. She later resigned in February 2021 and sued the college, claiming she had been harassed out of her job and constructively dismissed.
Ms Knight told an employment tribunal the email ‘insinuated’ she was ‘playing the race card’ in the face of criticism, which she found ‘quite offensive, very unprofessional and evidence of victimisation and discrimination’.
The tribunal ruled Ms Scott’s email constituted ‘unwanted conduct related to race’ which ‘violated’ Ms Knight’s dignity and created an ‘intimidating, hostile and offensive’ working environment.
‘We find [the email] was an act of harassment. ‘Whilst it was one of a number of reasons for her resignation, it materially influenced Ms Knight in making her decision [to resign].
‘We find that the comments did have a significant influence on Ms Knight who, reasonably, felt that she was being accused of playing the race card.
‘In those circumstances we find that the constructive dismissal was itself an act of harassment.’
Ms Knight won her case and was awarded a total of 68,529.81, including £14,661.70 for ‘injury to feelings’ and compensation for lost earnings.
The college was also ordered to write a letter of apology to Ms Knight and to staff at the college, explaining it had racially harassed her.
The mother-of-two claimed the experience left her suffering from depression and anxiety. She has not taught since retiring from college in 2021.
“My training wings are broken.”