A dance teacher has won his employment tribunal claim for race discrimination against Bristol City Council after he was wrongly accused of assaulting two pupils.
The case against traditional Caribbean dance instructor Ripton Lindsay went all the way to magistrates' court before he was exonerated last December.
Mr Lindsay, 38, a Jamaican now living in Westbury-on-Trym, was told "This is not how we do it in British schools" by head teacher Susan Eriksson after he separated two agitated pupils, aged eight and nine, by grabbing their collars at Millpond Primary School, Baptist Mills in February 2009.
Following the incident, he was charged with assault and using "excessive force"; banned from working in all Bristol council-run schools; lost his slot on Bristol radio station Ujima 98 FM and place working on St Paul's Carnival; and was dismissed from his position on the board of a nursery school.
Speaking to the Bristol Evening Post, Mr Lindsay said: "My life has been ruined. I have walked down the street and had people saying I beat up children.
"This has destroyed my reputation and almost wrecked my marriage -- I would not wish it on anyone.
"Until this incident I loved Bristol and I loved my job but the system has destroyed me and it means I have to leave a city and job that I love.
"There is some serious damage that has been done.
"I have never felt anything like this -- I hurt, I really hurt.
"I have made up my mind -- I don't want to teach anymore. I will take my skills to somewhere where they are appreciated."
Describing the incident, Mr Lindsay said: "I did not receive the personal support I expected.
"I was not given the opportunity to put my side of the story across and it was blown out of all proportion.
"The system has told me I need to be an animal and that I should have stood back and let those children tear each other apart. I am a human being and I did what was right and acted in their best interests. All I did was use my index finger and thumb on their collars to keep them apart."
Ms Eriksson's comment to him had been, he added, "very racist".
The tribunal agreed and found that by failing to give Mr Lindsay the opportunity to state his case Ms Eriksson "failed to perform a proper investigation into what happened".
It also found Mr Lindsay had been left with the impression that as a non-British person he did not "properly understand" how things should be done in a British school.
"This was an incident that happens in schools all the time and there had just been a massive overreaction," said Mr Lindsay.
Describing his feelings towards Ms Eriksson, who has since left Millpond Primary School and is now the head teacher at Glenfrome Primary in Eastville, Mr Lindsay said: "I do not hate Susan -- if anything I feel sorry for her. At the end of the tribunal I gave her a hug.
"I now feel like I want to take a step back and focus on my life. I just hope the council learn from this and realise what an effect they can have on people's lives."
The council, meanwhile, now faces a large legal bill that could stretch to tens of thousands of pounds. The exact amount of compensation payable to Mr Lindsay will be decided early next year.
- Teacher says his life has been ruined and marriage almost wrecked after race claim (Bristol Evening Post)
- Race discrimination law (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Unfair dismissal law (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Employment law Q&A (Community)
- Find an employment solicitor (Contact Law)