School teacher wins 'blackophobia' discrimination claim after colleagues were too scared to use the word 'black' around her

Wednesday 17 January 2024

A school teacher sacked after accusing her colleagues of 'blackophobia' has won a discrimination claim.

Andrea Mairs was let go from Kings Road Primary school in Manchester after complaints were made to the school's senior leadership team about her "relentless complaining" about racial issues.

According to colleagues, staff were left feeling uncomfortable about using the word "black" around her because they feared they would be branded racist.

They accused Ms Mairs of being "intimidating" and instilling fear in colleagues, making them feel unsafe to work.

It is claimed that Ms Mairs complained after a visiting magician to the school used the phrase "little monkeys" to endearingly describe pupils.

Kings Road Primary school in Manchester.

As a result, library books were removed, art displays were taken down and the nursery and reception classes were forced to stop singing the song 'Five Little Monkeys'.

On one occasion, Ms Mairs supposedly told headteacher Darren Morgan she thought it was inappropriate for a black child to wear a sticky label with the word "blackcurrant".

She argued it could be "misconstrued" and asked staff to be more sensitive about stickers in the future.

After the six complaining teachers threatened to strike over her conduct in 2022, Ms Mairs was let go from her job at the school where she had worked twenty years.

After she was dismissed, parents and students started a petition to bring her back which accumulated 800 signatures.

An independent panel concluded her relationship with other teachers had "irretrievably broken down," and the school used their findings when she was dismissed.

Giving evidence at a tribunal in Liverpool, Ms Mairs claimed her colleagues were suffering from "blackophobia".

"They are unable to use the word black," she said. "This indicates how uncomfortable they are around their black colleagues. This is racial discrimination and more commonly known as blackophobia."

Her claims for unfair dismissal, race discrimination by victimisation, unauthorised deduction from wages, breach of contract, were upheld against Trafford Council and the school's governors.

Employment Judge Jane Aspinall said: "Ms Mairs was a long-serving teacher with no performance issues prior to these proceedings and no previous disciplinary issues.

"She honestly believed that teacher's would not have lodged a collective grievance about matters in their grievance without having previously raised them with the individual teacher on a one to one basis, if that teacher had not been black.

"She believed and believes to this day that was true."

A compensation hearing will be held later this year.