Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Sacked teacher claims bullying

A teacher claims she was bullied and unfairly dismissed from a prestigious Hawke's Bay private school over alleged instructions to lie to parents about their children's achievement.

Hereworth School ex-teacher Emma Fox filed an unjustifiable dismissal complaint against the Havelock North boys' school after a series of incidents in 2009 and 2010, the second day of an Employment Relations Tribunal heard in the Hastings District Court yesterday.

The school has denied all allegations and said Mrs Fox refused mediation attempts to reconcile the issues.

Authority member James Crichton heard the case, Mrs Fox was represented by her husband David Fox via video link from Australia, and Hereworth School was represented by Stuart Webster.

Mrs Fox taught Years 1 to 4 from 2008-10, her employment ending while she was on maternity leave. She said the head of the junior school, Shirley Cameron, asked her to lie to parents about their children's achievement in mid-2009. Mrs Cameron denies it.

The allegation spiralled to a series of alleged events over a number of years, including confrontations with staff, stolen paperwork, internet slander and formal complaints that involved the New Zealand Teachers Council, police, the Privacy Commission and Ombudsman, and the British Columbia Council of Teachers.

Mr Crichton said the "fundamental difference in evidence" from the two women was the crux of the issue.

Yesterday, principal Ross Scrymgour and ex-board of trustees chairman William Hamilton were interviewed under oath.

Mr Scrymgour was questioned by Dr Fox about the way he dealt with the conflict, and his appointment of board member Doug Abraham to investigate Mrs Fox's complaints.

"That was his role on the board, he had done a really good job with our HR stuff in the past," Mr Scrymgour said.

He had also been trying to be sensitive to a then pregnant Mrs Fox, he said.

Mr Hamilton defended actions taken by the board, that they acted on Mr Abraham's advice to seek independent mediation through the Department of Labour: "I think we jumped through hoops, we tried everything to get Emma to mediation. We were blocked on every path."

The hearing continues today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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