Teacher says his life has been ruined and marriage almost wrecked after race claim
A TEACHER says his life has been ruined and marriage almost wrecked after he was wrongly accused of assaulting two pupils.
Traditional Caribbean dance teacher Ripton Lindsay was cleared of assaulting the boys at =Bristol Magistrates' Court last December and has now won an employment tribunal against Bristol City Council for race discrimination.
Jamaican Mr Lindsay 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 in Baptist Mills on February 24, 2009.
He then found himself accused of assault and was banned from working in council-run schools, lost his slot on Bristol urban radio station Ujima 98 FM, lost his place working on St Paul's Carnival and was dismissed from his position on the board of a nursery school.
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He says the experience means he now has to leave the profession and city he loves.
The council now faces a damages bill running into tens of thousands of pounds when a settlement is reached early next year.
The tribunal judgment found that Ms Eriksson "failed to perform any sort of proper investigation into what happened" by not giving Mr Lindsay the opportunity to state his case.
It also found the dance teacher 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.
Mr Lindsay, 38, of Westbury-on-Trym, had worked as a dance teacher in more than 50 schools run by the city council. He had successfully developed shows with children and young people that had gone to venues including Colston Hall and Bath Theatre Royal.
Mr Lindsay says the assault charges further damaged his name because in Caribbean countries the term battery is used for "gang rape".
He told the Evening Post: "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."
Mr Lindsay said Ms Eriksson's comment had been "very racist".
He said: "I was stereotyped. I felt degraded and after it had sunk in, the humiliation kicked in.
"The week during the magistrates court case was hell but I had to stay focused.
"The tribunal was very hard as well. At one point I had to go out and just burst into tears.
"This was an incident that happens in schools all the time and there had just been a massive overreaction.
"When the verdict came I felt a great relief but sadness at the same time. I felt relief because the case was not just for me but for anyone who has faced injustice from all walks of life and sadness because racism still exists."
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 want to be with my family and my true friends. I just hope the council learn from this and realise what an effect they can have on people's lives."
City council spokeswoman Katharine de Lisle said the authority had received the full written reasons for the judgement from the Employment Tribunal yesterday afternoon.
She said: "We recognise that it raises very serious issues. We are seeking legal advice and can't comment further at this stage, except to say that the findings will receive full consideration."
Jibin Philip, from Avon and Bristol Law Centre who represented Mr Lindsay at the hearing last month, said: "We are delighted that Mr Lindsay has been exonerated. No one should suffer like him. If you think you've experienced discrimination at work, don't put up with it. Get advice from the Law Centre or a similar service."