More social justice:
A Christian school worker who claimed she had been dismissed because of her religious beliefs after raising concerns over teaching young children about LGBTQ+ relationships has lost her case.
An employment tribunal ruled that Kristie Higgs had not lost her post because of her beliefs but because her secondary school in Gloucestershire genuinely thought she had committed gross misconduct.
Three things to ponder as we begin exploring this case.
1. Did the secondary school have an employee handbook that clearly defined “misconduct?” Or is this something that they make up as they go along?
2. What criteria was used to determine this misconduct was “gross?” That is, why is it “gross misconduct” instead of merely “misconduct?”
3. It would seem to me the school and tribunal are trying to make a distinction without difference. For the “gross misconduct” was nothing more than Higgs expressing her beliefs .
Higgs, 44, was dismissed as a pastoral administrator and work experience manager by Farmor’s school in Fairford last year after sharing and commenting on social media posts about relationship education.
Yes, that was the “gross misconduct” that got her fired. What’s more:
One of the posts, which were shared via her private account under her maiden name, raised concerns about plans to teach the No Outsiders programme at her son’s Church of England primary school. A second encouraged people to sign a petition on plans to make relationship education compulsory for young children. She was sacked after someone anonymously told the school about the posts.
So a snitch reported her private FB postings and the school decided to label this as “gross misconduct” and fire her. Unreal.
Bristol employment tribunal rejected Higgs’s claims for discrimination and harassment. The tribunal ruled her dismissal “was the result of a genuine belief on the part of the school that she had committed gross misconduct”.
And again, the “gross misconduct” was her expressing her opinions on a private FB page.
And here is the mushy thinking of the tribunal on full display:
Although not stated as clearly or simply as this, the act of which we concluded Mrs Higgs was accused and eventually found guilty was posting items on Facebook that might reasonably lead people who read her posts to conclude that she was homophobic and transphobic. That behaviour, the School felt, had the potential for a negative impact in relation to various groups of people, namely pupils, parents, staff and the wider community. It was a suspicion that she had done so that brought about the entire process.
Are you kidding me? In other words, there wasn’t a scrap of evidence that the FB posting was in any way harmful to the school or its students. Not a scrap. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
So what does a school and tribunal do where there isn’t any evidence that Higgs did something that caused harm? They retreat into the realm of the imaginary- “had the potential for a negative impact.” Had the potential? Why need evidence for a negative impact when mere “potential” will do, right? Never mind that the tribunal ruling itself has the potential for a negative impact out there.
And what about, “that might reasonably lead people who read her posts to conclude that she was homophobic and transphobic.”
It might? It just might. After all, just about anything might happen. And reasonably? According to who? This claim is nothing more than a mash up of subjectivity.
These arguments are silly. I’d say it is much more likely that the school wanted to fire Higgs because of her religious beliefs and came up with some ad hoc rationalization to justify the firing. The tribunal gives cover because its members are likely to share the same ideology as the school administrators. How else do you explain their contempt for the need for evidence?