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Grantham teacher who was sacked after contacting pupil during school holidays and showing her class how to do a TikTok dance loses claims of unfair dismissal and discrimination

A primary school teacher who was dismissed for contacting a pupil outside of school and showing her class how to do a TikTok dance - despite them being too young to use the social media app - has lost her appeal for unfair dismissal.

Georgia Rogers was teaching Year 5 pupils aged nine and 10 at the West Grantham Church of England Primary Academy when the incidents took place in 2021.

Ms Rogers - who suffers from PTSD - argued unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability.

West Grantham Primary Academy. Photo: Google
West Grantham Primary Academy. Photo: Google

However, her claims were dismissed by the Nottingham Tribunal.

Papers from the tribunal stated Ms Rogers contacted a pupil she described as a ‘sweetheart’ and their parent during the school holidays.

“Over the summer holidays, pupil XX contacted the claimant via (educational app) Dojo saying she missed her ‘so much’.

“The claimant replied and said that she missed pupil XX too. Over the summer the claimant maintained contact with pupil XX and her mum.

“The claimant sent pupil XX a picture of her nails and pupil XX sent pictures of her after having her hair and make-up done and from a day trip to Skegness with her granddad.

“Within the exchange, the claimant told pupil XX’s mum that ‘bless her, I just love her’ and ‘send her my love’.

“She referred to pupil XX as ‘sweetheart’ and did nothing do discourage the communication which she knew came directly from the pupil as well as her mum.

“During the exchange pupil XX said that her grandad had died but the claimant did not report it as a safeguarding/welfare concern.”

Ms Rogers told the school she ‘felt that she had done nothing wrong because all communication was through the mum’s account’.

A further allegation from the parent of another child raised concerns that ‘the claimant was overly familiar with the students’ and had shared details about her private life and ‘she had asked the children to keep secrets’.

The tribunal heard that another member of staff ‘met with child ZY’s parent who wanted to discuss a number of small things which ‘put together make a bigger concerning picture’.’

The school also stated Ms Rogers agreed to teach the pupils a TikTok dance, despite them being too young to use the app, something the claimant denied.

“On the last day of term, pupils in the claimant’s class wanted to show her a TikTok dance,” papers from the tribunal, published this week, revealed.

“The claimant agreed and said would teach them the dance version as she used to be a dance teacher.

“They asked the claimant if she would record it and she agreed to do so on the school’s iPad.

“The video was not uploaded onto any social media site. It was evident that the children had been viewing TikTok but the claimant made no further inquiries of them, nor did she report it as a safeguarding concern because they were underage (13 being the legal age).”

The tribunal was told that on October 15, 2021, another teacher reported that pupils were repeatedly asking them to film TikTok videos of them.

The teacher told the pupils that they were not allowed to, and they responded by saying ‘well Miss Rogers did.’

During the hearing, Ms Rogers denied taking photos or videos of the pupils and posting them on social media.

“She said that whilst she was aware the children were viewing TikTok, Facebook and Instagram she explained to them that it was not appropriate to make a TikTok video in school,” the papers stated.

“However, she showed them how to do the dance they had seen on TikTok properly using her dance teacher background and videoed them using the school’s iPad. “

Ms Rogers was dismissed due to gross misconduct on March 7, 2022.

She appealed the decision by way of letter dated March 21, 2022.

Attached to her appeal letter were numerous documents which, in her view, demonstrated that the school promoted the use of TikTok, including encouraging pupils to watch Newsround which regularly featured articles relating to TikTok.

Employment Judge Victoria Butler said Ms Rogers ‘was undoubtedly a committed teacher who enjoyed her job’ and that ‘prior to the incidents in 2021 she had ‘an unblemished disciplinary record’.

However, EJ Butler added: “We found the claimant’s evidence to be inconsistent, at times with her own evidence, and the contemporaneous documents.”

In conclusion, the judge added: “Whilst we do not doubt that the claimant’s actions were well-intentioned, the respondent reasonably took the view that they were in breach of the statutory and school frameworks in place relating to safeguarding and the maintaining of proper boundaries between pupils and teachers and amounted to gross misconduct.”

While the panel considered the claimant’s representations about the TikTok and social media allegation, they ultimately concluded that Ms Rogers’ submissions on these points did not fundamentally change its view that the dismissal should be upheld because of the seriousness of other allegations.

“Accordingly, we are satisfied that in all the circumstances the respondent acted reasonably in treating the claimant’s conduct as a sufficient reason for dismissing her and her claim of unfair dismissal fails,” it concluded.

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