This blog chronicles the path that the teacher took to litigate against the school, lasting, if you can believe it, from 2008 to 2013. There was an unfair-dismissal court case that lasted from 2008-2010 where the school ended up paying the teacher a settlement. Then again in 2011-2013 when the teacher caught the school defaming her to a 3rd party employer about the settlement and case, despite a confidentiality clause. So, she went back to the court system to enforce the settlement terms.
Learn the costs, from the experience and the extent to which Japan can (not) help a foreign worker!
The teacher plaintiff from her first 2 months of employment at St. Mary’s, wrote an email to the administration asking for a socially uncomfortable situation to stop: the Assistant Vice Principal at the time had been approaching her every day close enough to smell his sweat and cologne, under the pretext of giving advice to a new teacher and in a way so that the students wouldn’t hear. Put off by this “technique”, the teacher recommended an email list of advice items instead. However, by also requesting that the approaches stop, CC’d to the Elementary Principal, the middle-manager Assistant Vice-Principal likely felt that the teacher had alluded to something dangerous to his job: Sexual Harassment. Which would explain, the next day, when he produced this list the teacher asked for and berated her in a meeting in front of his senior, stating that she was not qualified to be at the school–that‘s why he had to approach her every day. Not buying it, she replied that her working at the school at all was obviously because she had been hired based on her qualifications. She then complained to the Headmaster about the series of events.
The Assistant Vice-Principal was asked to apologize in a subsequent meeting. But in a come-back campaign to save face, he made a promise to his senior managers that any interaction going forward, would be in “helping” the teacher. Ms. Tran naively welcomed the “change” of tone and approach, and the help of a female administrator. However, the real motivation of this campaign of “helping” was simply to build the previous case that she was not fit to teach, which would justify his previous approaches to “help her”. The female administrator, instead of mediating or helping Ms. Tran, was actually complicit in protecting the other middle manager because this meant quieting a potential Sexual Harassment suit against the school. The teacher underwent 4-6 months of constant observation, where no matter if her students produced a 97% class-average in a unit Math test, the administrators would say that the class did not “feel right”–and that in Math class, in particular, the students weren’t learning. The teacher called these two middle managers out to say that this was subjective and that they weren’t even observing measurable results and challenged them to at least produce a letter of parent complaint about something. They had none. So, she wrote to the Headmaster that she felt power harassed by 2 administrators. However, the school lacked any previous plan or resource to address a situation like this. They recommended yet a another “impartial” witness in on their meetings–another administrator–this time the Middle School Principal who had nothing to do with anything, except to agree with his colleagues. But the teacher was now wise to the fact that the admin were a self-serving group. They even wrote minutes to their own meetings with the teacher and issued them to her the next day, in a tone and perspective that did not match reality.
When the school essentially failed to acknowledge that any harassment or bullying was happening, the teacher reported her case to the Tokyo Metropolitain Government–a free service. 2 years later, the school decided to take the teacher’s job away as punishment for her being public about harassment at the school. However, they disguised this unethical reason by using something more acceptable like “incompetence”. But because there had been no parent complaints and all standardized tests had been in favor of the students and their teacher, the teacher decided she had a case.
The teacher sued the school for wrongful dismissal after being let go for no documented reason after working there for 2 successful (in terms of student and parent feedback) years. She is interested in inviting the school’s community to have eyes on this case, in case this precedent will ever be useful to its people in the future.
The international school community tends not to have a clear guide on how to proceed when teachers / ex-pats have serious issues at the schools. Schools seem to have all the power. What path can individuals take to dispute this? As well, the teacher wants to express that it is shameful that the school should treat any of its teachers callously and ignore the will of parents and students.
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