THE partner of a headteacher accused of inappropriate conduct said she was sacked because of her relationship with him.
Bernie Routledge was suspended and later dismissed from Howell’s School, an independent girls day and boarding school, in 2011.
Allegations included inappropriate contact with pupils on social networking site Facebook via a page called the ‘Bernie Routledge Appreciation Society’.
But Mr Routledge, of Gwernaffield, near Mold, and partner Helen Price claim they were both unfairly dismissed from the Denbigh school after a conspiracy to get rid of them when they fell out with trustees.
Ms Price, once head of physical education at the school, gave evidence at an employment tribunal in Shrewsbury yesterday.
She was appointed child protection officer when Mr Routledge was deputy head and their relationship was widely known, she said.
She rejected the suggestion she should have stepped down when Mr Routledge became head because of a “potential conflict” if a complaint was made against him.
She said she was not aware of any allegations made against Mr Routledge until he received a letter suspending him in May 2011. She had never seen the web page before, she said, although her daughter was said to be “connected” with it.
Her daughter, then 14 and a pupil at the school, was “very upset” and eventually had to move schools in the middle of her GCSEs, she said.
Up to January 2011 Ms Price said she had a “very good working relationship” with trustees Nicky and Robbie Locke and any “breakdown in trust” was due to their behaviour.
“How I was treated then was disgusting and any human being would have felt that,” she said.
She said there was “bullying and intimidation” both before and after her suspension in April 2010.
“I wouldn’t treat an animal the way they treated me,” she said. “They showed a total lack of respect and regard for another human being.”
She said alleged complaints made about girls’ sleeping arrangements and the handling of illness on a school ski trip were fabricated.
Mrs Locke also told “ blatant lies” about Ms Price not returning emails and calls concerning a child with depression, she said.
“The Lockes consistently lied throughout and behaved in a disgraceful manner,” she told the hearing.
A grievance hearing was held but she never heard a verdict, she said.
She was then suspended. “I could have been knocked down with a feather,” she said. “I had done nothing wrong.”
While suspended, Ms Price took maternity leave. She said she was never told her disciplinary hearing had been adjourned because of her pregnancy and heard nothing for a year.
“I’d rather have had a disciplinary hearing than go through pregnancy not knowing,” she said.
Her dismissal letter appeared in June 2011 after she wrote to the school informing them of her return-to-work date after maternity, despite still being suspended.
The letter referred to “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for dismissal.
Her request for an appeal was ignored, she said.
Mark Ramsbottom, representing Howell’s school, said the dismissal was not caused by her maternity leave.
The tribunal is expected to end today.