Teacher 'astonished' at suspension over online book

Leonora Rustamova
Image caption Leonora Rustamova wrote Stop! Don't Read This! which appeared on a self-publishing website

A teacher sacked after writing a novel about her pupils was "utterly astonished" when she found out she was being suspended, a tribunal has heard.

Leonora Rustamova, 40, was sacked from Calder High School in West Yorkshire in 2009 after the novel appeared on a self-publishing website.

The story, which described teenage fantasies, named several teachers and featured year 11 pupils.

Mrs Rustamova is claiming unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

The novel, called Stop! Don't Read This!, also described violence and featured a drug den. It was later removed from the website.

The tribunal heard Mrs Rustamova had been notified she was being promoted to the role of social cohesion co-ordinator the day before she was informed by letter that she was being suspended over the book.

She told the hearing she "was in deep shock" after receiving the letter.

"I was utterly astonished. I was not particularly rational for a couple of days," she said.

'Unfortunate mistake

The tribunal in Leeds heard how Mrs Rustamova wrote the book as a way of engaging with a group of difficult youngsters at the school.

She said the decision to publish it on the internet had been an "unfortunate mistake" after her husband Denis used a self-publishing website.

"I was not aware that it may have been publicly available," she said.

She told the tribunal she had several discussions with the school's head teacher about the book and he had suggested printing copies off for the pupils to keep.

Robert Good, chairman of governors at Calder High School, said Mrs Rustamova failed in her core responsibility of safeguarding children.

He said he accepted the novel was a "risky" school project with some advantages for the children involved but that she made a serious error.

'Life in ruins'

He told the tribunal: "What I was concerned about was the judgment decision... to allow it to remain on the internet for four months.

"It was her judgment in my mind. It was a serious error of judgment and against all safeguarding policies."

Mr Good interviewed Mrs Rustamova as part of the disciplinary process and approved her sacking.

He recalled how she admitted in the interview how she had made a mistake and said her "life was in ruins".

The teacher, dubbed Miss Rusty by her pupils, was at the school for more than 11 years before she lost her job in May 2009.

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