Teacher sacked over beheading video

Moya Fletcher
Moya Fletcher

A WIGAN maths teacher has been sacked for gross misconduct after a student accessed horrific footage of a jihadist beheading on her staff computer in her classroom.

Speaking exclusively to the Wigan Observer, Moya Fletcher said she had been made a scapegoat.

The 51-year-old was dismissed by Rathbone, a charity that provides education to disaffected and vulnerable young people, in October last year after the incident at its Bridgeman Terrace centre in Wigan.

She claims that concerns she had previously raised about the charity’s lack of internet security and safeguarding were ignored, that she was not given a fair hearing and that key elements of the investigation have been misconstrued.

But Rathbone today vigorously defended its actions, saying that the learner accessed the gruesome video through Ms Fletcher’s staff computer, that they do have suitable firewall provision and user policies, and that disciplinary action was carried out appropriately.Ms Fletcher’s case has been taken up by her MP who has forwarded it to education ministers.

Rathbone says Ms Fletcher was wrong to grant the learner access to her staff computer and that the charity was justified in its handling of the case.

Managing Director Linda Dean said: “Because of Ms Fletcher’s actions she was suspended immediately and later dismissed for inappropriate conduct. The safety and wellbeing of our young people is paramount and learners do not have open access to internet content, unsuitable content is blocked by a firewall. But she allowed learners to access this material on her staff computer which has a different level of access as tutors can view a wider range of materials.”

Ms Fletcher had worked as a teacher for 32 years – much of that with charitable organisations in prisons.

She had no reason to suspect what the youngster in her charge was about to do, and that it would result in her being interviewed by terrorist safeguarding police.

Ms Fletcher said: “He was in the classroom around lunchtime and he said could he show me something on the internet.

“Nothing was on his file. I was not told anything about him, so I had no cause to suspect anything. I said, ‘yes’.

“I stuck on the screen and it was a graphic beheading.

“I asked him to turn it off and I spoke to him about watching these kind of things.

“When another member of staff heard about it, they told the manager without talking to me.”

Ms Fletcher, a single mum of three, who lives in Chorley says her case has been taken up by her MP Lindsay Hoyle who has in turn forwarded it to education ministers.

Rathbone says Ms Fletcher was wrong to grant the learner access to her staff computer and that the charity was justified in its handling of the case.

Managing Director Linda Dean said: “Because of Ms Fletcher’s actions she was suspended immediately and later dismissed for inappropriate conduct.

“The safety and wellbeing of our young people is paramount to Rathbone and learners do not have open access to internet content, unsuitable content is blocked by a firewall.

“But she allowed learners to access this material on her staff computer which has a different level of access as tutors can view a wider range of materials.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on our individual learners, however we fully investigated all claims, appropriate support has been given and we are satisfied there are no welfare concerns.”

Ms Fletcher was fired just a few weeks before her two-year anniversary – meaning that she was not entitled to an employment tribunal within the charity sector. ,

She also says that as her referral to a disciplinary service stays on her record, she has since been unable to even find voluntary work.

“I was interviewed by terrorist safeguarding police, they verified there was no case to answer. There was a basic disciplinary hearing, and I was suspended,” she said.

“Although I was assured of a fair hearing that did not happen. They were cherry-picking evidence. There was no policy of safeguarding. I was always saying to people, ‘this needs addressing’. I think they wanted to shut me up.

“Learners are still accessing this kind of graphic image every day. Nothing has changed.”

Rathbone denies this claim, and states that it has had firewall and safeguarding provisions in place since before Ms Fletcher began working for them. Ms Dean said: “Since 2009, we have had strict procedures in place to safeguard young people on the internet. These are in line with national guidance from the Government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

“All staff and students when they log onto their computers are reminded of this acceptable use policy, which tells them what shouldn’t be viewed on the internet and they have to confirm that they accept and understand this.

“Like all members of staff, Ms Fletcher will have gone through mandatory training on safeguarding, including a Safeguarding Young People in the use of Technology procedure. We give online and face-to-face training in safeguarding to all staff. We also have a dedicated safeguarding advisor who supports all staff on safeguarding issues and the procedures that need to be followed.

“In all disciplinary cases, Rathbone follows a procedure which gives staff a full and fair hearing and everybody concerned had their points heard. All employees are made aware of disciplinary policy which clearly outlines these steps.”