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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 18:48 GMT
White witch 'sacked for days off'
Sommer De La Rosa
Sommer De La Rosa was employed by the school for eight months
A white witch has been accused at an employment tribunal of using her beliefs as a scapegoat for her being sacked from a school in Sussex.

Sommer De La Rosa, 34, of Moyne Close, Hove, was sacked as a teaching assistant from the Dorothy Stringer School, Brighton, last May.

She claims it was a result of prejudice against her Wicca faith, but the school said it was due to poor attendance.

On Friday, she accused her line manager of comparing her religion to communism.

'Physically sick'

Ms De La Rosa told the Hove tribunal Ros Stephens had been "openly discriminatory", stating her faith could lead to "complaints of tainted teaching methods".

"This made me feel like a freak and that my beliefs were wrong," she said.

But Mrs Stephens told the hearing: "I was saying, 'If you have a strong belief then maybe it's just best not to mention it at all because it's leading you into unknown territory'."

She also accused Ms De La Rosa of using a meeting to discuss her poor attendance record to talk about her faith instead.

She said: "It was dominating the whole meeting which was meant to be about attendance."

Dorothy Stringer School, Brighton
Sommer De La Rosa was sacked as a teaching assistant

Mrs Stephens added that her comments about communism had not been meant to be offensive.

"I did not compare Wiccanism to communism, I can't stress that enough. It was not a comparison between the two, it was an analogy of the strong convictions."

She also told the hearing that Ms De La Rosa had "constantly questioned" her about whether she should say she was a white witch in the classroom.

"She was struggling to know how much of herself to give in the classroom... I offered her guidelines. These are not meant to condemn her," Mrs Stephens explained.

But Ms De La Rosa, who worked in the school's religious studies and music departments for eight months until May last year, said the guidelines had made her "physically sick".

'Poor attendance'

"I felt angry and appalled that the discriminatory comments and attitudes towards me and my religion were put into writing," she said.

She has also claimed that she was banned from discussing her religion and wearing a pentagram - a symbol of her faith.

The school and Brighton and Hove City Council said Ms De La Rosa was sacked due to poor attendance and inappropriate disclosures to pupils.

She had 21.5 days off during her six-month probationary period.

Mrs Stephens said her attendance rate had been 20% - equivalent to one day a week at work during the school calendar.

Mrs Stephens said Ms De La Rosa was employed as a departmental assistant and her duties were primarily to provide sick cover for teachers.

"We were forced to bring in additional staff in order to cover staff she should have covered," she said.

The tribunal was adjourned until 4 May.


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