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Teacher did not launch defamation case until three years after leaving school, hearing told

Karen Clemons, former teacher is suing the government for defamation. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A former teacher who launched a defamation lawsuit against the Ministry of Education denied yesterday that the action was not a genuine claim.

Karen Clemons has alleged that documents included in her personnel file from her time at CedarBridge Academy were defamatory and had been included in the file without her knowledge or an opportunity to respond.

While she accepted that she did not launch the action until three years after she left the school, she denied the suggestion that she had researched how she could sue the Government.

She further denied that she was attempting to “re-litigate” matters that had already been addressed through the grievance process.

“That was a different case altogether,” she said.

She later added: “All that would have prevented this is an apology. It would have been quite simple.

“I requested it. For an apology to be added to my record and for follow through of the removal of the documents.”

Ms Clemons told the Supreme Court earlier this week that a series of five documents she found within her files contained false or misleading statements about her work at the school.

She alleged that the documents were placed in her file maliciously against a collective bargaining agreement between the Government and the Bermuda Union of Teachers.

Ms Clemons said that she launched a grievance procedure and it was ordered that the documents be removed, but she alleged that they were moved from her “travelling” file, kept at the school, to her permanent file.

Under cross-examination by Michael Taylor of the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Ms Clemons accepted that the documents had not been released to other teachers, the media or the general public.

“I’m not saying it’s going to the whole world,” she said. “I’m saying it went to the personnel file. It was just published to my personnel file.”

However, she maintained that they were available to some public officers and public servants and could potentially have hurt her reputation.

Ms Clemons said that some of the documents “mischaracterised” incidents and issues that had arisen during her time at the school.

She accepted that during her time at the school, the ministry acceded to her requests to be removed from a mentorship programme, have her supervisor changed and move her from what she said was the “worst classroom in the school” to a state-of-the-art classroom.

Ms Clemons also accepted that the school had sent her overseas for professional development sessions and, when she raised concerns about her health, moved her to another school to assist.

Mr Taylor asked: “Does that sound like a defendant who was acting towards you with spite or malice?”

She responded: “Those actions have nothing to do with the case.”

Ms Clemons also accepted that to her knowledge none of the documents in the case had called for her to be disciplined or terminated.

However, she maintained that she believed the documents were maliciously included in her file.

The trial continues.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.