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Rugby School housemistress suspended after ‘sexual banter’ with female student

Jocelyn D’Arcy
Jocelyn D’Arcy

A Rugby School housemistress was suspended after she engaged in “sexual banter” with a female student during a visit to a doctor.

Jocelyn D’Arcy told the girl that if the medic “asks if you are sexually active, say ‘no, but I’d like to be’,”  an employment tribunal heard.

After accompanying the pupil to the appointment, Ms D’Arcy also said she “wouldn’t mind being alone with the doctor”.

The Oxford, Cambridge and MIT-educated maths teacher, who joined Rugby School as a housemistress in September 2020, faced 20 allegations of misconduct in just her first two months.

The claims included allegations that Ms D’Arcy alarmed a group of 14-year-old girls during one lunchtime when she asked one of them to remove her top, angrily threw a mobile phone and accused a pupil of lying.

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“It was alleged that, as a result, this had caused distress and fear among the girls, some of whom described it as violent and threatening,” the tribunal heard.

”[Ms D’Arcy] merely described this as becoming ‘bad tempered’ and shouting, for which she said she promptly apologised.”

The teacher was also accused of entering a pupil’s room and throwing her dirty clothes into the hallway, and of serving sixth formers alcohol at lunchtime.

Ms D’Arcy was suspended by the school and eventually removed from the housemistress role, the tribunal was told.

She later resigned and sued Rugby School, claiming disability discrimination because her behaviour was a result of her suffering from ADHD, anxiety and depression.

However, the vast majority of her case was dismissed, with the tribunal concluding she had exercised “poor judgement” which “seriously called into question her suitability for the housemistress role”.

“There was ample evidence that [Ms D’Arcy] was not suited to the role,” the panel said, citing “several serious errors of judgement including around sex and alcohol.”

Rugby School
Rugby School - LH Images / Alamy Stock Photo

‘Gross misconduct’

Rugby School, in Warwickshire, dates back to the 16th century and is one of the oldest and best-known public schools in the country, charging borders more than £42,000 a year.

It was where the novel Tom Brown’s School Days was set and where pupil William Webb Ellis reputedly invented the now global game that bears the institution’s name.

The tribunal in Birmingham was told that before joining Rugby in September 2020, Ms D’Arcy had been a successful maths teacher in a number of “well-regarded schools”.

Her appointment as housemistress of Southfield, the school’s house for female day pupils, was her first pastoral role in her career.

She was also accused of inappropriately describing girls as “lazy, weird and bratty” and using the phrase “the cool girls”, which the hearing was told implied “that the others were not”.

In May 2021, six months after she was suspended, Ms D’Arcy was informed that she was not being dismissed, but she was to be given a final written warning and removed from the position of housemistress.

She resigned from Rugby School in August and then sued for disability discrimination and harassment, unfair dismissal, victimisation and unfair treatment for whistleblowing.

The tribunal, chaired by Employment Judge Robin Broughton, dismissed almost all of her claims.

“We would accept that [some of the allegations] were, potentially, gross misconduct,” it said.

“We would also accept that these, as well as some of the allegations of unprofessionalism and poor judgement around privacy, language and safeguarding, indicated a lack of suitability for the HM role that couldn’t realistically be materially attributed to [Ms D’Arcy’s] disabilities despite her other qualities.”

The tribunal did uphold Ms D’Arcy’s claim of victimisation relating to the “tone and approach” of the way her grievance had been rejected by the school.

Any compensation will be decided at a later hearing.