Melbourne, August 31: Secondary school teacher, Manu Chopra, who taught Mathematics at McKinnon Secondary College, in Melbourne’s East; has accused his former colleagues of racial discrimination alleging they referred to him as a “brown-skinned man”.

He was allegedly told he made the staff room look like “Angelina Jolie’s family”.

He alleges that he was referred to as the “brown-skinned” at a staff party; and others told him “we don’t need more brown skins in our staffroom”.

Mr Chopra claimed that when he complained about the teacher’s comments, he was rather victimised by the principal and people acting under her instructions.

In his fight against McKinnon College, Mr Chopra has now filed a case at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, accusing school Principal Pitsa Binnion and seven other staff members – including the vice-principal, a department lawyer, investigator, regional director and managers of conduct and ethics branch; of victimising him.

The Education Department is also named as a defendant.

The case is being heard in the human rights division of Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

In its preliminary ruling, examining the allegations, VCAT has found that if some of Mr Chopra’s allegations are proven, could amount to breaches of the Equal Opportunity Act.

“I felt that my feelings and my opinion did not matter. Others could treat me as they wanted in the workplace without fear of any recrimination for their inappropriate behaviour merely because of my race,” Mr Chopra claims in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal documents.

The tribunal documents also state that he was subjected to racial discrimination while employed as a maths teacher.

The documents claims ‘denigration’ and ‘humiliation’ which Mr Chopra encountered at a staff party in October 2013 when he was talking to a colleague and a female colleague ‘intervened’ to apparently “save” her.

Mr Chopra claims that as the pair walked away, another colleague called out “good job” and the woman gave her a ‘thumbs up’ sign.

Mr Chopra claims that his colleague was trying to save the woman from “the brown-skinned man.”

The allegation of a campaign of racial hatred had as many as 16 people named in the case with 73 pages of evidence to prove that the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 had been breached.

But the VCAT tribunal in a finding – apart from the Education Department, McKinnon College principal, alleged “Angelina Jolie” taunt-er and the “party rescuer”; has removed all other respondents as parties to the proceeding.

In removing other respondents, the tribunal said that Mr Chopra had not sought remedies against any individual and many of his accusations were not supported by details, which indicated that they could be prosecutable under the Equal Opportunities Act.

The tribunal also ruled that many of Mr Chopra’s allegations – including claims

  1. that he was called “unprofessional” in front of students;
  2. that he was ‘bullied’ in union meetings;
  3. that assistant Principal ‘screamed’ at him;
  4. that an investigator believed others over him; and
  5. that people behaved unethically and unsympathetically;

would not amount to discriminatory behaviour, even if proven to be correct.

The tribunal has outlined that the state is legally responsible for the actions of its employees.

McKinnon Secondary College, which is one of the top-performing schools with a median study score of 33, has not commented.

An Education Department spokesman said he could not comment on the matter while it was before VCAT.

The matter now listed for a compulsory conference on October 10.

Shalini Singh

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