Judge: baldness is not a disability

Education Editor,Richard Garner
Thursday 17 April 2008 00:00
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A teacher whose pupils poked fun at him because of his baldness has lost his claim that he was a victim of disability discrimination.

James Campbell, 61, a former art teacher at Denny High School in Stirlingshire, took Falkirk Council to an employment tribunal over the issue, saying he had suffered harassment at the hands of his pupils, who saw his baldness as a weakness.

Mr Campbell, who retired in 2007, said his lack of hair had a "substantial effect" on his ability to do his job. "How can I stand in front of a class with confidence to get on with my job when I am getting teased and bullied about baldness?" he asked.

Mr Campbell claimed he avoided school corridors to sidestep taunts of "baldy" from pupils, and was worried that the insults could escalate into an assault.

Since his retirement, he had been able to put the issue of his baldness out of his mind – although occasionally when he stopped at traffic lights, former pupils would shout "baldy" at him from the street.

Falkirk Council argued that baldness was not a physical or mental impairment, and therefore was not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

In his ruling, the tribunal judge Robert Gall said: "[This] would take the definition of impairment too far. If baldness was to be regarded as an impairment then perhaps... a big nose [or] big ears might [also] be regarded as an impairment under the DDA."

Mr Campbell is pursuing a separate unfair dismissal claim against the council, which is expected to go ahead later this year.

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