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Camden New Journal - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published 5 October 2006
Patricia Lee with children outside Emmanuel School
Sacked dinner lady’s school Asbo warning‘

They treat me as if I’m dangerous… I’m a pensioner’

A DINNER lady sacked because she was considered too old to serve children their lunches has been threatened with an Asbo after returning to the school gates.
Patricia Lee, 72, has been told that if she steps onto the Emmanuel Primary School grounds in West Hampstead she will be committing trespass.
She has been warned that police will be called and an application for an injunction or an Anti-Social Behaviour Order will be drawn up.
The tough warning has been meted out by Camden Council’s legal department in a letter sent to Ms Lee at the end of last month.
Ms Lee remains a well-known face at Emmanuel Primary, and helps children to school in the mornings, including crossing busy Mill Lane, on behalf of several parents.
She said she was shocked to be threatened with the type of court order normally reserved for unruly teenagers, street-walking prostitutes and drug dealers.
Ms Lee said: “I didn’t really know what an Asbo was until I got this letter and somebody told me that they give them to young people who cause trouble. It is heavy-handed. This could be dealt with in other ways.”
She added: “I am trusted to take the children to school in the morning and drop them off at the playground. It worries the little ones if they think I am going to be arrested or they think something bad will happen to me. They are treating me as if I am dangerous but I am a pensioner. What harm can I do? I’m not a criminal.”
The council’s Asbo czar, Ian Walker, who also works as a government adviser, has been put on guard to start preparing the paperwork for an order.
The council legal letter sent to Ms Lee said: “You are not entitled to enter the school premises and the school has been informed that they should call the police if another attempt is made to trespass, as the safety of the pupils and staff are paramount.”
It added: “If there are further complaints, the school will be advised to seek an injunction or refer the matter for an Asbo.”
Relations between Ms Lee and the school’s management have soured since she was ‘retired’ against her will last year.
Headteacher Paolo Burgess told an employment tribunal: “(Ms Lee) was the only school meals supervisor or staff member over the age of 65 and I thought that this was not in line with employment practice.”
The school claims she has twice confronted teachers about their role in the tribunal, an allegation disputed by Ms Lee.
She added: “I feel victimised by all of this. I don’t need to take all of this stress home. The parents have been supportive and can’t understand why all of this is happening.”
A council press official said: “Staff have found Ms Lee’s behaviour very distressing. No one should have to suffer intimidation or harassment at work. We have told Ms Lee that if there are further complaints we will advise the school to seek an injunction or refer the matter for an Asbo.”


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