Former head escapes striking off following brawl over gay relationship taunt

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A FORMER headteacher who snapped and attacked a couple in the street following claims about a gay relationship has escaped being struck off.

Stuart Seivwright punched a man who repeatedly claimed to have been in a homosexual relationship with him and broke the wrist of a woman who was accompanying him.

The 37-year-old, who was running Peterhead Central High School, Aberdeenshire, at the time, told a disciplinary hearing today (Tue) that he regretted his actions but could not put up with the taunting any more.

Instead of striking Seivwright from the teaching register, the panel handed him a five year conditional registration order, imposing strict restrictions on his career.

Mr Seivwright was removed from his £79,000-a-year post to a classroom teaching role at a primary school 40 miles away as a result of the incident in October, 2010.

He admitted assault and was fined £200 when he appeared before a sheriff in January this year.

At a hearing of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), Mr Seivwright admitted charges that his fitness to teach is impaired due to a conviction for culpable and reckless conduct and assault.

Mr Seivwright told the hearing the incident followed comments made by a man he named as Hugh Johnstone.

Asked what the comments were, Mr Seivwright replied: “Basically inferring that he and I had had a relationship in the past and that had continued.”

He added that similar comments had been occurring “on and off for about 18 months before that”.

“He had tried it on before,” said Mr Seivwright. “But I had made it clear I was not in a position [to enter into a relationship]. I still don’t know why he did what he did.”

Arrested

The case reached boiling point in an Aberdeen street in the early hours of October 3 2010 when the headteacher confronted Mr Johnstone and a female companion, Arlene Stuart.

“I’d had enough,” he said. “I couldn’t put up with it any more. My actions were regrettable.”

Miss Stuart was injured after trying to intervene in the argument, during which Mr Seivwright had hit Mr Johnstone.

Mr Seivwright told the GTCS: “She came in between myself and Mr Johnstone and I pushed her out of the way.

“I found out when I was arrested and taken to the station that she had sustained an injury.”

The teacher, who had also headed Foveran Primary near Ellon, said he had had a successful career prior to the incident.

Following the incident he was removed from his head teacher post at Peterhead Central High but the local authority did not sack him and transferred him to a post as a teacher at Kintore primary school.

He said: “I still have lots of positive feedback from parents of children in my class.

“I think my reputation in most people’s eyes who know me is still good. What happened, happened. It was a silly mistake. My reputation will come back to where it was before.”

Reasonable

Two former colleagues of Mr Seivwright gave evidence for the defence of his teaching abilities and his character.

Susan Chalk worked as a Quality Improvement Officer, helping schools work towards better inspection results before taking over Mr Seivwright’s role as head teacher following his removal.

She said that staff had remained dedicated to continuing work started by their previous head.

“The staff were very loyal towards Mr Seivwright,” she said. “They had a clear sense of direction. I have taken on a fairly solid ship.

“I have never felt I was taking on a failing school. There was a clear sense of direction and I just had to carry on with that.”

She added that many off the staff were left depressed at Mr Seivwright’s departure.

“Morale was low and the staff were scared and disappointed at what had happened,” she said.

The panel also heard from John Imlah, who served as Mr Seivwright’s deputy head but who now works at a head teacher at Longside Primary School in Aberdeenshire.

Asked what Mr Seivwright was like to work with, he said: “He was reasonable and measured in his actions. Stuart was always very good at listening, he was sensitive.”

Unacceptable

Today the panel decided not to end his teaching career, but to monitor his behaviour for the next five years.

Seivwright must have a report on his conduct submitted by his bosses to the GTCS on an annual basis, he must inform the GTCS of any new disciplinary or criminal proceedings against him and he must inform his current and future employers of the order.

If he breaches any of the conditions, Seivwright was warned he could find himself in front of the panel again.

The panel said they wanted to send a “strong message” that such conduct was unacceptable.

They said the incident was “particularly serious for a teacher but there was mitigating circumstances”.

On January 31 this year Mr Seivwright was ordered to pay “innocent party” Miss Stuart £200 for the damage to her wrist and was admonished for the assault on Mr Johnstone.

He had pled guilty to a charge of assaulting the pair at an earlier hearing in April 2011.

At the April hearing, Procurator Fiscal depute Felicity Primrose told the court that Seivwright had previously met Mr Johnstone and had spoken to him briefly in a city bar earlier on the night of the incident. Several hours later, at 2am, Mr Johnstone was walking in Aberdeen city centre when Seivwright, who seemed “upset and angry” walked up to him.

Mr Seivwright  told the court he was unhappy about comments which had been made earlier that night and punched his victim in the face.

When Miss Stuart stepped between the men, Seivwright pushed her out of the way and she fell. He then punched Mr Johnstone twice on the head before running away.

Miss Stuart was later taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where she underwent an operation for the damage to her right hand.

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