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Scots teacher told school boss she couldn’t remember alleged kiss with pupil, hearing told

A SCOTS teacher accused of groping and kissing a pupil at a local nightclub told school bosses she couldn’t remember the alleged incident, a hearing was told.

Pupils were said to have reported Ashley McConnell to teachers at Thurso High School in Caithness after being left feeling “indignant” by her alleged behaviour.

The physics teacher, also known as Ashley Swanson, is alleged to have danced in a sexualised manner with a sixth year pupil at local Skinandi’s nightclub in March 2018.

Ashley McConnell
Mrs McConnell denies the allegations.

She has also been accused of kissing the 17-year-old, touching his bottom and groin and holding hands with him during the night in question.

Miss McConnell, who was 30 at the time and married, admits holding hands with the teen but denies kissing him.

Earlier this month her friend and former colleague Emilie Charton, who was with her on the night, said McConnell was drunk and acting flirtatious at the nightclub.

Today (MON), the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) heard evidence from
Thurso High School headteacher Kathryn MacKay who investigated the claims.

Anonymising the identity of the pupils involved, she said: “Pupils B, C, D and E came to my office with a guidance teacher and told me that they had been at a nightclub and Miss McConnell had kissed Pupil A.

“There also appeared to have been an argument between Ashley and one of the girls.

“Yes, the guidance teacher took them down to my office, they were just sat there and told me.

“They did say that they had saw Pupil A kiss the teacher.

“I was shown video footage on Tuesday 27 March – I could see Pupil B dancing and Pupil A and Ashley McConnell were standing talking, that’s all they were doing.

“From what they said, I didn’t think that Miss McConnell should have been behaving that way, I don’t think she should have been at the nightclub amongst her pupils.

“That [the kiss] shouldn’t happen, we are teachers, we shouldn’t be having any type of relationship like that at all.

“My personal opinion I believe we should behave in a manner that doesn’t put the profession in disrepute.”

“Ashley came to me and said she couldn’t remember the incident, I was advised to immediately suspend her which I did, she began to cry.”

A former male pupil who was privately tutored at McConnell’s home for a year and was also there on the night gave evidence in McConnell’s defence.

He said: “It would negatively impact the community and the school [if she was struck off], she is a great teacher and it would be detrimental to the pupils.

“I would describe her as a good teacher, she was a bit more down to earth than some of the older teachers, I think she was well liked by pupils and staff.”

The pupil claimed that although he had been in Skinandi’s nightclub on the night in question he did not remember seeing Miss McConnell act inappropriately.

He said: “It was subjective to say they were drunk but no I’m not an expert but in my personal opinion I would not say she was excessively drunk.

“I did not see those events on that night.

“I did not see that event occur.”

Miss McConnell faces being struck off the teaching register by the General Council for Scotland (GTCS) following an investigation over her alleged behaviour.

Dr Fiona Grant, a former head teacher from the school, revealed to the GTCS panel earlier this month how she launched an investigation into the allegations.

Ashley McConnell
The alleged incident happened at Skindandi’s nightclub in Thurso, Caithness.

Miss McConnell was suspended after concerned pupils approached school bosses with a video of the alleged incident.

Describing a still image taken from the video Dr Grant said that “Miss McConnell’s hand is flat towards pupil A’s groin.”

Students who were at the nightclub said the teacher was dancing in a “sexualised” and “dirty” manner.

The Thurso High School pupil that Miss McConnell has been accused of acting inappropriately with told school bosses he kissed the mum-of-two “three or four times”.

Miss McConnell has also been accused of telling two pupils at the club to “f**k off” before gesturing two fingers at them.

She then also allegedly said she would “fight the b***h” in reference to one of the female pupils.

Giving evidence at the hearing, Ms Charton, who recently left Thurso High School, said: “I met Ashley and had known her for about six months when we went out.

“I know our professional boundaries with pupils and that we should not be socialising on a personal level with pupils.

“Ashley was drinking Jack Daniels and coke while also ordering Budweiser and she did this maybe two or three times.

“I do not believe that she was in full control of her actions, she was more than tipsy and I do not remember her making any advances.

“If she was sober it would never have happened as when people are drunk they do things they normally wouldn’t.

“Ashley was feeling like she wanted to party, I was the one who had to push her away.

“[She] was drunk, more aggressive and sensitive to the comments when she gave the girl the finger.

“I had not seen her act in a flirtatious manner before and all of this makes me think she was not in control.”

The hearing continues.

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