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Thurso High teacher admits drinking excessively on night she is accused of kissing pupil

By Ali Morrison

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By Darren McConachie, Deadline News

Ashley McConnell is alleged to have kissed and groped a pupil in a Thurso nightclub.
Ashley McConnell is alleged to have kissed and groped a pupil in a Thurso nightclub.

A teacher has admitted drinking "an excessive amount of alcohol" on the night she allegedly kissed and groped a pupil in a Thurso nightclub.

Ashley McConnell said she visited several bars and was ordering two drinks at a time as well as shots during a night out in March 2018.

The physics teacher, who taught at Thurso High School, then went to Skinandi's, where she is alleged to have danced in a sexualised manner with a pupil.

It is also alleged that Miss McConnell, who was 30 at the time, kissed the 17-year-old "three or four times" at the club, touched his bottom and groin and held hands with him.

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

She was suspended from her job after concerned pupils approached school bosses with a video of the alleged incident.

However, Miss McConnell, also known as Ashley Swanson, told the hearing on Tuesday she drank so much she can't remember everything from that night.

The mum-of-two, who was married at the time, remembers the pupil standing in front of her but can't recall if more happened due to the amount of alcohol she drank.

Referring to the pupil she allegedly kissed as Pupil A, she said: “I do have a recollection of Pupil A standing in front of me and I remember spending parts of the night with [a former pupil she tutored].

“It had probably been about three years since I taught him. He was in my S1 class and S3 class, I knew him and he was recognisable to me.

"I can’t remember the content of the conversation [on the night]. I don’t remember dancing with him but that isn’t to say I didn’t dance with him.

“I feel it is quite significant to kiss someone, it is something that I would remember given I remember the confrontation and other memorable moments from the night.

"But I cannot claim that, because I don’t remember, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen."

McConnell admitted she was under the influence of alcohol and believes she was drinking two drinks at a time in the pubs then drinking shots in the nightclub.

The alleged incidents took place at Skinandi's nightclub.
The alleged incidents took place at Skinandi's nightclub.

She had been out for dinner and drinks for a colleague's 50th birthday before she went to Skinandi's nightclub.

She also visited several pubs including the Y Not and Top Joe's in between, where she continued to drink before heading to the nightclub with French teacher Emilie Charton.

She said: “By the time we were leaving [the pub] most people were going home, a few colleagues had suggested to me that maybe I should go home but I wasn’t keen to go home.

“I don’t think that anybody really wanted to go to Skinandi’s but I don’t think that Emilie wanted me to go on my own.”

Referring to allegations from pupils that she was "dirty dancing" with the schoolboy, she said: “It’s not something I remember, it is not something that is in the video that the girls took.

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"I haven’t seen any evidence of that but I can’t say that it didn’t happen because I drank a large amount and I don’t have the clearest recollection of the evening.”

McConnell denied there were any other feelings towards the boy other than on the night of the alleged kiss.

The teacher admits holding hands with the teen but denies kissing him.

She has also been accused of telling two pupils at the club to "f*** off" before gesturing two fingers at them. She then allegedly said she would "fight the b****" in reference to one of the female pupils.

McConnell said: “I had a recollection of having an altercation with two girls.

“I had a confrontation in the smoking area, the two girls were very loudly speaking about my personal life and it was with the intention I would hear it, saying I wasn’t behaving as I should as a teacher, they felt sorry for my husband and my child and I think that touched a nerve.”

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 was accused of acting inappropriately with told school bosses he kissed her "three or four times".

The hearing continues.

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