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Thurso High teacher who kissed pupil can return to classroom

By Ali Morrison

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Ashley McConnell was given a reprimand by the General Teaching Council of Scotland after kissing a pupil in a Thurso nightclub. Picture: Deadline News
Ashley McConnell was given a reprimand by the General Teaching Council of Scotland after kissing a pupil in a Thurso nightclub. Picture: Deadline News

A teacher who kissed and danced in a flirtatious manner with a pupil at a Thurso nightclub has been allowed to return to the profession.

Ashley McConnell was issued with a reprimand by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) on Wednesday after they found her fitness to teach was impaired.

The physics teacher had been fighting for weeks to keep her job after an investigation was launched into her behaviour with a teen at Skinandi’s nightclub in Thurso in March 2018.

The married teacher was found to have kissed a 17-year-old Thurso High School pupil at the nightclub, as well as danced with him in a flirtatious manner.

She also held hands with the teen and told other pupils who were at the same club to “f*** off” after they questioned her inappropriate behaviour.

McConnell, who was 30 at the time, admitted to the GTCS panel last month that she drank an excessive amount of alcohol on the night in question and could not remember everything.

She broke down in tears as she gave evidence and admitted to remembering standing in front of the pupil.

After hearing seven days of evidence, spaced over the course of two months, the GTCS decided that McConnell would be allowed back into the classroom and issued her with a nine-month reprimand.

They said: “The panel considered that a combination of factors had influenced her behaviour on that evening.

"The panel was persuaded that the teacher’s behaviour was out of character and that it was neither predatory nor premeditated in intent.

"The panel considered that the teacher’s behaviour was remediable in all the circumstances.

"The panel noted that the teacher had admitted some of the conduct found proved, and that she had both reflected and taken extensive steps to remediate.

"The panel considered that there was comprehensive and genuine regret and remorse, in addition to the teacher’s fervent assurances of having learned her lesson."

On making their decision, they said: "The panel also considered that a reprimand would satisfy the public interest in the particular circumstances of the case.

"A reprimand appropriately indicated the seriousness of the conduct to the profession and the public and would thus maintain public confidence in teachers and the teaching profession."

Giving evidence at the hearing last month, McConnell, also known as Ashley Swanson, said: “I realised that my conduct had fallen short. I don’t drink alcohol any more – perhaps if I hadn’t been drinking alcohol that night I wouldn’t be in the situation we are in.

“I feel a great deal of remorse and shame. Behaviour of this nature will never be repeated, I hope you will see that my conduct at the time was in stark contrast to my typical character. The risk of repetition is non-existent.

“My conduct in work was never questioned, I’ve taken all the steps that I can. I have made lots and lots of changes."

Miss McConnell 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 in between where she continued to drink before heading to the nightclub with French teacher Emilie Charton.

Ms Charton, who recently left Thurso High School, said: “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. If she was sober it would never have happened as when people are drunk they do things they normally wouldn’t.”

The GTCS found there was not enough evidence to prove allegations that Miss McConnell touched the pupil on the bottom or groin area.

Deadline News

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