A high school teacher who was found to have kissed and danced “flirtatiously” with a pupil at a nightclub has been reprimanded by a regulator.
Physics teacher Ashley McConnell danced in a “flirtatious manner” with the teenager – known only as Pupil A – at Skinandi’s in Thurso.
She also admitted to messaging a former student when served with notice of a fitness to teach investigation by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) to ask for a written recommendation.
A hearing notice listed that McConnell and the Thurso High School pupil “held hands” before she touched him “on his bottom and on or around his groin area” late on March 24, 2018 – however, the latter was not proven due to insufficient evidence.
She also admitted to making an “offensive gesture” to two other pupils – listed as Pupil B and Pupil C – and telling them to “f*** off”.
She was accused of later offering to “fight the b**** if I have to” in reference to Pupil B, but this allegation was also not proven.
The watchdog launched a probe into her conduct in 2019 following the incident at the nightclub 12 months earlier.
In March of that year, McConnell messaged a former pupil, whom she had previously tutored, on a social media app with a request to “help her case with everything that is going on right now”.
It read: “Hi [Young Person A], how are you? I need to ask a big favour. If you have time could you write a statement about me as a teacher? How brilliant and helpful I was. No I’m kidding, but seriously if you could write a little statement it would really help my case with everything that’s going on just now. I understand if you don’t want to or don’t have time so don’t worry if you can’t.”
At the time, the young person was in a residential care service and McConnell admitted to failing to confirm to the service whether contacting her in this manner would not be likely to cause her emotional harm.
The GTCS panel found that her behaviour on the night in question, including the kissing, hand-holding, flirtatious dancing, swearing and rude hand gestures, coupled with being in an advanced state of intoxication in public, had breached various sections of the Code of Professionalism and Conduct (COPAC).
The Panel also noted that there had been no breach of the criminal law, and that there had been no prior pattern of this kind of behaviour by McConnell.
Therefore, it was satisfied that the conduct, in this case, was remediable, had been remedied and that there was a low likelihood of reoccurrence.
On the requirement of a finding of impairment to the public interest, the panel said that her conduct fell short of the standards expected to a registered teacher and her fitness to teach was found to be currently impaired.
After assessing all the evidence provided, the GTCS ordered that a reprimand be recorded against her entry in GTC Scotland’s Register for an aggregated period of nine months, effective from the date that McConnell was notified of this decision.