Crieff High investigator to be replaced over ‘conflict concerns’

Probe into the culture, policies and processes at the school following allegations of sexual assault and racism.

Crieff High investigator to be replaced over ‘conflict concerns’ STV News

The senior officer appointed to lead a probe into allegations of widespread sexual assault and racism at a secondary school in Perthshire will be replaced following conflict of interest concerns raised by parents.

The culture, policies and processes at the school are to be the focus of the investigation which was to be led by David Macluskey, service manager for secondary education at Perth and Kinross Council.

But parents raised concerns that as he was previously deputy head at Crieff High, there would be a conflict of interest were he to lead the probe.

Anna De Garis, a fifth-year pupil at Crieff High School in Perthshire, said she had personally experienced sexual assault and bullying – but had witnessed far more.

Anna’s mother Kristie De Garis said: “We truly believe this new decision from the council is in the best interests of the investigation and therefore in the best interests of the pupils and parents.

“We all have the same objectives, to make sure the kids participate fully in the investigation and get the most out of it that they can.

“Like us, I know [Perth and Kinross] Council want the pupils at Crieff to feel listened to, respected and, most of all, safe.”

On Wednesday, Perth and Kinross Council announced young people and staff would be interviewed as part of the investigation to be led by Mr Macluskey.

But on Thursday evening, the council announced another senior officer would lead the review in his stead.

A spokesperson said this was “to ensure all children, young people, parents, carers and staff have full confidence in the investigation and its findings”.

The council said it would appoint a new lead who would work with a peer officer from another local authority.

“However, to ensure all children, young people, parents, carers and staff have full confidence in the investigation and its findings, it has been agreed that another service manager leads the review in his stead and we will therefore appoint a new lead.”

Perth and Kinross Council

A spokesperson said: “The investigation of the issues raised by Anna in her open letter has been commissioned through a school review process to ensure the culture, policies and processes in place within Crieff High School meet the high standards we demand from our schools.

“It will identify where improvements can be made and whether any learning from this process can be taken across other schools.

“Head of Education and Learning Sharon Johnston has overall responsibility for the final report and any recommendations.

“Another officer will consider a formal complaint made by a parent separately.”

Crieff High’s initial response has been criticised by 16-year-old Anna.

The teenager told STV News that speaking out was not about “trashing” the secondary school, but that a meeting to discuss her concerns with the headteacher on Monday had left her in tears.

The council said the investigation will involve senior officers from the education and equalities teams as well as quality improvement officers, equalities officers and partner agencies.

The council said third sector organisations will also be asked to contribute where appropriate.

The investigation will run until February 25 and will report back its findings at a later date.

‘Nobody should feel victimised or harassed in any of our schools.’

Sheena Devlin, executive director of Education and Children’s Services at Perth and Kinross Council

Sheena Devlin, executive director of Education and Children’s Services at Perth and Kinross Council said the welfare of the children and young people was always the “over-riding priority”.

“We take the allegations made regarding Crieff High School extremely seriously,” she said.

“Nobody should feel victimised or harassed in any of our schools. I want to assure all children, young people, parents and carers that we do everything we can to tackle bullying of any kind.

“This investigation will make sure the policies and processes we have in place at Crieff High School, and across all of our schools, are as effective as possible in ensuring our pupils learn in a safe and welcoming environment.

A hallway in Crieff High School, Perthshire.Perth and Kinross Council

“I would urge all children, young people and staff at Crieff High School to engage with the investigation team so we get a full understanding of their experiences – all their voices matter.”

Ms Devlin said the council would always urge children, young people and their parents or carers to report any incidents of bullying so appropriate action can be taken.

In an open letter to the school, MPs, MSPs, Perth and Kinross Council and the Scottish Government earlier this week, Anna said it was clear to her racism, sexism, sexual assault and harassment, homophobia and transphobia was “rife” and that the school’s inaction was normalising the behaviour.

The teenager, who is due to sit her Higher exams this year, was provoked into action after hearing her friend was told to “kill themselves”.

More than 100 answered survey

She created a survey, asking her peers about their experiences of discrimination at Crieff High School.

There are around 600 children at the school, with just under 15% of pupils responding within 24 hours, she said.

Anna said she received well over 100 written responses from students.

“Reading them was terrible,” the teenager said, “I honestly feel so sad for some of the children at my school that have had to deal with this and they’re children, which is the horrible thing.”

Among the allegations of abuse are claims of racial-epithets being used casually, anti-semitism and Holocaust denial, homophobic and transphobic slurs regularly directed at LGBTQ+ students, and misogynistic behaviour.

Responses to the survey claim male teachers had made sexist jokes and that schoolgirls were sexually assaulted by other pupils.

Crieff High School in Perthshire.Perth and Kinross Council

Previously, Police Scotland said it had not received any reports of incidents such as those detailed in the survey.

A spokesperson for the force said: “However, we would encourage anyone who believes they have witnessed or been the victim of any criminal behaviour to report this to police.

“Hate crime in any form is unacceptable and we will thoroughly investigate any offences reported to us.

“We work closely in partnership with the school and local authority and will provide any support necessary to address the issues raised.”

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