A married female teacher who kissed a 17-year-old ‘three or four times’ in a nightclub’ was drunk and acting flirtatious’ and was not in ‘full control of her actions’, a tribunal has heard.
Ashley McConnell, then 30, has admitted holding hands with the 17-year-old student, known as Pupil A, at Skinandi’s nightclub in Thurso, Caithness in Scotland, in March 2018.
However, the physics teacher said she did not kiss or dance with the student in a sexualized manner, despite the teenager saying most of the kisses were ‘more than a peck’.
Other students who were also at the nightclub that evening described the student’s dancing with the teacher as ‘dirty’ and ‘sexualised’.
Another teacher, Emilie Charton who had known Miss McConnell for around six months, said she was ordering Budweisers and Jack Daniels and cokes for herself ‘two or three times’.
She claims Miss McConnell was ‘more than tipsy’ and ‘feeling like she wanted to party’.
Ms Charton said she did not feel her colleague was in control but said she can’t remember her making advances towards anyone.
Ashley McConnell, then 30, kissed a 17-year-old ‘three or four times’ in a nightclub, it has been claimed
Another teacher, Emilie Charton who had known Miss McConnell for around six months, said she was ordering Budweisers and Jack Daniels and cokes for herself ‘two or three times’
Miss McConnell now faces being struck off the teaching register by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) following an investigation over her alleged behaviour.
Giving evidence at the hearing today, 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 socializing 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.
‘I called for a taxi at about 3:15am and left the club to make a 30 second call, when the club closed we met a man Ashley knew.
‘I did not hear everything that Ashley was saying to the man as they were quite far away but the girl made her comments quite loud.
‘Ashley 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.
‘Well she was not sober, but I had not seen Ashley be heavily influenced by alcohol in this way and it was not a behavior I had seen.
‘I had not seen her flirt or be in control of her actions, I had only seen her at work or in social settings.
‘…Someone had tried to kiss her, it was getting late and I wanted to go home.
‘I don’t leave my friends by themselves, she was drunk there had been an altercation, I just thought it would be better if we left.’
‘I don’t drink very much, I had a glass of prosecco at dinner and then maybe I might have had a couple of gin and tonics which is my drink of preference when I am out but I would not describe myself as entirely sober but I think tipsy would still be quite strong.
‘I would say my recollection is fairly accurate to the best of my ability to remember things.’
She added: ‘I was given her registration class while she was suspended and they seemed quite sad, I had only heard good things about her as a teacher.’
Physics teacher Ashley McConnell is alleged to have danced inappropriately with the male pupil at Skinandi’s nightclub (pictured) in Thurso, Highland, in March 2018
Dr Fiona Grant, a former head teacher of the school, launched an investigation over the claims.
She found that concerned students 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.’
Recounting her interview with Pupil A, Dr Grant added that the teen ‘indicated that he was the one to stop events between himself and Miss McConnell.’
After telling Miss McConnell ‘to stop’ Pupil A also alleged that the teacher attempted to make eye contact with him, with the student having to turn around to avoid this.
Miss McConnell now faces being struck off the General Teaching Council for Scotland register following the beginning of their hearing.
Speaking today Grant told the panel: ‘My findings were that there was evidence of flirtatious dancing with Pupil A taking place in the nightclub.
‘There was a video shared to me of Pupil B and in the background Pupil A and Miss McConnell were dancing.
‘Overall I gathered evidence to support claims of gross misconduct.
‘My professional opinion is that it falls short of the standards expected to find in a teacher registered with the GTCS.
‘I could tell by body language that Pupil A was embarrassed and uncomfortable about what had happened.
‘He indicated that he was the one to stop events between himself and Miss McConnell.
‘He said ‘it had gone too far’. He was clearly embarrassed about what he was having to talk about.
The physics teacher is also said to have held the pupil’s hand and touched his bottom and groin area. Pictured: File image of Thurso High School
‘He had danced on three or four occasions with the teacher for around 10 minutes.
‘He described the dancing as flirtatious dancing, close at some parts with physical contact between each other’s bodies.
‘He viewed it as inappropriate, he personally felt it had gone too far and distanced himself from the situation.
‘He indicated Miss McConnell kissed him three or four times.
‘He then indicated that her attention towards him had gone too far and got annoyed. He told her to stop and blanked her for the rest of the night.
Pupil A told Dr Grant: ‘She did try to make eye contact with me but I turned away.
‘I clearly remember events, it’s just something you don’t forget. A pupil kissing a teacher.
‘Most of them were more than a peck.’
Describing a still from a video taken inside the nightclub she said: ‘You can see Pupil A and part of Miss McConnell’s body. Miss McConnell’s hand is close to his groin.
‘Miss McConnell’s hand is flat towards pupil A’s groin. I’m embarrassed looking at the picture describing it.
‘Pupil B described the dancing as ‘dirty’ or ‘sexualised’.
‘She (Miss McConnell) was clear that it may have happened and that it may not have happened.’
The hearing continues.