Teacher admits ‘excessive amount of alcohol’ on night she allegedly kissed and groped a pupil, 17


A teacher accused of allegedly kissing and groping a pupil has admitted drinking ‘an excessive amount of alcohol’ on the night in question.

Ashley McConnell, 34, said she visited several bars and was ordering two drinks at a time as well as shots during a night out in Thurso, Caithness, with friends in March 2018.

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

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

However, Miss McConnell, also known as Ashley Swanson, yesterday said she drank so much she could not remember everything from that night.

The mother-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.

Miss McDonnell is alleged to have danced in a sexualized manner with a sixth year pupil at local Skinandi’s nightclub in March 2018

Physics teacher Ashley McConnell, 34 (pictured), who has been accused of groping and kissing a teenage pupil at a local nightclub in Caithness, Scotland, told school bosses she 'couldn't remember' the incident

Physics teacher Ashley McConnell, 34 (pictured), who has been accused of groping and kissing a teenage pupil at a local nightclub in Caithness, Scotland, told school bosses she ‘couldn’t remember’ the incident

‘I can’t remember the content of the conversation [on the night]. That was the truth, my recollection of the evening was not clear, nothing really in detail.

‘I don’t remember dancing with him but that isn’t to say I didn’t dance with him.

‘I also don’t remember some of the other stuff which might have happened but that was me just trying to be as honest as I could be.

‘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.

‘You know anyone when they drink excessive amounts of alcohol they behave in ways they wouldn’t behave otherwise.’

She added: ‘I spent most of my night in the smoking area or on the dancefloor.

The physics teacher, who taught at Thurso High School, pictured, then went to a local club

The physics teacher, who taught at Thurso High School, pictured, then went to a local club

‘I was still drinking, shots I believe but I wasn’t going to the bar.

‘I can remember parts of the night and it is not like I have blacked out and not remembered the evening, I don’t have an explanation, it is just the effect of drinking large amounts of alcohol.

‘I believe that in the pubs I was drinking two drinks at a time and in the club I was drinking shots but I can’t be sure I remember drinking the shots.

‘Absolutely I would consider myself under the influence of alcohol.’

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.

She said: ‘I traveled into Thurso with a colleague who also lived in Halkirk and we went to a colleague’s Angela Sutherland 50th birthday, we had dinner and drinks.

‘From my recollection I was drinking beer and I had quite a few, we left Angela’s house and went to Why Not, a pub in Thurso. I was ordering beer and Jack Daniels.

‘It was quite an excessive amount of alcohol then we went to Top Joe’s and I was really quite drunk by then and I think after Top Joe’s I believe there were lots of science colleagues who had gone out.

‘By the time we were leaving 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.

‘The memories I do have, Emilie was with me and also from what has been recounted by Emilie to me is that we were together most of the night and I have no reason to disbelieve her.

‘Some bits [of a night out] you just don’t recall but I do remember everyone was going home and they suggested that I should do the same.’

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

‘I haven’t seen any evidence of that [sexy dancing] 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.’

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

The Scots 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**k off’ before gesturing two fingers at them.

She then alleged said she would ‘fight the b***h’ in reference to one of the female pupils.

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

‘The events in the smoking area weren’t clear in my mind.

‘I had a confrontation in the smoking area, the two girls were very loudly speaking about my personal life. I believe to Emilie and it was with the intention I would hear it, speaking about 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.’

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

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

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 trial continues.

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