Former Edinburgh headteacher accused of intimidating whistleblower in sex harassment case

General Teaching Council for Scotland panel to decide on fitness to teach

Thursday, 5th March 2020, 6:00 am
Derek Curran

A HEADTEACHER intimidated a whistleblower who questioned his handling of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations at their school, a regulatory panel has heard.

Christine Scott also accused Derek Curran of reducing the vulnerable adult accuser to tears and yelling at her after she raised the alarm at Castlebrae Community High in 2014.

A General Teaching Council of Scotland panel is sitting to consider whether Mr Curran, 58, is fit to continue in the profession.

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“He was making sure I was intimidated enough to stay out of this investigation,” Ms Scott told the hearing yesterday.

Ms Scott was the school’s community programme manager supporting adult learners when one student, a woman in her early 20s, sent her an email in March 2014 alleging sexual harassment by a teacher.

The accuser said she originally made a complaint in January of that year and it was being investigated by acting deputy head Mark Cunningham but she had heard nothing since.

Ms Scott was also told the same teacher, referred to as Teacher A, had made inappropriate comments in a class to school-aged children and so she considered it a child protection issue.

Summoned to Mr Curran’s office Ms Scott told the hearing: “He got angry and told me to stay out of this and instructed me not to speak to the adult learner and that I shouldn’t be involved.

“I said he can’t do that and that the adult learner had contacted me. He got angry again and said that he was in charge of the investigation and instructed me to stay out of the matter.”

Ms Scott said she believed it should be reported to police but said of Mr Curran: “I recall he said the adult learner was not the type of person to go to the police.

“I thought it was a strange thing to say because as far as I was aware, he’d never met her and never had any contact with her.”

Ms Scott said the distraught accuser came to her after she had met Mr Curran at a later date.

“She came to the office in floods of tears and said they’d talked about the issue with Teacher A and that Mr Curran had started shouting at her.

“She said Mr Curran had threatened her and banned her from the school. It took me a while to calm her down.”

Of Mr Curran and Mr Cunningham’s actions, Ms Scott added: “I didn’t feel like they had conducted the investigation correctly and given, that the adult learner indicated it was being swept under the carpet, I felt I had no alternative but to make a public interest disclosure.”

Earlier, the hearing heard from Mark Cunningham that copies of emails sent by Teacher A to his accuser were “sexually explicit and described sexual fantasies.”

And he told how Teacher A’s wife had contacted the school with text message evidence that her husband’s relationship with his accuser was consensual.

He said he had no prior experience or training of conducting such an investigation and added: “With hindsight, I think maybe the investigation should’ve gone outside the school more quickly than it did.

“I think I could’ve benefited from additional guidance on how this investigation should have run or how it should’ve been conducted.”

Mr Curran denies failing to adequately assess the seriousness of the complaint and ensure an investigation was properly conducted.

He also denies failing to ensure that sufficient support was put in place for the adult learner and failing to take appropriate action in line with Edinburgh City Council child protection guidelines.

He also denies failing to adhere to council procedures over payment of travel expenses of £399 and failing to adhere to procedures over payment of salaries to tertiary staff avoiding the payment of tax and national insurance.

He was convicted of a criminal charge of threatening behaviour at the Sick Kids but contests whether it makes him unfit to be a teacher.

The hearing continues