Governors quit deaf school amid sex offence claims

Donaldson's School in Linlithgow has been caught up in investigations of sexual offences. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Donaldson's School in Linlithgow has been caught up in investigations of sexual offences. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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ALMOST half of the governors on the board at Scotland’s national deaf school have quit amid a police probe into misconduct allegations involving a senior member of staff and an investigation into alleged sexual offences.

It is understood seven individuals from the 16-strong board at Donaldson’s School in Linlithgow have stepped down as confidence in its management collapses.

Police are examining “a number of concerns” involving one of the school’s employees to assess whether a full investigation is needed.
And officers are also said to be looking into claims that serious sexual offences took place at the crisis-hit school. It is understood some of the allegations are historical in nature.

Teachers are under ministerial instruction to put together an emergency improvement plan following a surprise inspection carried out in the wake of the allegations.

The Evening News revealed in January how Donaldson’s support worker William Docherty, 42, was convicted of indecently assaulting a 16-year-old boy at a party and placed on the sex offenders’ register.

Senior management received a report from the victim’s mother in 2009, but Docherty was not suspended until nearly four years later.

The News has also learned that former chief executive Janice MacNeill, who was suspended and then sacked over the school’s handling of the Docherty affair, is pursuing an unfair dismissal case due to be heard later this month.

A team of inspectors were at Donaldson’s on Monday and a meeting was held with the board of governors and parents.

One source close to the situation said: “Staff have been told to tell [inspectors] everything – I know that the school is in a real mess and things are really kicking off.”

Political leaders have called for radical action to be taken. Michael Connarty, Labour MP for Linlithgow, said the school should be brought under the management of West Lothian Council. He said: “I’ve had serious concerns about the management for some time. It should be taken into local authority control, even on a temporary basis. They have massive problems in terms of financing and staffing because they didn’t manage to finish the transaction on their big building in Edinburgh and the situation has gone from bad to worse.”

Fiona Hyslop, local constituency MSP, added: “I will be asking questions about the board and governance arrangements and what oversight they have had in relation to improvements which should have taken place.”