Sex claim case fails burden of proof

1st September 2000 at 01:00
THE General Teaching Council for Scotland's disciplinary committee took two and a half hours listening to evidence before it dismissed allegations of sexual harassment against Sheena Taylor, former head of Albyn School for Girls in Aberdeen.

It found "no corroborative evidence" to support claims by Sandy Stewart, a lab technician at the independent school, that he had been harassed by Mrs Taylor. Three witnesses, including two Albyn teachers, gave evidence to back the allegations.

The head was sacked by the board of governors last September and this week found herself facing a GTC disciplinary hearing in Edinburgh. Both independent and state schools are obliged to report any dismissals for professional misconduct.

Ivor Sutherland, the GTC's registrar, said: "The disciplinary committee considered the evidence very carefully and could find no corroborative evidence to support the charge of sexual harassment. They came to the conclusion the charge could not be proved and no further action will be taken in Mrs Taylor's case."

The high-profile status of the hearing, described by the GTC itself as "highly unusual", forced it into ssuing a brief statement after clearing the former head. Her husband, Michael Taylor, is headteacher of Dyce Academy. The council normally only issues a cursory statement where a teacher is deregistered.

Mrs Taylor is currently working as a development officer with Aberdeen City Council and is now looking to re-establish her career. She moved from the state sector in 1997 to take over the Albyn post, a switch that attracted comment in the city.

The school reached a financial settlement with Mrs Taylor after her acrimonious sacking, the result of a governors' unanimous vote, a spokesman said. Albyn's governors say that the matter is now closed.

Mr Taylor, defending his wife, said: "The school did not seek evidence at all. It pretended it had, but it didn't. This is the first time anyone has listened to the evidence before making decisions."

Mrs Taylor said: "Mr Stewart was not able to prove his claims to the GTC so people can judge what that makes of his allegations. But I think a very dangerous precedent for education has been made in that if you want rid of your boss, you can say you have been sexually harassed."

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