Teacher banned after 'grooming' three students
A secondary music teacher has been struck off after "grooming" and having sexual relationships with three girls from the same school over a period spanning more than 10 years, the General Teaching Council for Scotland has ruled.
David Cush, who worked at St Joseph's Academy in Kilmarnock for the entire period, showered the girls - who all attended the school - with gifts and took them on trips as far away as Italy.
His behaviour was "reprehensible", according to a GTCS fitness to teach panel, which has asked Scottish ministers to rule on whether he should be barred from working with children.
The case was complex because the girls had at various points refused to see their relationships with Mr Cush as improper.
But crucially, in evidence described by the panel as "particularly compelling", "Pupil C" explained how she had begun to understand her relationship with Mr Cush differently thanks to a supportive partner.
Another pivotal moment had arrived years earlier, in 2008, when two friends of Pupil B reported their concerns to the East Ayrshire school's headteacher.
Mr Cush's sexual relationship with Pupil C lasted six years, from 1995 to 2001, when he took her on several trips away - to Glasgow, Uddingston, Alloway and York - and bought her a Russian wedding ring, a gold-plated watch, a suit and a gold necklace with a treble clef music symbol.
She had until recently supported Mr Cush and denied in previous investigations that their relationship was improper, but said that "she had come to realise that (his) behaviour towards her had been inappropriate".
She was now in a supportive relationship and her partner "had been able to encourage her to face the reality of the situation" and "speak out about the events which had occurred".
Pupil B's relationship with Mr Cush came to light when two of her friends became concerned and took what the GTCS panel described as "the major step for girls of that age" to go to their headteacher.
The panel found that from April 2004, Mr Cush - who did not attend the hearing - had been going beyond appropriate professional boundaries with Pupil B, including taking her to Dundonald Woods and to the Metrocentre in Gateshead to buy flowers, a gold bracelet, earrings and a necklace.
He took her on holiday to Sorrento, Rome and Pompeii in Italy between July 2005 and August 2005 and had sexual intercourse with her between August 2005 and June 2006.
He had previously engaged in sexual activity with Pupil A between August 2000 and September 2002, at Mull of Kintyre, Girvan, York and other unknown locations. In the same period, he had taken her on several trips, including to the Metrocentre in Gateshead to buy clothes and a gold watch.
The panel also found that between 1997 and 2006, Mr Cush had failed to maintain appropriate boundaries with pupils by allowing them access to the music department's staff base.
The panel considered evidence from psychologist Joe Nee, but only after it had already reached decisions on complaints involving the three girls. Mr Nee referred to a pattern of behaviour which has been described as "grooming".
He said Mr Cush was likely to have established himself as a "high status" figure in the school community, passing a lot of time in the school and taking part in many extracurricular activities. This could lead to "colleagues and acquaintances not accepting or recognising the behaviour as improper and making excuses in their minds for his behaviour".
The case took some time to bring to the GTCS as Strathclyde Police had pursued criminal action, but in November last year the Crown Office advised that Mr Cush would not be charged with any offence.