Teacher's antics shown on video found inadmissible
The legitimacy of using mobile phone footage as evidence in misconduct cases has been called into question by the outcome of a disciplinary hearing involving a Glasgow maths teacher.
Although three charges against Eric Ralston were found proven, the General Teaching Council for Scotland's disciplinary sub-committee ruled last week that evidence presented on a DVD was not admissible.
During incidents at Hillhead High on 10 February 2010, Ralston was videoed by a pupil who uploaded the footage to YouTube.
But the final written verdict from the sub-committee recorded that no weight had been attached to the filmed evidence since, despite an affidavit from the pupil who had shot the footage, "it was unable to consider the provenance of the DVD or the circumstances of it being taken".
Ralston had not been given enough notice of the affidavit and the sub- committee was also concerned that it had not had the opportunity to examine the circumstances under which the footage had been taken.
But the sub-committee suggested that, even in future cases where such an affidavit was submitted with plenty of time, such evidence might not be considered: it was "concerned at the prospect of surreptitious video evidence being taken into account in determining issues of this nature".
Ralston, 58, was struck off after being found guilty of three charges: attending work under the influence of alcohol and not being in a fit state to teach; behaving in an inappropriate manner and using inappropriate language in front of pupils, including describing one pupil as a "twat" and an "idiot"; and shouting and using inappropriate language toward fellow teacher Thomas Gough.
Some aspects of the charges were dismissed: it could not be proven that Ralston had imitated the voice of the same pupil he described as an "idiot"; that he had directed the words "sling your hook" at that pupil; or that he called another pupil "pitiful scum".
The sub-committee established that Ralston had failed to avoid potentially illegal situations, by driving from the school under the influence of alcohol.
He also breached the code of professionalism and conduct for teachers in several other ways, by: attending school while overtly under the influence of alcohol; failing to be a role model to pupils; failing to treat pupils with respect; failing to treat colleagues with respect; and failing to work in a cooperative manner with colleagues.
Ralston did not attend the hearing in Edinburgh, and was not represented. There had been no response to any correspondence regarding the proceedings and nothing to indicate that an adjournment would result in an appearance.
Had Ralston engaged in the process, his character and history might have been taken into account - opening up options such as a conditional order or a reprimand - but the sub-committee said it was left with no choice but to remove him from the register.
A statement underlined that it "was mindful of the potential risk of harm to the pupils and of its duty to uphold standards of behaviour within the teaching profession to ensure that public confidence in the teaching profession is maintained".