Deaf school in turmoil

Janice MacNeill, who is seeking legal advice against the decision to dismiss her.
Janice MacNeill, who is seeking legal advice against the decision to dismiss her.

The boss of Scotland’s national deaf school has been dismissed following a probe into how allegations of a sex assault committed by one of her staff were handled.

Janice MacNeill, chief executive of Donaldson’s School in Linlithgow, was suspended pending an inquiry by board members into why staff waited nearly four years to take action against youth worker William Docherty – later convicted of indecently assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a birthday party and placed on the sex offenders’ register.

It has been revealed this week that Ms MacNeill is no longer employed by the Donaldson’s Trust – and that she is preparing a legal challenge to the decision.

Bosses at the school – Scotland’s national education institution for deaf children – confirmed their decision after an investigation lasting several months into how teachers responded to early complaints regarding Docherty (42).

Earlier this year communication support worker Docherty was found guilty at Falkirk Sheriff Court of a sickening assault in October 2009.

He pounced on his teenaged victim in the driveway of his parents’ home after a party.

The victim, now 20, told Sheriff Derek O’Carroll how he felt Docherty “smelling his hair” before he was groped and asked if he wanted to accompany the older man to his hotel.

Although the incident was reported to staff by the boy’s mother, no action was taken and Docherty was not removed from his post until nearly four years later.

Headteacher Mary O’Brien was also suspended when details of the delay between the initial allegations of assault and Docherty’s even-tual suspension emerged. It is not yet known whether disciplinary action will be taken against her.

The school was heavily criticised by Sheriff O’Carroll, who gave Docherty a two-year supervision order.

He said: “It is most unfortunate that the conclusion of this trial was delayed by four years. I am rather puzzled that Donaldson’s School, which is well known as a school for children who are vulnerable, have 
taken so long to deal with the accusation.”

Leaders at Donaldson’s have confirmed Ms MacNeill is no longer employed there. A spokeswoman said: “The matter is ongoing and being dealt with according to Donaldson’s internal procedures and we cannot comment further.”