Bernadette Smith yesterday told of her regret over the “10 days of madness” that ended in her sharing a bed with a teenage pupil.
To her colleagues at the secondary school where she taught English and history, the 35-year-old was popular and professional.
But her private life had been crumbling ever since a letter from the Child Support Agency arrived at the home she shared with husband Brian and their three children.
It was a request for maintenance from a woman who claimed she’d had conceived a child with Brian less than a year after he married Smith.
At Bannockburn High, she tried to hide the escalating turmoil in her relationship as more details of her husband’s deceit emerged.
Shamed teacher rubbishes claim that she had fling with schoolboy to get revenge on her cheating husband
Now, in hindsight, she believes it was the trigger for her first confiding in 16-year-old pupil Gary Ralston and then beginning a physical relationship with him.
That contact ended abruptly when Smith, of Denny, Stirlingshire, was confronted about her inappropriate behaviour by Gary’s gran on September 19 last year.
For months, she had taken a keen interest in the teenager’s education after noticing an improvement in his work before school broke up for summer.
Bad teacher’s repentance
“I had a new job as an additional support needs teacher, helping children with learning difficulties, but I was still teaching some history classes.
We offered something called school service which allows senior pupils to help out with classes and Gary asked if he could help out in my second year class.
Senior staff were all quite happy because he’d never volunteered to do anything before. I just thought he wanted to fill up his timetable.
There never came a point where I thought I was attracted to him. I just knew I was thinking about him too much.
I knew his family circumstances and we were starting to have conversations which went beyond what should be said between a teacher and a pupil.
He told me things about his home life and, stupidly, I started to tell him about the problems in my marriage.
My relationship with Brian had been falling apart since 2009, when a letter from the CSA dropped through the letterbox.
He’d had a child with another woman which he initially claimed had been the result of a drunken one-night stand.
The child was four at that point. The other woman had fallen pregnant nine months after we married.
I thought my world had ended. As the years progressed it became clear it was not just a one-night stand. He was caught out in more and more lies.”
Smith says she began to piece together evidence which convinced her she was not being told the truth – at the same time, she was making CSA payments for the child’s upkeep by direct debit.
She said: “It is not an excuse but there were things happening which made me feel under a lot of pressure.
I knew I was about to separate from my husband. But that had nothing to do with Gary. My friends were telling me I was withdrawn or on a different planet.
I went to school on September 9 and asked Gary to see me in class at the end of the day, just before the last bell.
I told him he couldn’t do his school service in my class, that it wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t tell him why.
I went home feeling guilty because the truth was that we had already built a relationship of sorts.
I was telling him things I shouldn’t have and I thought it was wrong of me to cut him off without any explanation.
I felt really rotten the next day. By then, I realised that I liked him. It sounds crazy, and it was.
I felt I owed him an explanation and told him the reason I could not have him in the class was because I had been thinking about him too much.
Later, he sent me a message saying he was sorry he didn’t say anything back. He said he didn’t know what to say.
It was my last chance to step back and I didn’t. Somewhere in my head I thought I was doing the right thing.
I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t excited. I felt like I was making him happy, making him feel better, which made me happy.
After that, when I saw Gary in school, it felt like we were the only people in the corridor, a weird, weird feeling.
On the Thursday, we spoke in the staff room and arranged to meet the next day, just to talk.
I picked him up and we went to Callendar Park. We were in a car park talking for hours and yes, we were kissing.
It wasn’t what I would call passionate – but it was a proper kiss. I couldn’t even tell you who initiated it.
I felt like I wanted it because it was making him feel better.
It was late so I drove him home and his dad saw me from the front window.
In my mind, I knew that I would have to give up my job and leave my husband. But I was ready for it.
The following Monday, back at school, Gary told me he had told his dad that the girl he had seen from the window was his new girlfriend.He told his dad she was 22.
He had volunteered to help at a school event that evening and I gave him a lift home, dropping him at a bus stop near his house.
The next day I went into my office and found an envelope addressed to ‘smithy.babes’.
It was part of an email address I’d had which the kids had latched on to. Stupidly, it had appeared on my Facebook.
The next day, the principal teacher of history told me that Gary hadn’t done his homework.
He came to me and we sorted it out and I gave him a lift home. I dropped him nearby, it was daylight and I kissed him again.
By this time, I felt differently – I knew I was involved. I had to tell him not to call me Mrs Smith, it was a bit awkward.”
Believing their relationship remained secret, Smith went to work on Thursday, September 19, unaware that she was about to be confronted over her behaviour.
She said: “I was teaching and one of the deputy head teachers came into class and said the head teacher wanted to see me. I didn’t have the slightest inkling what it was about.
The head told me there had been a complaint from Gary’s gran. He said, ‘Gary has told someone he is in a relationship with you.
I knew he expected me to deny it. I saw the shock in his face when I said, “I wouldn’t call it a relationship but, yes, something has happened.
I admitted to kissing him but made it clear that nothing sexual had happened. I was asked if I had feelings for him and I said that I did.
I found out at that point that Gary had told his dad, who had no problem with it. But he told Gary’s gran, who made the complaint.
I went home, got showered, phoned my mum and told her I was leaving Brian.
I wanted to go somewhere I knew nobody would find me. I drove to Gary’s house and saw him and his dad. They invited me in and gave me tea.
His dad said he was quite comfortable about the relationship. He said he was proud of his son.
I went there to explain to his dad that Gary was telling the truth and also that I didn’t want him to have to leave school.
I told him I had decided to leave my job. In my head, I thought it would be OK.
We watched a movie and had a Chinese takeaway then we went to his room and I took off my T-shirt and lay on his bed. I had a wee vest top on underneath.
He was under the covers but I wasn’t. We did kiss that night as well.
The next morning, I went home to deal with my husband and get my kids to school.
It was awful. Everyone was screaming and the kids never made it to school.
Then I had a meeting with the department of education. I quit on the spot.
No sooner were the words out of my mouth than an official said ‘resignation accepted’.
Unbelievably, I went back to Gary’s house. It was literally a crime scene.
It shows how naive I was that I said to a female officer, ‘It’s fine, there’s no problem. I have quit my job so everything’s OK.’
She looked at me and said, ‘Do you have any idea of the trouble you are in?
I was arrested and spent the weekend in a jail cell. I became so hysterical they had to bring in my mum to calm me down.
The police asked me if I loved Gary. I said I did. But I realise now I didn’t. Looking back, it is hard to explain how I felt at the time.
I didn’t fancy Gary but I was so consumed by wanting to make sure he was OK that even when I was sitting in a cell at the police station, all I could think about was him.
When I was round at his house, his auntie came in and told me the whole situation was ridiculous and that we needed to wake up.
At the time I didn’t listen but looking back, her words make perfect sense.
And that is one of the worst things of all. I started trying to help Gary. To be a positive influence and help him.
The very thing I was trying to protect him from, I ended up doing to him myself.
Because although he’ll be full of bravado, this will have had a rotten effect on him and I am sorry for that. Truly sorry.”