AG: School protected teacher accused of sexual abuse
CONCORD – A former St. Paul School teacher is being charged for allegedly lying to the grand jury investigating sexual abuse at the prestigious private boarding school.
David Pook, 47, of Warner, is charged with two counts of witness tampering and two counts of conspiracy to commit perjury for allegedly trying to get the young women with whom he has had a sexual relationship since she was his student at St. Paul’s to lie about their connection.
Pook was fired from St. Paul’s in 2008 when the sexaul relationship with the then-teen girl became known to his supervisors. Despite his exit from St. Paul’s, a school official gave Pook a glowing recommendation when he sought a job at the Derryfield School in Manchester, according to the arrest affidavit filed in the Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord. Pook has been working at Derryfield since 2009.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Officehas been investigating St. Paul’s since allegations of sexual assaults first started surfacing in the Owen Labrie rape case. Labrie was found guilty in August 2015 of luring an underage student into a sexual encounter while he was an upperclassman. He was convicted on sexual assault and child endangerment counts. The case sparked outrage over the allegedly widespread practice of upperclassmen at the school targeting female freshman for sex. It also raised questions about the actions of the faculty and staff.
Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said Wednesday the investigation into the school is ongoing and remains active. She said the investigation found that school officials failed to contact police n 2008 when they first learned that Pook was having sex with a female student.
“They have a duty to report,” Young said. “They are an institution with children.”
St. Paul’s School touts that its graduates include three candidates for U.S. president, six senators or congressmen, 13 U.S. ambassadors, a governor of New Hampshire, a Nobel Prize winner, a Medal of Honor recipient, three Pulitzer Prize winners, a mayor of New York City; and a president of the World Bank, among others.
Pook started working for St. Paul’s in 1998 and was well respected as a teacher, though there were red flags about his behaviour toward female students, according to the affidavit. Pook was corrected about his “boundary issues,” by superiors, and was even required to undergo training. While serving as a in-house supervisor in one of the female dorms, students reported being made uncomfortable by his coming in while they were changing, and hanging out in their rooms, sitting on their beds after they were changed into pajamas. He also was talked to by supervisors about drinking in the evening, and told not to talk about his love of martinis and scotch to the girls, according to the affidavit.
In spite of these issues, Pook was given a raise in 2005, with the then-rector of the school stating, “I hope this serves as a tangible reflection of the school’s (and my) appreciation of your work.”
Many of the names in the affidavit have been blacked out to protect identities.
In 2008, a relationship between a female student and Pook came to light, with allegations that Pook was having sexual contact with the girl. No actions was taken by the school to contact law enforcement, according to the affidavit.
Pook was terminated, though the school rector gave him a solid recommendation when he applied for a job at Derryfield a few months later, with one caveat. According to a note to St. Paul’s School staff, the rector recounted his conversation with Derryfield officials about Pook.
“We had discussions with David about his trying to counsel students when they should be seeing the school counselor, and I said I think he learned from those discussions,” the note states.
“The school leadership at the time should never have given Mr. Pook a recommendation, and the fact that it did not inform Derryfield of Mr. Pook’s boundary issues was a failure for which we apologize,” Michael Hirschfeld, the current rector of St. Paul’s School said Wednesday in a prepared statement.
Derryfield officials first learned of the reasons behind Pook’s termination in October, though it is unclear if the school took any action. Derryfield representatives declined to comment on Wednesday.
Pook tried to stop the release of this information, and filed a motion in court claiming that he counseled his former student when she came out as gay. This story was contradicted by other former students who knew the girl, according to the affidavit.
Pook continued seeing the girl after he was fired by St. Paul’s, and their relationship continued up to the present, according to the affidavit. Warrants turned up email exchanges between the two detailing their sexual activities.
Pook and the former student were both called before the grand jury in December to testify. The affidavit claims the pair coordinated their stories to hide their relationship.
Pook is currently free on $5,000 bail, and due in the Concord court on March 15 for his arraignment. Hirschfeld said St. Paul’s is making strides to correct pat mistakes.
“We are cooperating fully with the Attorney General. Protecting student well-being is our highest priority, and we have zero tolerance for faculty who endanger students,” Hirschfeld said. “We have strong boundary policies in place. We train faculty in those policies, and we enforce them. Today, we would never provide a recommendation or reference for any faculty member who violates these policies.”
Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_DF.