Metro

St. Paul’s ‘badly handled’ departure of teacher accused of having relationship with a student

Concord, NH., 07/31/14, St. Paul's School---For a story about how a "hook-up" competition among male students led to the arrest of one recent graduate, Owen A. Labrie. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff (The Boston Globe.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/File 2014
David O. Pook served as a humanities teacher at St. Paul’s from 2000 to 2008 and was dismissed for “repeated boundary crossings.”

The president of the board of trustees at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., has said a former teacher who was recently arrested on witness tampering and perjury charges should never have been given a favorable recommendation after he left the elite prep school.

In a letter sent Thursday night to the school community, Archibald Cox Jr. said David O. Pook, a humanities teacher at St. Paul’s from 2000 to 2008, “should have been dismissed earlier from the school and should not have been given a favorable recommendation when he left St. Paul’s.”

Pook, 47, was charged last month with two counts each of witness tampering and conspiracy to commit perjury by a New Hampshire grand jury investigating allegations of sexual assault at St. Paul’s, one of the nation’s top boarding schools.

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He is scheduled to be arraigned on March 15 in Merrimack Superior Court in New Hampshire, authorities said.

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Pook left St. Paul’s “under questionable circumstances” in 2008, according to authorities. In Cox’s letter, he said Pook was let go “for repeated boundary crossings.”

In a statement announcing Pook’s arrest last month, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald’s office said, “The investigation focused on Mr. Pook’s relationship with a female student at St. Paul’s School while he was a teacher at the school.”

According to investigators, both Pook and the student denied ever having physical contact with each other, when in fact they had been physically intimate since they met at the Concord, N.H., school, including an encounter that took place in Boston in 2009.

In his letter, Cox said the school probed whether Pook had a sexual relationship with a student in the past “and as far as could be determined then, and as far as we know today, that was not the case.”

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However, Pook’s departure from St. Paul’s was “overdue and badly handled,” according to Cox. The situation was made worse when then-rector Bill Matthews gave Pook “a favorable recommendation to the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H., where he was hired and worked” until recently, said Cox in his letter.

The criminal inquiry was launched last year after private investigations conducted by St. Paul’s identified 13 staffers who had engaged in sexual misconduct over several decades.

Cox also addressed Chessy Prout’s memoir, “I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope,” a book that followed Prout’s journey from nameless victim in a nationally watched criminal trial to outspoken advocate for young survivors of sexual assault. In the book, which was written with Globe reporter Jenn Abelson, Prout describes a culture at St. Paul’s steeped in money and misogyny.

Cox said the school admires Prout’s courage. “While we take issue with some of what she says about the culture of the School, what is said and has been said over the years, whether by Chessy or by others, has not and cannot simply be swept under the rug and ignored,” Cox’s letter said.

In a statement to the Globe, the Prout family said Cox’s “words ring hollow to the many victims silenced and shunned by the school over the years, including our daughter.”

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“This failure in leadership during a critical moment in the national dialogue around sexual abuse and harassment is a disappointment, but sadly consistent with St. Paul’s history,” the statement said.

A spokeswoman for St. Paul’s did not comment Thursday night on Cox’s letter.

John R. Ellement and Michael Levenson of Globe Staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com