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Emails with student led to charges against 'creepy' teacher fired by St. Paul's, Derryfield schools

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 03. 2018 11:29PM

David Pook, the fired St. Paul's School teacher now facing criminal charges, told a female student he was "busy watching the blush rise up your neck" when his class watched "American Beauty," the 1999 movie about the seduction of a teenager by an older man, according to information in emails disclosed last week in connection with the St. Paul's investigation.

It is the latest to emerge about Pook, who is accused of coaxing a former student to lie to a grand jury.

Last week, St. Paul's School took the unusual step of publicly apologizing for a glowing reference it gave about Pook in 2009, despite a history of complaints of boundary violations. The school that got the reference and hired Pook, Derryfield School, fired him Wednesday.

Information in a 29-page affidavit released last week lines Pook up as the anonymous "Faculty 42," whose 2008 departure from St. Paul's School was disclosed in a 2017 report by the Boston law firm Casner & Edwards. St. Paul's had hired the firm to independently investigate reports it was receiving about predatory teachers.

In the Casner-Edwards report, an anonymous student describes Faculty 42 as "an excellent teacher, gifted, but creepy too."

The student said the teacher showed "American Beauty," an R-rated Oscar-winning film, in class and later privately asked her about it. She giggled nervously. He said, "I was so busy watching the blush rise up your neck that I didn't pay attention to (the movie)," the report reads.

The student told Casner-Edwards that he gave her full-body and side-body hugs. And she felt uncomfortable about the reading material he assigned to her individually - a book about teens who fall in love while researching Victorian era poets.

The student never reported her misgivings when at St. Paul's, but a school adviser once confided she was not a fan of Faculty 42, noting his "cult-like" following among students, Casner-Edwards wrote.

The student said three female students were emotionally distraught upon learning that Faculty 42 had left the school. And she repeated secondhand information about a female alum commuting from college to visit Faculty 42, visits the students assumed had a sexual nature.

The Casner-Edwards report is mentioned in emails between Pook and a female St. Paul's alum who was called to testify before a Merrimack County grand jury. Excerpts of the emails are included in the affidavit released Wednesday.

In a Nov. 28 email, the alum wrote Pook and said she had read the report.

"You are not named, but there is one accusation from a student that is pretty clearly a reference to you (mentions watching 'American Beauty' and that you left in the middle of 2008)." Pook's confidant also wrote that she believes she is the unidentified Student 97 in the Casner-Edwards report, who visited him from college.

"I don't know if this is worth saying, but I have never said anything to anyone," she wrote to Pook. "As far as I am concerned, these are rumors spread amongst teenagers, and that is what I am planning on sharing (to the grand jury), and I hope my word is stronger than some rumors."

According to the affidavit, the woman denied a sexual relationship with Pook. The woman turned 18 in 2008, the same year Pook left St. Paul's.

Authorities believe that the emails show a sexual relationship between them. Their intimacy continued at least until the fall of 2017, when they discussed the case via emails, exchanged pornographic videos and recalled past sexual escapades, authorities say in the affidavit.

The affidavit does not include explicit emails. It reports what authorities said were code words, such as "tucked in," which refers to cyber-telephone sexual interactions between the two.

In an email, St. Paul's spokesman Sarah Aldag would not confirm if Pook is Faculty 42.

"The independent investigator determined which names to publish and which names not to publish. The entire report has been provided to the Attorney General," she wrote.

Pook was arrested Wednesday on two felony charges of witness tampering and two felony charges of conspiracy to commit perjury. He was freed on $5,000 cash bail.

He lives in a large house in Warner. During a 2013 Common Core training session available on YouTube, he told teachers he is married and his wife was expecting another child.

The conservative media outlet Breitbart is playing up Pook's past advocacy of Common Core, the national educational standards that have drawn pointed criticism.

Breitbart distributed a video, filmed during a 2014 forum at Saint Anselm College, where Pook explains his advocacy for Common Core.

"The reason why I am here today is as a white male in society, I've been given a lot of privilege that I didn't earn," he said, to guffaws from the crowd. During the forum, he said Derryfield doesn't follow Common Core.

Manchester school board member Richard Girard said he only knows Pook from the forum. "It (the arrest) doesn't surprise me given the arrogance, condescension and hypocrisy with which he conducted himself during the debate," Girard said.

Tom Raffio, a former New Hampshire state school board chairman, attended the Saint Anselm forum and sat alongside Pook in support of Common Core.

"He was a charismatic presenter, as I recall," said Raffio. But he said he did not know Pook personally, and no one should draw a connection between Pook and the benefits of Common Core.

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