NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A city man and former headmaster of Pine Cobble School in Williamstown was arraigned Monday morning in Northern Berkshire District Court on child pornography charges.
David B. Harris, 66, of Marion Avenue, pleaded not guilty to possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography. Bail was set at $2,500 and Harris was released. The case was continued to Aug. 25 for a bindover hearing. More charges are expected to be filed.
Harris left Pine Cobble in 2000 and was hired as head of school for the Cambridge Montessori School, a private school for children from preschool to ninth grade
According to the district attorney's office, the charges resulted from a two-month investigation that culminated in the execution of a search warrant on Sunday at his home.
The North Adams Transcript reported Monday that state police said they found a laptop with links to pornographic sites featuring young boys, and 10 USB drives, at least one of which contained more than 40 videos that appear to be pornographic.
In a letter posted on the Cambridge school's website, Webster O'Brien, president of the board of trustees, said Harris has been immediately suspended without pay and that the school will commence a search for an interim head of school for the coming year. (The letter can be found here, too.)
While we can honestly state that we have had no reason to suspect this behavior, and we respect individuals' privacy, these charges leave us no option but to immediately suspend David without pay until the Board of Trustees has enough information to make a final decision.
O'Brien said trustees are "fully confident that these issues reside in David's home in North Adams" and have not affected the Cambridge school.
Harris spent his weekends in North Adams and weekdays living in Cambridge.
He has more than 40 years of experience in education and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He was headmaster of Pine Cobble from 1989 to 2000; Nicholas M. Edgerton, who replaced him, left earlier this spring. Harris has been headmaster at two other private schools, Upland Country Day School in Kennett Square, Pa., and Eagle Hill School in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y., according to his biography listed on the Cambridge school site. He has sat on numerous educational boards and is a trustee of the Kildonan School in Amenia, N.Y.
Harris founded a consulting firm in 2004 to aid in the placement of gifted or underachieving students to schools that fit their needs but the site, www.schoolsolve.net, does not appear to have fully launched and the domain is for sale. A bio for the site lists Harris at that time as a corporator for Northern Berkshire Health Systems and a member of the North Adams Regional Hospital Ethics Committee; he is no longer listed as a corporator at NBH.
(Update, July 21: Northern Berkshire Healthcare tells us that Harris was a lay member of the Ethics Committee from 1997 to 2002. He is not a corporator and has no current links to the hospital.)
The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the Berkshire district attorney's office, with assistance from the Massachusetts and New York Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, state police detectives assigned to the Middlesex district attorney's office and investigators assigned to the New York State attorney general's office.
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As a long-time educator, I have, unfortunately, seen this before. Usually, a school will ignore their 'discovery' if the individual agrees to move on. It's the Don't Ask, Don't Tell philosophy, until something agregious happens. I find it difficult to comprehend that it can be kept inside his four walls, when working with that age every day. It is very concerning.
I agree. My child just left CMS--fortunately she was not within Harris' demographic. But I recently spoke to another CMS parent who was disturbed that he spent so much time watching the kids at the elementary level and particularly at the playground. I know they're going to find more. I hope that they get this guy. He's wealthy and arrogant and probably thinks he's untouchable, which is probably why he didn't drive to Mexico and disappear. My guess is that he's been caught before and not punished. As a parent, my impression of Harris was that he was way off and there was something wrong. I introduced myself to him last year and he barely feigned interest.
I only hope that whoever is in charge of this case doesn't let him walk.
I was a student at Pine Cobble School while Mr. Harris was the headmaster. Unfortunately, these allegations do not surprise me at all, and I'm shocked that anyone who knows Harris is surprised at all. Sadly, I can count on both hands the number of male staff at Pine Cobble in the 1990s whose behavior was questionable. Some still teach there today.
Agree or disagree, but that doesn't change the fact that this is the absolute truth. My classmates and I felt uncomfortable throughout our time at Pine Cobble, but no one listens to children's concerns until something like this happens. Even now, are the various school administrations listening? Or are they just hoping the charges that are yet to be brought aren't any worse?
i went to pine cobble in the early 90's and looking back the whole place was a disaster. i don't want to name names- but a good handful of high ranking faculty surely have their own USB drives buried nearby Im sure of it. It's just gross, and in this case, against the law. Harris should be totally psyched for prison. Lots of new students to greet.
I agree that the real issue is David Harris himself and not the schools he was at. I was a student at PC during the 90's and I did not trust Harris very much. He was just too close to a lot of the boys in my class. However, I do not agree that PC was a disaster in the least. I thought, in general, that it was a good school with good teachers. It is important to remember the issue is Harris.
I was also a student at pine cobble while David Harris was the headmaster and l thought he was an upstanding guy and a great teacher. I never was made uncomfortable. I am saddened and disappointed to hear about these dealings with pornography.
I can't believe that it finally took this long to get him. As a student at P.C. in the 90's I can say that it was widely known that he had an interest in children. Parents used to tell there kids to stay away from him because he dressed up like Willy Wonka and kept a bowl of candy on his desk. Also, he was also known for borderline sexual puns and impromptu massages- specifically targeting young boys. While it was never 'proven,' but David Harris molested a boy in my class after school. The boy left school immediately after, and our homeroom teacher was fired at the end of the year. We were just young kids but everyone knew something was wrong.
The Pine Cobble comments are very disturbing and I empathize with the former students who intuitively David Harris was creepy and were rightfully uncomfortable around him. I was uncomfortable as a Cambridge parent. I can't imagine that he wasn't up to something.
So has anyone heard anything about the Aug. 25 hearing? I can't find anything online.
I\'m laughing at the number of disagrees on every email and how they conveniently tend to match or outweigh the comments. I wouldn\'t be surprised if this was Harris himself or one of kiddie porn internet friends weighing in. Too late, pal.
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Does anyone know where this case currently stands? I find it very trouble some that it has been almost a year since his address & there still is not a conviction.
Totally agree with the above comment---I'm really alarmed by the lack of news surrounding the status of this case. A YEAR has passed and absolutely nothing newsworthy concerning this case has occurred?!
Editor--it may be true that the judicial system takes a while to work, but that's often because newsworthy delays or developments take place during that process. Can iBerkshires.com report on any aspect of this case?