BENNINGTON — A former Vermont School for Girls employee is facing charges that he sexually assaulted a student there.
Jacob Dunican, 27, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Vermont Superior Court to felony counts of sexual assault on a victim under 18 years old, sexual exploitation of a minor, and lewd and lascivious conduct. He was released without bail under conditions, among them that he have no contact with the alleged victim, reside in Bennington County, not have contact with anyone under 18 -except his own children- and not go to the Vermont School for Girls.
The Vermont School for Girls was formerly known as Bennington Schools Inc.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on March 18 he learned of a report made to the Department of Children and Families saying that a 16-year-old student at the Vermont School for Girls -Referred to in the police document as Bennington Schools- had told staff members at the school that Dunican had touched her inappropriately.
The girl told police that Dunican had been in her room, rubbing her back. He then touched her private areas, sexually assaulting her. She told police that on other occasions she had touched him in a sexual manner, and that after each he would tell her not to say anything.
Police spoke to another student at the school who reported that Dunican had made inappropriate comments towards her and gave her a hug despite her saying she needed "space." The student said she had witnessed Dunican rubbing the alleged victim's back. She also said the alleged victim had told her that Dunican had touched her inappropriately.
Silvestro spoke to a number of school staff who said they had seen Dunican rubbing the girl's back on occasion and that he had been told not to do this. Staff members also described having their own boundary issues with Dunican, and having seen him be too close to students.
Initially, Dunican agreed to speak with Silvestro, but then said he would have to consult with his wife. The following day, Silvestro said he received a call from an attorney saying they represented Dunican. The affidavit contained no further information on that conversation.
Dunican held the position of "residential counselor," at the school, according to the court document.
Ralph Bennett, director of operations for Vermont School for Girls, said Dunican is no longer employed at the school.
"The Vermont School for Girls would like to thank the Bennington Police and DCF's Special Investigation Unit for their professional follow up on a disclosure made to us by one of our students," said Bennett Wednesday. "It is our intention to continue to cooperate fully with this investigation as it moves forth. We remain committed to providing individualized comprehensive services to children and adolescents who often have experienced complex developmental trauma."
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115