WILLIAMSTOWN — The leader of Pine Cobble School said the community is “devastated” by the news that a former teacher, Peter Hirzel, is being charged with repeated aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 16 — his former student.
“We are devastated by this news and our hearts are broken for the victim,” said Sue Wells, the head of the private school, in an email to The Eagle. She declined to answer further questions.
“However, due to the ongoing criminal case, Pine Cobble is referring all questions to law enforcement officials,” she wrote.
Hirzel has not been working at the school since mid-March 2021, according to an email Wells sent to parents that was shared with The Eagle.
Hirzel, 60, was arraigned in Bennington Superior Court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to one count of repeated aggravated sexual assault of a former student under the age of 16, according to The Bennington Banner.
The student told police that they would have sex “almost every time” the victim went to Hirzel’s home in Pownal, Vt., between August 2021 and January 2022, according to records provided by the Deputy State’s Attorney’s Office.
Hirzel has a long history in teaching, including working at New Roads School and Westview School in southern California, according to his LinkedIn page. Neither school responded to a request for comment on Friday.
His next court date is scheduled for Feb. 3, according to the online calendar for the criminal division of the Bennington Court.
If convicted, he faces prison time of at least 25 years with the possibility of life in prison, according to court records.
When asked for any police reports the Williamstown Police Department has on Hirzel from the past four years, Town Clerk Nicole Beverly wrote in an email that the department does have records about Hirzel covering that time period, but is “unable to provide them at this time because there is currently an open investigation.”
She said she could not provide any details about what was being investigated.
Greta Jochem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-496-6272.