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Former Randolph principal convicted of sexually exploiting teen

  • Former Randolph Union High School Co-Principal David Barnett, right, stands with his attorney, Brooks McArthur, as Barnett is arraigned on a charge of sexual exploitation of a minor at Orange Superior Court in Chelsea, Vt., on April 25, 2018. Barnett is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a former student. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/24/2021 7:05:13 PM
Modified: 3/24/2021 7:05:11 PM

CHELSEA — A former Randolph Union High School co-principal has been convicted on one count of sexually exploiting a 16-year-old high school student at the school 10 years ago.

David Barnett, 53, pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of sexual exploitation of a minor during a virtual hearing on Wednesday in Orange Superior Court. The plea deal carries a prison sentence of nine months to a year, all suspended except for one month, as well as 18 months of probation, Superior Court Judge Thomas Zonay said during the hearing.

The agreement also stipulates that Barnett must give up his teaching license in Vermont and agree to never seek a job at any educational institution in the country.

Barnett, who appeared virtually with his camera off during the hearing, did not speak except to make the plea, agree to the conditions and agree to waive any arguments about a statute of limitations as part of the plea deal.

The sexual exploitation charge has been downgraded from the original felony count that Barnett pleaded not guilty to in 2018.

Detectives began their investigation the previous year after a woman came forward and said Barnett had struck up a friendship with her while she was a 16-year-old girl at the school in the 2011-2012 school year. During that time, the student was depressed and often confided in Barnett, according to a police affidavit written by Orange County Sheriff’s Department Detective Lt. Scott Clouatre.

However, the relationship turned physical over the course of the school year, with some sexual encounters happening on school grounds, the affidavit said.

The woman told police she now believes Barnett had been “grooming her for future sexual conduct,” according to court documents.

Barnett, who was fired shortly before his 2018 arraignment, has denied the allegations, according to court documents.

The former principal will undergo a psychosexual evaluation before he is sentenced on the charge.

A sentencing date was not set during Wednesday’s hearing. Orange County State’s Attorney Will Porter said at the hearing that he doesn’t know whether the victim will make a statement at Barnett’s sentencing.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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