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Family: Joking note got teacher in trouble

Published Sep. 13, 2005

The letter was supposed to be about a girl who burped.

But if you didn't know that going in, you might have thought the Central High School band director was writing about having sex with a 14-year-old trumpet player.

Whatever it was about, the bizarre note penned by band leader Rick Averill landed the 45-year-old teacher in water hot enough to earn him a suspension, get him investigated for child abuse and, late last week, led him to quit his job.

On Wednesday, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said it found nothing to support criminal charges against Averill. But questions remain about the words he scribbled on two pages of Florida Gator stationery.

The subject of the letter was a "sweet young thing" who is "so innocent about everything" and who finds "it" to be disgusting.

Purposely ambiguous, the prose describes a spring break boat trip Averill took with the girl's family on her father's 30-foot sea cruiser.

At one point, the letter talks about how Averill and the girl were eating sandwiches and drinking sodas on a boat dock when she "just up and does IT!"

"I asked her if it was her first time and she said it was," the letter says. "I don't know why she wanted to do it with me but I guess that she knew I have "done it' thousands of times before."

Not until the very last word in the rambling diatribe does the writer make it clear he's talking about a burp. Its conclusion: "No more of this "I don't do those things' from her. I was there and (she) BURPS!"

The letter was part of the investigation report made public Wednesday by the Sheriff's Office, which blacked out all the names listed in the report, a typical practice following child abuse cases.

Like the Sheriff's Office, the school district had no comment on the case. And the Times has been unable to reach Averill for comment.

However, the family of the girl who is the subject of the letter agreed to an interview with the Times in hopes of ending the speculation swirling around the band director and their daughter, Liz Pooley, a freshman at Central.

The Pooleys say the school and the police read the letter's double entendres and blew them way out of proportion. Nothing unseemly happened between the teacher and student, they said. And because they knew that, the family never read anything inappropriate into the letter.

"It was poor judgment on his part to write a letter like that," Walt Pooley, Liz's father, said. "We believe his intent was to write about a burp."

As strange as it may seem, gauging the volume of burps on a scale of one to 10 has been a popular pastime this year among the band members at Central High, according to Liz, who finds the running joke repulsive.

Liz said her disgust was known to all. And when Averill heard her belch slip out on the boat dock, he seized the opportunity to tease her, she said.

A few days later, in front of a group of students at school, Averill began to tell the tale of Liz's boardwalk burp. Embarrassed, she told him to keep quiet. But a persistent friend got Averill to send her a note about the matter.

The letter came to the school's attention when that friend's mother saw it and grew concerned that it was inappropriate, even though she felt certain nothing was happening between the band instructor and the girl in the letter, according to the investigator's report.

Detectives spoke to the author of the letter and his story, as they quote it, matches the one the Pooleys tell. He "stated that the note was written entirely as a joke and he meant no harm by it," according to the report.

"He added that he realizes that the note was written in poor judgment."

Averill, who has no criminal record but was fired for insubordination from a school in Georgia, resigned late last week after having been suspended with pay. His letter of resignation cited family illnesses, stress and "distractions" that interfered with his job.

Liz Pooley said she wishes Averill well. But she hopes the rumors, which she says have been vicious and relentless, will stop. Her family, which lives north of Weeki Wachee, hopes the Sheriff's Office decision to close the case will help stop the gossip.

"This whole situation is totally ridiculous and it's blown out of proportion," she said. "It drives me crazy that people can be so sick."

Text of Rick Averill's letter

Following is the text of the letter that was part of the investigation of Central High School band director Rick Averill. The Sheriff's Office released the letter Wednesday afternoon but deleted all names. The Times established through other sources that Averill wrote the letter to a Central band student, and the subject of the letter is fellow band student Liz Pooley.

Hey Girl,

Wow, you will not believe this one. Y'know little miss S.Y.T. (sweet young thing) who is "so" innocent about everything? Well, I know better. Last week, when (name deleted by Sheriff's Office) otta (sic) town she sets it up for us to go out on their boat. Even changed her mom's dr. (doctor's) appointment so that we can "do it." Well, we're out ridin' double on the big long float thing when she knocks me off and then falls in herself while her dad keeps going halfway to St. Pete. Just the two of us floating around in the gulf. I got the feeling she's tryin' to tell me something. Ya think! We get back in the boat and she does this "gonna faint" thing and falls asleep in my lap. When we get back to the docks (you can't tell anybody about this) I'm sittin' on the boardwalk eating my sandwich and she ditches (name deleted) and gets me all alone. So we're just sittin' there alone eatin' sandwiches and drinkin' sodas and, promise you won't tell, she just opens up and does "IT!" right there on the boardwalk. Fer (sic) real she really did! At first I didn't know what to say, what do you say. I asked her if it was her first time and she said it was. I don't know why she wanted to do it with me but I guess that she knew that I have "done it" thousands of times before and I guess she wanted to "do it" with someone with a lot of experience. You said that she's done it before and you may be right. If this was her first time, she was "really good." I asked her how it felt being her first time and she said that the pressure hurt at first but after she relaxed and just let it flow that it felt better. When it finally came out it really was a great release and she felt great. Of course when that happened, I still couldn't believe that this was happening. After it was over she was kind of embarrassed but she also seemed kinda proud that she had finally done it. You know how she acts so disgusted when other people have "done it" and she just shakes her hands and gets all icky! Well, don't believe that "innocent" act anymore, she does it too. No more of this "I don't do those things" from her. I was there and (name deleted) BURPS!

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