A former Mission principal filmed in a child-luring sting by the vigilante group Creep Catchers has been given a 15-year ban by the B.C.’s Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB).
Jason Alan Obert was a principal at Windebank Elementary until being filmed attempting to meet with two fictitious girls – who said they were 14 and 15 – at Sevenoaks Shopping Centre in Abbotsford in 2016.
In July, the TRB determined his conduct was unbecoming of a teacher, and a panel ruled on the appropriate punishment on Dec. 3.
“The respondent’s unbecoming conduct seriously undermined the public’s confidence in the education system, as well as the dignity and credibility of the teaching profession,” the panel ruled. “The practical effect of a 15-year ban in this case is that it is extremely unlikely the respondent will ever be able to qualify to teach again.”
Obert admitted to exchanging text messages with the girls for over a month using a pseudonym “James 33” on the website Skout. The texts included sexualized comments, requests for pictures, questions about whether the girls “smoked weed” and offers to buy them alcohol.
Both the girls were actually the creation of Chelsea Bullon, the founder of the Fraser Valley Creep Catchers. After filming Obert during an attempted meet up in October, 2016 the group posted the video to Youtube.
Mission’s Superintendent Angus Wilson became aware of the video shortly afterwards. The school district immediately suspended Obert, and fired him in November, 2016.
Wilson gave testimony regarding the damage Obert’s actions had on the school, parents, teachers and the community at large.
Criminal charges were brought against him that same month, but the Crown stayed the proceedings in July, 2017, after Obert entered a recognizance with conditions.
Although he had no record of misconduct prior to the sting, and did his conduct did not involve persons from the school district, the commissioner said his actions were not separate from his role as an educator.
In the text messages, some of which were sent during or shortly after work hours, Obert asks the girls about their school work and offered to “tutor” one of them.
Throughout the previous TRB hearing and investigation, Obert claimed he was researching the vigilante group for a fictional or non-fictional work he planned to write. He’s repeatedly said that he knew the girls were non minors and, in fact, members of Creep Catchers, but that both he and Bullon knew they were playing roles.
The panel found his explanation “not plausible,” particularly because of undisputed evidence that he aborted a first meeting under suspicion the girls were not who they said they were.
“The respondent’s explanation and justification for his conduct suggests that the respondent is not willing to fully accept responsibility for his conduct and, in particular, to acknowledge the effect of his conduct on the school community and the public’s confidence in the teaching profession,” the panel ruled. “The respondent knew his conduct was problematic and likely criminal, but he continued it for over a month.”
The panel also said that Obert could have immediately ceased contact with the girls when they admitted to him that they were minors, but did not.
The TRB commissioner, who asked for a 25-year ban, submitted Obert’s conduct is an “affront to the status and reputation of teachers,” and unequivocally stated that “sexual conduct by teachers or other authorized persons towards minors is career-ending.”