B.C. school principal caught in Creep Catchers sting found guilty of misconduct | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. school principal caught in Creep Catchers sting found guilty of misconduct

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September 01, 2020 - 1:44 PM

A former B.C. elementary school principal embroiled in a 2016 Creep Catcher’s sting has been found guilty of conduct unbecoming of a teacher by the province’s Teacher Regulation Branch.

The hearing for Jason Alan Obert, who had charges of using telecommunications to lure a child under the age of 16 stayed by the Crown in 2017, was concluded July 29, and the decision published online today, Sept 1.

A panel had to decide whether Obert breached the standards set out in the Teachers Act while working as a principal at Windebank Elementary School, and to do so it focused on both witness testimony and a chain of conversations and texts that Obert had with a Creep Catcher named Marie Bullon throughout September and October of 2016.

At the time, Creep Catchers were in many communities throughout B.C. to try to expose anyone willing to engage in sexual conversations and encounters with what they think are children. They often started with text messages until a meeting was arranged at which time the 'creeps' are caught on camera.  

Texts show Obert responded to a profile posted on the website Skout to a woman who initially said she was 18, named Sara.

Obert communicated electronically with Sara, who was actually Bullon, on the internet application TextNow, even after she told him she was actually 15 years old.

These messages, according to the hearing decision, included comments by Obert “about using marijuana, Sara’s appearance, and other sexualized content,” Meg Gailey, panel chair, wrote in the decision.

“In an exchange from Sept. 19, 2016, the texts from James to Sara include the following: ‘Love to see what U wore today sexy’; ‘So how long u been single’ ‘U must get hit on a lot ur pretty hot Sara.’ James also asks Sara when she broke up with her 18-year-old boyfriend and, ‘He ur first?’,” Gailey wrote.

He also made arrangements to meet Sara on two occasions. Then in October 2016 he went to the mall in Abbotsford to meet with her, where he was video-recorded by the group Creep Catchers.

When Obert testified to the panel, he claimed that he knew Sara and Hannah were adults and likely members of Creep Catchers.

“The respondent told the panel that he had done a reverse search of the picture of Sara on Google and had discovered that it was a picture of Michelle Lordache and that she was associated with Creep Catchers,” Gailey wrote. “The respondent did not produce a copy of the reverse search he performed to corroborate his evidence.”

Obert didn’t deny that he arranged to meet Sara and her friend Hannah, but testified that when he went to Highstreet, he saw a woman, who he later identified as Bullon, at the McDonald’s with a group of people.

He testified that although he was researching Creep Catchers, he decided he was not ready to talk to them at that time.

Obert also claimed that the TextNow Chat Log presented was missing several text exchanges and that Bullon or someone else had edited and deleted the texts.

“However, the Respondent did not produce evidence to corroborate his allegations, such as copies of screenshots taken on his cell phone, and he repeated his explanation that he had thrown his cell phone off the Mission Bridge on or about Oct. 15, 2016,” Gailey wrote.

Under cross-examination, Obeer agreed that it was not appropriate for a principal to join the Creep Catchers or to participate in the activities of the Creep Catchers.

Ultimately, Gailey wrote, Obert continued to exchange sexualized text messages with a young woman for approximately one month after she had expressly represented to him that she was 15.

“The Respondent arranged to meet the young woman and her friend at a mall on two occasions and admitted he went to the arranged locations both times, although did not follow through the first time,” Gailey wrote.

“The public does not condone sexual relationships between adults and minors, or communications between adults and minors of a sexualized nature… (Obert) knew that a principal is a role model who must inspire trust and confidence in the community and whose conduct must reflect the values set out in the Standards.”

Worse yet, according to Gailey, his private conduct became very public when the recorded “catch” was posted on YouTube by Creep Catchers, got widespread media attention and ultimately shook the faith of the school community, Gailey wrote.

The decision did not include a penalty, but that comes next. 

“The Commissioner has requested that the submissions on appropriate penalty be submitted in writing by both parties,” Gailey wrote.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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