A principal at an elementary school in Mission has been banned from teaching for 15 years after being caught in a “Creep Catchers” sting.
The decision, published this month by the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation (BCCTR), comes after a series of events that began in September and October of 2016.
The principal, identified as Jason Alan Obert, admitted that during this time period, he exchanged text messages with a “Sara,” person he believed to be a 15-year-old girl, after connecting with them on the Skout website.
Using the pseudonym “James 33,” Obert’s texts included sexualized comments and requests and exchanges of pictures of “Sara.”
Obert also admitted he sent similar sexualized texts and picture requests to “Hannah,” a person who represented to him that she was “Sara’s” 14-year old friend.
In his messages, Obert also asked if either “Sara” or “Hannah” smoked weed and offered to buy them alcohol.
He then arranged to meet them at a shopping mall on two separate occasions in October 2016 – although he did not follow through with approaching and meeting the girls in person the first time.
The two “girls” were, in fact, one adult who was also a member of “Creep Catchers,” and Obert was recorded on film while he was attempting to meet “Sara” at the food court of a shopping mall on October 14, 2016.
The Creep Catchers posted the recording showing the “catch” of “James 33” on YouTube in October 2016, identifying the location where it took place. Obert’s identity and profession was linked to the Creep Catchers video within 24 hours of its posting.
The BCCTR suspended Obert’s certificate in October 2016, pending resolution of the discipline process. He was fired by the Mission School District the next month, charged criminally for his conduct, and according to the panel, has “had difficulty finding steady employment since the fall of 2016.”
The panel also found that testimony from Angus Wilson, the District Superintendent, provided “compelling evidence” about the adverse effects Obert’s conduct had – and continue to have – on the school community.
Obert’s teaching certificate was cancelled on November 1, 2019 due to non-payment of fees, and the panel determined that since he no longer held a valid certificate, the only consequences available were either a reprimand or a requirement for the director of certification not to issue (or re-issue in this case) any authorization to teach.
In weighing their decision, the panel also determined prior to these incidents, Obert – who had held a teaching certificate for 13 years – had no prior discipline for misconduct, his conduct did not actually involve any students, and that he had suffered “significant consequences” as a result of his conduct.
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The BCCTR found that although Obert’s actions did not involve persons with whom he had a student-teacher/principal relationship, it was “not completely separate” from his professional role, as there was evidence Obert had exchanged messages with “Hannah” and “Sarah” during, or shortly after, normal school hours.
Throughout the panel hearing, Obert also “explained and justified his conduct as research for a fictional (or non-fictional) piece on the Creep Catchers he was planning to write in his off-hours,” the BCCTR said. He “repeatedly asserted that he knew that ‘Sara’ and ‘Hannah’ were not minors, but that he knew that they were ‘likely’ members of Creep Catchers.”
Obert also asserted that he and the person(s) sending the texts as “Sara” and “Hannah” were all aware that they were playing ‘roles’ when they were exchanging texts,” the BCCTR said.
The panel, however, found that this explanation was “not plausible.”
And while the BCCTR sought a 25-year ban on the re-issuance of any certification to Obert allowing him to teach in the K-12 system, the panel imposed a 15-year ban on such an issuance instead, acknowledging that the “practical effect of a 15-year ban, in this case, is that it is extremely unlikely [Obert] will ever be able to qualify to teach again.”