Students and staff at Mission’s Windebank Elementary School have been trying to move on and continue the “business of education” ever since their principal was replaced.
Former principal Jason Alan Obert, 37, was charged last Friday with child luring, according to an Abbotsford Police Department (APD) press release.
The matter came to the attention of the APD after the group Fraser Valley Creep Catchers released a video they said was taken Oct. 14 at the food court in Sevenoaks Shopping Centre in Abbotsford.
The group has people pose as children and teens online in an attempt to lure possible sexual offenders into public. They then videotape them, asking them why they wanted to meet with underage children, and then post the footage.
A decoy had posed as two girls, ages 14 and 15, and a man who identified himself as “James” online had arranged to meet one of them, Creep Catchers claimed.
When the video was first made public, an administrator with Mission Public Schools said officials were aware of the issue and were conducting their own investigation. They did not name the principal, but said the employee was not at work following the matter.
Now that charges have been filed, Angus Wilson, superintendent of the Mission school district, has confirmed that Obert had been principal at Windebank Elementary and that he is not currently being paid by the district.
“After the incident was brought to our attention, we transferred a principal with some counselling background to the school,” Wilson said.
Angela Condon, formerly from Mission’s Silverdale Elementary, is now in charge at Windebank.
Wilson said that a meeting was set up with the new principal and the school’s counselling staff.
They decided to offer counselling to students and staff at both Windebank and Silverdale elementaries, because Obert had previously been principal at both schools.
Wilson said counselling was offered, not forced.
“The most notable thing is that when there is a critical incident of any kind, what you don’t do is tell people how to feel.
“For example, if a beloved teacher dies, you don’t go and have a big assembly and tell everyone that it’s really awful and everybody should feel horrible about it. Because then there might be someone who didn’t know the teacher and doesn’t feel horrible and then does feel horrible for not feeling horrible,” said Wilson.
He noted that the transition at Windebank seems to have gone smoothly.
One important step was to remove any signage or photos from the school that referred to Obert.
“We want to move the school along, continue the business at hand, which is education.”
Obert has been released from custody with several court-ordered conditions, including that: he not communicate with or be alone with anyone under 18 years except his own children or when in the company of an approved adult; he not engage in any activity that involves contact or communication via computer with anyone under 18; he not use any online social media networks or online dating sites; and he not attend public places (such as parks, school grounds, playgrounds and recreation centres) where people under 18 are present, unless in the company of an approved adult.
– with files from Vikki Hopes