A former Mission principal claims he was just doing “research” into Creep Catchers when he was filmed attempting to meet up with two underage girls at an Abbotsford mall in 2016.
The province’s Teacher Regulation Branch panel did not accept his explanation, and determined his conduct was unbecoming for a teacher.
“The Respondent’s explanation that his conduct was at best innocent personal research and at worst, flirtatious texting as part of role playing, is not plausible,” the panel found. “The Commissioner’s evidence is clear, convincing and cogent.”
Jason Alan Obert, formerly the principal of Windebank Elementary School, said the reason he was texting and attempting to meet up with two “girls” was research for a fictional or non-fictional book about Creep Catchers.
Creep Catchers is a vigilante group which creates fictitious online personas to attempt to lure predatory men into exposing themselves in meet-ups with minors.
Obert was filmed in one such sting by the group in October 2016 after he began texting two personas named Sara and Hannah on the website Skout. They told him they were aged 15 and 14, respectively.
These characters were actually the creation of Chelsea Bullon, the founder of the Fraser Valley Creep Catchers.
Throughout the month-long messaging prior to the meet-up, Obert offered liquor and marijuana, repeatedly asked for pictures, asked personal and sexualized questions, and attempted to meet in person with them a total of three times.
Chat logs of these conversations, which occurred through the TextNow app as well as Skout, were presented to the panel.
Obert claims that he knew the recipients of his messages were not, in fact, minors and he was communicating with a member of the Creep Catchers.
He claimed that messages were deleted by Bullon which showed both parties knew they were “role playing,” but provided no evidence to support his claim.
In the text messages provided as evidence to the panel, Obert is clearly nervous about the meetings at the Sevenoaks Shopping Centre, and the authenticity of who he was texting.
“Ya ur a cop or something; Why would u call a cab just wait til Hannah’s Mom comes,” he said, during a failed meet-up attempt on Oct. 2 at the mall.
“Lol not sure u two are real; Lol; Both so shy about pics lol,” he says in a message the following day.
After Obert was eventually filmed and confronted by the Creep Catchers on Oct. 14 at the same mall, he fled, and the video was posted to YouTube a few days later.
The Abbotsford Police Department began investigating the incident soon after.
The video came to the attention of the Mission School District after a vice-principal showed it to Mission school district superintendent Angus Wilson.
Obert was immediately suspended and replaced as principal of Windebank Elementary after Wilson held emergency meetings with school trustees and parents. Obert was fired by the district in December 2016.
The Abbotsford Police’s investigation led to a charge of child luring in November 2016. The charges were eventually stayed in the summer of 2017, and Obert was instead placed on a nine-month recognizance with strict conditions.
As proof of his intention to write a book about the Creep Catchers, Obert provided the regulators copies of notes he claims he took during a conversation with a Surrey Creep Catchers member, some book outlines and draft stories.
The panel responded there was no way to confirm the dates on these documents.
The Teacher Regulation Branch is still deciding what Obert’s guilty penalty will be and when it will be handed down.