Questions have swirled about the conduct of a former Wilton preschool aide who was arrested on child pornography last month, and while the attorney representing one Wilton family says he inappropriately touched a child in the bathroom, his lawyer says otherwise.
"Mr. Von Kohorn has not been sexually inappropriate to any child at Wilton and is cooperating fully with police and Wilton on this matter," said Jason B. Sheffield, attorney for 33-year-old Eric Von Kohorn.
"He has voluntarily taken and passed a polygraph wherein he was asked whether he ever engaged in 'any sexual activity' with any child at Witlon – which would include photographing any children for sexual purposes – to which he stated he had not," Sheffield continued.
He called Von Kohorn "an outstanding advocate and educator for children with special needs" and said the former aide was "respected and beloved by the students, the families and the other teachers."
Von Kohorn was arrested Aug. 20 on child pornography charges. He had worked as a paraprofessional at the Miller-Driscoll School and resigned in June, when the school system learned of a police investigation into his conduct.
The Connecticut Post reports that state police found 120 child pornography files on Von Kohorn's computer, but Wilton Supt. Dr. Kevin Smith was quick to assure parents that their children were never in harm's way.
"While he was an employee of WIlton Public Schools, he was not inappropriately touching students," Smith said at a public meeting following Von Kohorn's arrest, explaining that the alleged misconduct took place at Von Kohorn’s home in Bridgeport and that educators had no evidence to suggest it had carried over to the school.
But one attorney said that wasn't the case.
Paul Slager, of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, said in a statement last week that Von Kohorn inappropriately touched a preschooler while helping the child in the bathroom in January 2013, prompting the child’s parents to file a complaint with the school system.
Slager said the complaints “were corroborated by physical symptoms in the genital area” and said the superintendent's reassurances “run the risk of minimizing legitimate concerns about whether Wilton schoolchildren were victimized, which could result in under-diagnosis and under-treatment of child victims."
Parents, too, question Von Kohorn’s behavior. Many at the public meeting wondered whether their children may have been potential targets.
“I was shocked,” said Paige Ridley, whose 3-year-old child was in the classroom with Eric Von Kohorn last year. “I knew he had close contact with her, so I was very upset.”
“Obviously, I worry about my daughter’s safety,” she added.
She and other parents are pressing for more information from police and asking what else the investigation may have uncovered.
They’re also questioning how and why the school hired Von Kohorn in the first place. District officials have said he passed state and federal background checks and had no criminal or arrest history at the time he was hired.
Smith countered Slager's allegations in a statement last Wednesday.
"I am distraught that a family would conclude that I am misleading the community regarding Mr. Von Kohorn," he said, emphasizing his goal of transparency and open communication.
Smith said school officials have contacted Wilton police and the Department of Children and Families to investigate the claim that Von Kohorn inappropriately touched a preschooler.
"I am firmly committed to working with this family, and with all families, to ensure that they are supported, their concerns are addressed and that the record is accurate," Smith said.
Von Kohorn appeared in court Wednesday.