In the days following the arrest of a Wilton preschool aide on child pornography charges, school officials have reassured parents that students were never harmed or in danger, but an attorney representing the family of one preschooler says that wasn’t the case.
Attorney Paul Slager, of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, said in a statement Wednesday that Eric 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.”
Von Kohorn, 33, was arrested Aug. 20 and charged with first-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. 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.
Wilton Supt. Dr. Kevin Smith said 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.
“While he was an employee of Wilton Public Schools, he was not inappropriately touching students,” Smith told parents at a public meeting Monday night.
But Slager said the superintendent’s “reassurances are false” and “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."
According to Slager, Smith acknowledged the complaint against Von Kohorn at Monday night’s meeting but said the school system “had concluded definitively that Von Kohorn was not involved in the toileting of the child.”
“This is not true,” Slager said, explaining that, in a written report, Von Kohorn admitted to helping the child in the bathroom but said he stayed outside the stall.
Slager said this is a violation of school policy, which requires school personnel to wait outside the bathroom door. He said Von Kohorn continued working with preschoolers after the incident and that no disciplinary record was added to his personnel file.
Parents, too, question Von Kohorn’s behavior. Many at the Monday 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 Wednesday afternoon.
"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 is out of jail on bond and will face a judge Sept. 3.
NBC Connecticut previously knocked on Von Kohorn's door for comment, but no one answered, and his attorney could not be reached immediately for comment.