BREAKING: Lawyer for Preschool Family Calls School’s Statements ‘Misleading, Not True’

BREAKING NEWS:  Paul Slager, an attorney representing a child whose parents reported concerns to Wilton Public Schools in January 2013 about former preschool aide Eric Von Kohorn just emailed a statement to media that is meant to “correct any dangerous statements that were made by WPS,” according to the email.

Slager prepared the statement “out of deep concern – both the family’s and his own – that the repeated misstatements made by WPS present additional risks to the well-being of children,” according to the email.

This statement is intended to correct dangerous misstatements made by Wilton Public Schools (“WPS”) following the arrest of former Wilton preschool paraprofessional, Eric Von Kohorn, on charges related to child pornography.  I am an attorney who represents a child whose parents reported concerns to WPS in January 2013 about Von Kohorn.  I write this out of deep concern – both the family’s and my own – that the repeated misstatements made by WPS present additional risks to the well-being of children.  For this reason, WPS’s statements must be corrected.

Recent statements made by WPS in the wake of Van Kohorn’s arrest have emphasized that WPS does not have any information suggesting Von Kohorn acted inappropriately with any Wilton children.  In written materials WPS distributed to parents after Von Kohorn’s arrest and during the August 25, 2014, public meeting WPS held to address community concerns, WPS repeatedly told parents it has “no reason to believe” Von Kohorn victimized or acted inappropriately with any Wilton schoolchildren.  Of course, these statements were designed to ease parents’ concerns that their children may have been victimized by Von Kohorn while under WPS custody.

These reassurances serve the interests of the WPS by quieting the painful and difficult questions the community is asking about Von Kohorn’s contact with preschool children in Wilton classrooms.  To the extent WPS’s reassurances are false, however, they 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.  Of course, this would only deepen the effects of trauma experienced by any children who may have been harmed.

The repeated statements by WPS that it does not have any information to suggest any Wilton students were victimized by Von Kohorn are demonstrably untrue.  In January 2013, the family I represent notified representatives of the WPS that their child, a preschool student, told them Von Kohorn had inappropriately touched the child while assisting in toileting.  The parents also reported to WPS that their child’s complaints of inappropriate touching were corroborated by physical symptoms in the genital area.  These complaints are documented in a written report generated by the Wilton Preschool Services in January 2013.  The family has a copy of that report.

During the public meeting held on August 25, 2014, Wilton School Superintendent Kevin J. Smith acknowledged that there had been a report in January 2013 by parents relating to Von Kohorn inappropriately toileting their child.  When questioned further about the incident during the meeting, however, he said repeatedly that the Wilton Schools had concluded definitively that Von Kohorn was not involved in the toileting of the child.  This is not true.

Another Wilton Preschool Services report about the incident noted that Von Kohorn was interviewed and admitted he was involved in taking the child into the bathroom, but claimed he remained outside the stall.  This is a flagrant violation of WPS’s written protocols, which strictly prohibited Von Kohorn from entering the bathroom with the child, who was toilet trained, and instead required him to stand outside of the bathroom.  Von Kohorn himself also admitted that other staff members were aware he entered the bathroom with the child, although the staff members themselves denied this knowledge.  These circumstances were violations of WPS’s written policies designed to prevent sexual abuse of students.  Despite having this information, WPS permitted Von Kohorn to continue working with preschool students after the January 2013 event, and, according to Dr. Smith, “Von Kohorn had no disciplinary record in his personnel file.”

WPS’s statements about Van Kohorn are important because parents rely on them when making decisions about whether and how to question their children about interactions with Von Kohorn.  The inconsistencies between Dr. Smith’s statements and WPS’s own reports involving this family’s complaints reveals that Dr. Smith’s recent written statements and verbal reassurances are dangerously misleading, if not knowingly false.

The family I represent is carefully considering what steps to take to best protect the interests of their child.  While going through this painful process, however, they feel morally compelled to correct misleading statements made by WPS.  If allowed to stand uncorrected, WPS’s statements could potentially cause harm to Wilton children.  This family believes that ensuring that the community understands the true facts is both necessary and in the best interests of the Wilton community.

Of course, we all hope that no other Wilton schoolchildren were injured by Von Kohorn.  Parents cannot be expected to seek help for their children, however, unless they have reason to believe help might be needed.

— Attorney Paul Slager

According to the email, Slager is a partner at Silver Golub & Teitell LLP in Stamford. He has represented victims in several newsworthy cases, including “the sexual assault of a mother in front of her children in the Stamford Marriott parking garage; the victim of the Willow Springs Condominium complex home invasion and sexual assault; the family of Annie Le, the Yale graduate student who was murdered in a Yale University laboratory; numerous child victims of child sexual abuse by priests, educators and Boy Scout leaders; and, recently, the spouse victim of the brutal New Canaan assault by J. Michael Farren, former Deputy White House Counsel to Pres. George W. Bush.”

Requests for comments have be made to both WPS Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith as well as an attorney representing Von Kohorn.

We will update the story accordingly.