Shock, sadness, anger: All Saints Elementary School parent reacts to child porn case
By Samantha House
March 22, 2016
|Exterior of All Saints Elementary on Wilbur Ave. in Syracuse. A school aide Emily Oberst, 23, was fired Monday after being charged with sexually exploiting a 16-month-old girl.|
Photo by Dennis Nett
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Shocked. Sickened. Saddened.
That's how Michael Collins and his wife felt when they heard a teacher's aide at their son's school, All Saints Elementary School, was accused of sexually exploiting a baby.
When they learned the FBI was investigating whether Emily Oberst had victimized students, their disgust turned to fear.
"You hurt for the girl, the victim. That's where your heart goes," Collins, of Westvale, said Tuesday. "And then you're also angry because that person happened to work with your child very closely."
Oberst, 23, of Syracuse, and Jason Kopp, 40, of Liverpool, were charged this weekend with sexually exploiting a baby girl and sharing photographs of the abuse on an online messaging app. The child pornography was shared with an undercover federal officer on Kik, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.
Oberst was fired after her arrest. She and Kopp are in the Onondaga County Justice Center without bail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Southwick confirmed the FBI is looking into matters involving Oberst at the school.
The Onondaga County District Attorney's Office is also investigating whether any students were sexually abused, an official confirmed.
Collins' 3-year-old son has attended the school's daycare program since January. Although his interactions with Oberst were brief, Collins said he never would've suspected anything was amiss with the young aide.
"There were never any warning signs," he said.
And aside from Oberst's arrest, Collins and his wife have been happy with the school.
Collins grew up in the Tipperary Hill area and had Rosalie Pollman, the school's principal, as his fifth grade teacher. Among his family and fellow parents, Collins said the school is known for its close-knit, community-driven atmosphere.
Collins said his son loves going to school and always comes home in a good mood. He called his son's main teacher, Oberst's mom, Janet Oberst, "solid."
However, the FBI probe into whether Emily Oberst victimized any All Saints students is hard to think about, Collins said.
"It is scary," he said. "You kind of try not to let your mind go there."
Collins said he and his wife asked their son some basic questions: Did you like Ms. Oberst? Do you like school? With his son showing nothing but love for the school, Collins said he remains "cautiously optimistic" that the FBI probe is just a precaution.
Other parents he's spoken to have shared the same sentiments -- anger, disgust, sadness, he said. Parents and staff are trying to keep the school atmosphere positive for students, he said. The sadness among the adults, however, was evident on Monday, he said.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Pollman echoed that sadness.
"My heart aches for my parents and my teachers at All Saints," she said. "Now they have to anxiously wait to see if they will be contacted by the FBI that their child or student is in a photo."
Collins and his wife decided their son should continue attending the program. Emily Oberst's arrest has already given All Saints a "black eye the school doesn't deserve," and Collins said they don't want to take their son away from a program he loves.
But a lot of questions remain, Collins said. The most frightening question of all is under investigation: Were any All Saints students sexually exploited?
"How are they going to handle it going forward, if there are victims in the school?" Collins asked. "I'm praying that there isn't. I'll be sick to my stomach if there is."