Ex-camp counselor charged with sexual assault of 14-year-old girl

Austin

Editor’s Note: Following the original publication of this story on Feb. 2, 2018, KXAN received information from the Williamson County District Attorney’s office indicating that the charged against the former camp counselor have been dismissed.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A camp counselor is out on bond after being arrested in January after allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.

The 21-year-old worked at Austin Sunshine Camps for nearly three months last summer as a counselor. The camp says the victim was also an employee — a junior counselor. Investigators say the man called the girl after camp saying he wanted to see her. That is when police say the two met at the girl’s home in Round Rock and had sex.

Detectives started investigating in August 2017 and found videos of the man and the victim lying in the girl’s bed together. They also found messages where he offered her alcohol.

The CEO of  Sunshine Camps, Erica Gordon, says they go above and beyond a state-required background check when they hire staff, and they don’t allow counselors be alone with junior counselors or with campers.

“We always have a 1 to 10 ratio and most of the time we have a 1 to 5 ratio,” explains Gordon. “All of our summer staff also have to pass an online course for youth protection as well as an online course for sexual harassment.”

Staff must also submit to a drug test, provide three professional references and have attended college for at least one year.

“We want kids to have fun, we want them to learn about the outdoors and we want them to have a great experience here, so obviously safety is our number one priority,” said Gordon.

Austin Sunshine Camps, which holds its activities in Zilker Park and along Lake Travis, says junior camp counselors are paid staff between 14 and 18-years old, who also receive online training. The camps, which are funded by the Young Men’s Business Association, are designed to provide children from low-income homes with a free overnight experience they might not otherwise have.

The mother of the victim tells KXAN they are still in the healing process. She also says the man was acting as a predator. She wants the camp to provide more adult supervision.

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