The Santa Clara County Office of Education will form a task force to review the policies of Walden West Science Camp, which seems to have enabled an alleged child predator to work as a camp counselor for kids.
Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla, who faces child pornography and molestation charges, padded his resume, according to the Mercury News. The Office of Education took him on as an intern in 2013 and, over the ensuing years, assigned him increasing responsibilities.
The 27-year-old reportedly secured a work permit under federal amnesty for immigrants brought to the United States illegally as minors. He applied for the science camp gig, passed a fingerprint test and was hired as an intern and program assistant.
Covarrubias-Padilla volunteered as a cabin leader, spending the night with boys from visiting schools for at least six weeks over the course of the past few years, according to the Merc.
He was jailed last month, in lieu of a $200,000 bail, and stands accused of downloading more than 600 pictures of child porn and molesting a 10-year-old boy. The charges filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office carry a maximum penalty of a decade in prison.
"The Board of Education takes any threat to the safety of our children very seriously," said Darcie Green, president of the county Board of Education. "It is important that we ensure the safety of every student at Walden West and in every other SCCOE program. We support Superintendent (Jon) Gundry in the creation of this advisory task force and its thorough examination of Walden West operations."
The task force will compare Walden West's policies against those at similar camps throughout the state. Education officials noted that the camp received a multi-year accreditation from the California Outdoor Schools Association in 2011.
"Over the past few weeks, we have been receiving numerous requests from the local news media for detailed information about Walden West," Gundry said in a statement. "We have devoted a huge amount of staff time delving into employee background screening procedures, staff supervision, technology use protocols and other operational issues. I felt it was best if we consolidated that fact finding effort into a more comprehensive review process."
Silicon Valley Education Foundation Vice President Manny Barbara will co-chair the committee with SCCOE Chief Schools Officer Mary Ann Dewan. SCCOE media spokesman Ken Blackstone will coordinate the meetings. More members will be announced next week.
The task force will present its findings and recommendations to the superintendent by Aug. 1.
"Hundreds of thousands of students over the years have benefitted from the great outdoor experience offered at Walden West," said Barbara. "This tragic incident should in no way diminish the well-deserved positive reputation of Walden West as an outstanding educational experience for the young people of our community. Our goal is to thoroughly assess where we are and make suggestions on how Walden West can improve."