Sacramento Report: Arrest Puts Spotlight on Youth Protection Bill

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Sacramento Report: Arrest Puts Spotlight on Youth Protection Bill

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Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez speaks at a press conference for a pop-up vaccine site in City Heights. / Photo by Adriana HeldizGonz

The Legislature is in recess, but an arrest by San Diego police this week inadvertently put the spotlight on a bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez making its way through the Legislature.

The San Diego Police Department announced Wednesday that the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force had arrested 31-year-old Andrew Jared Primes, an employee of both Poway Unified and San Dieguito Union High School District, and an instructor for the Boys Scouts of America Fiesta Island Summer Camp, for possession of child pornography.

Gonzalez’s AB 506 requires youth organizations to provide background checks on employees and regular volunteers, and implements other child abuse prevention policies.

“AB 506 was introduced precisely to root out abusers from organizations that exist to serve children, like the instructor teaching at the Boy Scouts of America summer camp,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “The bill would create multiple safeguards to prevent child sexual abuse, such as mandatory background checks for staff and regular volunteers of youth service organizations, which would flag known child abusers with criminal records before they ever have an opportunity to work with children.”

A spokesperson for the San Diego-Imperial Council of the Boy Scouts of America told VOSD that the group did perform a criminal background check on Primes, and that doing so is part of their existing protocol – but that’s not necessarily the case for all organizations serving children.

Voice of San Diego found in 2019 that a former Chula Vista High School teacher who officials determined engaged in “severe and pervasive” sexual harassment of students continued working with kids in youth organizations like Christian Youth Theater and Junior Theater and other youth theater groups in the region. Representatives from those groups told VOSD they were unaware of the previous investigations into his conduct when they hired him.

“Parents sending their kids away to summer sports camps, no matter how elite or prestigious they might be, have no guarantees their kids’ coaches have gone through even a basic background screening,” two advocates wrote this week in The Hill, urging for stronger protocols.

AB 506 passed the Assembly and is currently making its way through the state Senate.

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Kayla Jimenez contributed to this report.

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