ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new lawsuit claims verbal, physical and sexual abuse by a teen who was watching younger kids at a city-run summer camp.
The victims’ families are now demanding the city have more oversight to help protect children moving forward.
“These children and parents experienced a parent’s worst nightmare when you send your kid off to summer camp,” Attorney Laura Schauer Ives stated.
A 15-year-old summer camp counselor is accused of sexually abusing at least three young girls, ages 7, 10 and 11, repeatedly.
“He asked them to flash him, he kissed them on the lips, he touched their genitals,” Ives explained.
A lawsuit just filed by the girls’ families against the city of Albuquerque paints a picture of a traumatic summer back in 2019 at the Westgate Community Center. Allegations state teen summer workers would cuss at young campers; and that the unnamed 15-year-old, listed as John Doe, even punched some of the children as part of a so-called “punching game.”
“Children were being hit repeatedly and had bruises all over their bodies,” Ives said.
John Doe is also accused of playing spin the bottle with two of the girls listed in the lawsuit, and taking the 10 and 11-year-old into an office where he allegedly fondled them.
Ives says hiring teens for these city-run camps is a risk because juvenile criminal histories are sealed and they may not have previous employment or references, making background checks difficult.
“The [campers] should be taught what is inappropriate conduct, how to report inappropriate conduct,” Ives said.
A city spokesperson provided News 13 with the following emailed statement: “The City of Albuquerque will review the lawsuit when we receive it. All city staff who interact with youth on a regular basis undergo background checks, receive training from officials on how to spot signs of abuse, and the correct ways to report any suspicious activity. The city will review the specific troubling allegations and the person in question is no longer employed with the city.”
Ives believes more oversight of teen city workers is critical in keeping children safe moving forward.
“I think if the city had adults that were properly supervising the camp counselors that it should be something that can be done safely,” Ives said. “The city of Albuquerque has to be held accountable for having children supervising children.”
The families of the three Jane Does say they reported their claims to Albuquerque police at the end of 2019. Police say they’re still investigating this case.
One of two adult supervisors of the camp is also named in the lawsuit. The families claim he knew about the punching game but did not report it to the police.