A casual employee of the Okanagan Skaha School District was arrested last month on charges of luring a child, in a combined operation involving Penticton and Summerland RCMP, as well as the RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation Unit.
Stephen Hughes, a 34-year-old Summerland resident, was arrested at his home on June 17 and charged with luring a child using a computer and invitation to sexual touching. The RCMP ICE unit contacted the Penticton and Summerland RCMP to co-ordinate the arrest of Hughes, who was later released from custody under strict conditions. There is currently a publication ban on evidence related to the case.
Hughes was hired by the school district in May of this year as a certified educational assistant, and put on the casual list, working on call to replace those taking sick days or away for other reasons.
“We hired him this year and went through the criminal record check, all those things that we are required to do,” said Wendy Hyer, superintendent for the school district. Hyer couldn’t release details of how much Hughes would have worked during the month he was employed, but emphasized that he was a casual employee and hired late in the school year.
“It wouldn’t have been a huge amount of work,” she said, adding that the RCMP did notify the school district they were doing an investigation, also assuring them it was not school-related.
“For us that put up a flag, so we conducted our own internal investigation, just to confirm that it didn’t have anything to do with the school. We’re happy to confirm that was the case,” said Hyer, who emphasized that Hughes was not a teacher and would not have been in charge of a class.
Educational assistants provide instruction to students who require extra help with instructions or assistance with learning tasks, working under the supervision of the classroom teacher.
“Every time we can arrest someone who is actively looking to take sexual advantage of children over the Internet, we feel extremely satisfied that the community is safer” said Cpl. Filotto, from the ICE unit. “This is yet another reminder for parents and children to be aware of the dangers of the Internet as you never know who is online.”
Parents and children alike are reminded that any unusual online activity should be immediately reported to their local police department or can be directly reported online at www.cybertip.ca, a website dedicated to these investigations and on which anonymous complaints can be filed.