Author Topic: Eagle Point Christian Academy Lucedale MS.  (Read 766 times)

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Eagle Point Christian Academy Lucedale MS.
« on: March 10, 2005, 09:49:00 PM »
March 8, 2005
Reforms don't stem allegations


Boys academy struggles to change image

By Julie Goodman
[email protected]

 

Greg Jenson/The Clarion-Ledger

Cadets at Eagle Point Christian Academy, formerly known as Bethel Boys Academy, fall into formation Thursday at lunch time. Fountain said Eagle Point is moving away from a military approach in favor of a boarding school environment by replacing uniforms and dropping the 'drill instructor' title for employees.

 
LUCEDALE ? Unhappy parents, troubled teens, torture allegations and lawsuits have all become an unenviable part of John Fountain's life since he took over Bethel Boys Academy from his father nearly two years ago.

The school for troubled teenagers ? now called Eagle Point Christian Academy ? has on one side assertive parents who continue to report abuse, explaining in graphic detail the wounds they detected on their children once they were removed from the school.

On the other side are Fountain's equally adamant denials. He points to what he says are litigious parents and children who were brought to the school ? sometimes against their will ? in part because of deception problems.
It's not clear exactly what happens at the academy when spectators are gone.

But the school's court-appointed monitor and the county sheriff's office have both made room for the possibility that some of the children making recent allegations could be lying.

"A lot of those kids have problems, and they'll make allegations just so they can get out of there," said Bill East, a former prosecutor who now inspects the school quarterly as the academy's monitor.

East's inspections are part of a 2003 Chancery Court consent decree that required the school to institute a range of changes from allowing restroom and water breaks during exercise to forbidding the use of electrical devices for discipline. The decree was issued while the school was directed by Fountain's father, Herman Fountain, and abuse allegations drew the attention of state officials who sought to close the academy.

John Fountain's father was forced to relinquish all interests and control in the school, which admits about 100 students from all over the country. He says he has worked to reform the academy, parting with the ways of his father.

He fired three employees on the spot for what appeared to be abusive behavior.

Fountain has tried to press charges against the former staffers. George County sheriff's office said there is only one open case against a former employee.

East said he does not know of any pervasive abuse at the school and said the academy ? which has problems like any other school ? is trying to improve. "John Fountain is trying," he said. "He's got a zero tolerance of abuse now."

The school's residential adviser is implementing a reward and sanction system, which no longer uses exercise to punish all students for the bad behavior of one child.

Fountain said he is trying to arrange with the Boys and Girls Club so students can serve as companions for younger children, or be paired with mentors. He said he hopes to build a gym and a larger schoolhouse, while gravitating away from a military approach and toward a boarding school environment.

There are 38 cameras installed over the campus, except in the bathrooms.

In addition to shedding the school's name, Fountain also is dropping the "drill instructor" title for employees, calling them "team leaders" or "dorm leaders" instead. He has ordered khaki pants and colored tops for the boys to replace military fatigues. But the abuse allegations keep coming.

Parents say the cameras have been tampered with, and that John Fountain is inextricably linked to the problem that brought on the abuse in the first place: his father.

"John Fountain is, as far as I'm concerned, as bad as his dad," said Oscar Stilley of Fort Smith, Ark., attorney for parents of former cadets suing the academy in federal court.

Stilley said his office has taken steps to weed out plaintiffs making false allegations, including running criminal background checks and comparing accounts of the abuse for inconsistencies. He said the pattern of reports shows the students are telling the truth. "If everybody is saying there's terrible abuse going on, there's terrible abuse going on in my mind," he said.

But Stilley, whose suit names about two dozen plaintiffs, does not rule out the possibility that some of the plaintiffs could be lying.

Ruben Villa, 15, who was at the school on and off for more than a year until he ran away in November, said he was underfed, overworked, and once had his head slammed against a wall.

Students sleep on mattresses with urine stains and broken springs, and are forced to endure long hours of physical labor helping to build cabins on Herman Fountain's property, with little focus on schoolwork, said Villa, who lives outside Los Angeles. He and a group of friends finally ran away.

Parents say that children who have been removed from the school have no reason to lie about abuse, and that the Fountains manipulate parents by calling their children "bad." "I feel like they were playing on the parents' emotions," said Villa's mother, Alice Stroud, who is joining a lawsuit.

Fountain said if Ruben Villa's head had been slammed against the wall, it would have been caught on tape. He also accused the teen of stealing a car from the property, saying his credibility is in question.

Other students currently at the school dismissed allegations of abuse.

The school's staff said the students, some of whom have been in the juvenile detention system, are savvy and know how to bring heat on to the school. Fountain said he doesn't want to invalidate the concerns of families, but said by and large, he has been the victim of parents trying to make a buck.

"I've had parents come in there, drop their kids off, find out that there has been allegations against Bethel Academy, come pick up their kid and say, 'Oh my kid's been abused,' " he said.

"And then want their money."


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« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
heryle - My son was TORTURED and ABUSED at Bethel Boys Academy aka Eagle Point Christian Academy, aka Pine View Academy, Lucedale, MS.