Abuse alleged at Lucedale boys home

SunHerald.com/October 30, 2004
By Greg Harman

Lucedale -- The Bethel Boys Academy came under scrutiny again this week when allegations of physical abuse prompted an investigation Thursday by the state Department of Human Services.

DHS agents, with assistance from the George County Sheriff's Department, interviewed about 100 teenage residents of the home, according to a press release.

No children were removed from the home as a result of the interviews.

By all outward appearances, Thursday was just another day at Bethel.

In the yard, dozens of teen boys with shaved heads and dingy athletic clothes were lining up behind a chain-link fence as an instructor barked out orders.

Director John Fountain, who took over the home after last summer's agreement with the state attorney general required the previous director to break ties with Bethel, said such investigations are common.

"Any time you have a disgruntled parent making complaints, (DHS) has to come out," Fountain said.

He credited money issues and religious objections as two of the main complaints lodged, but said DHS "did a great job" interviewing the children.

Officials with the DHS referred questions to the Mississippi Department of Health, calling it the lead investigating agency.

Liz Sharlot, director of communications at MDH, said, "We have received complaints, and in a coordinated effort with the Department of Human Services and the Attorney General's Office, we are investigating the situation at this time."

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