April 11, 2005
6 In Custody
After Academy Riot
by Robert Malone
remain in custody at Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center on
charges of disorderly conduct after a riot Friday night at Eagle
Point Christian Academy, formerly Bethel Boys Academy, in Lucedale.
students, or cadets, at the home for troubled teenagers from across
the country were taken to George County Hospital where six were
treated for minor injuries and released to school officials. One was
admitted to the hospital, according to a prepared statement from the
George County Sheriff's Department.
No one at the
hospital was able to comment Sunday night. Eagle Point director John
Fountain could not be reached.
students ran away from the school Sunday afternoon, with three of
them caught less than a mile from the school. A fourth remained at
Sheriff Garry Welford said the students were breaking windows and
tearing up beds, chairs and other items during the Friday night
destroying the place," Welford said.
arrived at the scene shortly after 11 p.m. Friday and off-duty
officers were called in because of the large number of students
involved. By 3:30 a.m. school officials reported that all 122
students had been accounted for.
continued throughout the weekend, Welford said. Students did
additional damage to the school Saturday afternoon.
officers remained at the school to keep the peace.
Welford that the riot was sparked by a rumor that state
investigators might arrive at the school over the weekend.
wanted to make it seem like there was a real problem there," he
said. "None of those kids like it down there."
has been shut down because it's so badly damaged, Welford said, and
until cleanup is completed, the school building is being used as
Efforts to reach
Fountain on Sunday were unsuccessful. He took over Bethel Boys
Academy from his father, Herman Fountain Sr., nearly two years ago.
The school has a
history of abuse allegations and state investigations dating to 1988
when 72 children were removed from the school by state welfare
At the time the
school was called Bethel Home for Children. In 1990, a judge closed
the school - then owned by Herman Fountain Sr. In 1994, Fountain
reopened the school as Bethel Boys Academy.
In 2003, 13 boys
were removed in connection with abuse allegations. The investigation
resulted in an order to prohibit Fountain Sr. from having an active
management role in the boys academy.
In October, the
Department of Human Services investigated allegations of abuse,
including one reported by George County Sheriff's Department. The
other complaint came from a parent. The academy later was cleared.
institution's name was changed from Bethel Boys Academy to Eagle
Point Christian Academy in February.
Academy near Petal, which is operated by Herman Fountain Jr. but has
no official connection with Eagle Point, also has been in the
spotlight for abuse allegations. Thirty-eight students were removed
from the home for troubled girls amid an abuse investigation in May.
And in February, 11 students fled the school claiming they had been
abused by employees of the facility.