This is a very apt headline. Just because someone is abused in private or in a private facility, does the government not have any rights to moderate this behavior? All those who want to help us contact legislators to close these loopholes and make facilities like Victory Forge accountable and punishable, please contact us (in confidence).
Here is an article from The Palm Beach Post.
I won't mean help for Victory Forge Military Academy cadets yet, but the Florida Department of Children and Families is looking for ways to close legal loopholes and give DCF the authority to offer more protection to children who are abused in private schools.
Detailed records DCF released about the Port St. Lucie school show that while students were subjected to "bizarre" punishments, shackled and choked, neither the agency nor the Treasure Coast State Attorney's Office had sufficient evidence or authority to act. The agency only recommended that parents remove students from the academy, and prosecutors chose not to file criminal charges. That parents signed release forms approving the school's use of shackles on runaways further complicates matters.
"I've got serious concerns about (Victory Forge)," Assistant DCF Secretary George Sheldon said. "I can't understand if a parent does something to a child that would cause us to remove the child from home, how can the parent contract out that right? And how can a facility avoid state licensure by putting itself in a certain category? I find it incredible we have no authority. We may need legislation to close the loophole." DCF attorneys are reviewing the situation at the state level, he said, and then will begin discussions with state legislators.
Victory Forge's methods became a public matter two months ago, when a runaway cadet was found shackled. The story sparked an investigation of the boot-camp-style school's practices. Before the investigation was complete, DCF urged parents to remove their sons because of the severity of the allegations, and all 17 students left. Both DCF and Port St. Lucie police investigated Victory Forge.
DCF spokesmen said the agency was unable to determine the severity of the alleged choking incident because no medical review was done immediately after it occurred. "With no bruising, no broken bones and no video," Mr. Sheldon said, law enforcement has little to go on. But a student's chance of getting a medical review in such a situation seem remote at best.
"Parents are the kids' only recourse," Mr. Sheldon admits, adding that under existing laws the state can't step in to save an abused child who is in this type of private school. Since the parents opted out of their responsibility in the Victory Forge case, the state must find a way to assert its responsibility to protect children.