Security to Tighten at Private Boys' School

In the wake of the Friday night riot at Eagle Point Christian Academy, academy officials are negotiating with Mississippi Security Police to provide security.

Mississippi Security Police, a private Pascagoula security firm that contracts with Harrison and Jackson counties to operate juvenile detention centers, has been at the academy since late Friday after several cadets instigated a riot allegedly to make the private boarding school look bad for a state inspection.

"Our people are state-certified," said Tony Best, the company's vice president. "They are taught to deal with juveniles professionally, not physically. There is a difference."

Eagle Point Christian Academy school administrators Tuesday were repairing the damage from Friday's riot and making arrangements to send 20 to 30 cadets home. Academy owner John Fountain said the seven cadets who orchestrated the riot would not be allowed to return to the boys' private school.

"We want the safety of the kids to be the first and foremost, as well as the safety of this community," said Fountain, who described parents' comments as positive but worried.

Since the riot, nine cadets were sent to the Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center for disorderly conduct or being uncooperative. Seven cadets were taken to the hospital with minor injuries and four cadets ran away. One cadet from California had not been found as of Tuesday.

No allegations of abuse were made during the riot and sheriff's officials have not been asked by the state Department of Human Services to interview cadets, George County Sheriff Garry Welford said.

Best said his company and academy officials are assessing the security and personnel needs.

A contract could happen later this week.

If not, Mississippi Security Police would remain at the academy until another security firm is contracted, he said.

The academy's night staff includes eight to 10 employees to watch over the 122 cadets ages 12 to 17.

"We can definitely learn from this," Fountain said. "I think it shows the seriousness of the school. It takes mistakes to see how to fix mistakes."

Fountain said in addition to security recommendations, he hopes to eventually incorporate drug and alcohol counseling, and youth ministry and community involvement in the academy's program.

The private school for delinquent boys, formerly known as the Bethel Boys Home, has a history of allegations of abuse. The school operates under a Chancery Court decree and is monitored.

Welford and Lucedale Mayor Dayton Whites said their main concern is the community's safety.

"I think the community in general and we as city fathers have a responsibility to ensure the citizens are safe," said Whites, who received three calls from residents whom felt threatened by the riot. "Something has to be done."