July, 20 2018

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Boot Camp Death Part of National Investigation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Missouri boot camp where a student died is part of a federal investigation into such facilities for troubled teens, former employees said.

History of the Boot Camp Case

Roberto Reyes, 15, died at the Thayer Learning Center in Kidder in November 2004. The camp about 50 miles north of Kansas City houses more than 100 troubled teens and has been the subject of several complaints of child abuse, most of which came to light after Reyes' death.

Three former employees of Thayer told The Kansas City Star this week that government investigators said the camp was a focus of the national investigation.

An attorney for Thayer, Greg Spies, said Thayer officials fully cooperated with investigators for the U.S. Government Accountability Office when they recently visited the camp and interviewed students.

The National Troubled Teen Program Investigation

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., asked the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, to begin a nationwide investigation into residential treatment programs for children. A hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee is scheduled for Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C.

Miller is hoping to convince Congress that such camps should be more strictly regulated.

Reyes' death after less than two weeks at Thayer was attributed to a spider bite. Thayer owners John and Willa Bundy denied any wrongdoing in his death and have denied abuse allegations.

Reyes' parents sued the camp in 2005, alleging that physical exertion and abuse caused or contributed to their son's death and that he would have lived if he had received prompt, competent medical care.

They also alleged that Reyes was dragged, hit, placed in solitary confinement and "forced to lay in his own excrement for extended periods of time."

Thayer officials denied those and other allegations and the two sides settled the case in March 2006 for slightly more than $1 million.

Other Allegations against Thayer

The Star reported in 2005 that between April 2003 and October 2005, at least seven people reported more than a dozen allegations of child abuse at Thayer to the Caldwell County sheriff's office. A state investigative report said, "It appears that those responsible for the safety and well-being of Roberto Reyes failed to recognize his medical distress and to provide access to appropriate medical evaluation and/or treatment."

Thayer officials are challenging in court the Department of Social Services' findings that employees at Thayer medically neglected Reyes.

No Thayer official was charged in Reyes' death or any other child-abuse allegations.

Tom Kiley, a spokesman for Miller, wouldn't confirm specific targets of the investigation.

But former Thayer employees Sarah Mackey, of Polo, and Kris Trimble, of Gallatin told The Star they were interviewed in September and that they were told Thayer was a subject of the investigation.

"They said they wanted to open the public's eye about things that are going on," Trimble said.

Testimony of a Former Employee

A third former employee, Ricky Ableidinger, of Jamesport, said he spoke with the GAO. He also filed a report in August with the Caldwell County sheriff's office containing several allegations of abuse at the camp, particularly against one student.

"I was so disturbed by some of the things I saw there," said Ableidinger, who briefly worked as a security guard at the camp before quitting.

Miller introduced legislation in April 2005 that would provide more monitoring of boot camps and similar programs.

Related Articles:
Virginia Boot Camp Brings Hope to Troubled Teens 10/8/07
Illinois Parents Want WWASP Academy Closed 10/7/07
Florida Teen Boot Camp Case, Medical Examiner Testifies 10/5/07
17 Teens in Louisiana May Return to School after time at Boot Camp 10/3/07
Illinois Program for Troubled Teens Acquired 10/3/07
Working with Horses helps Troubled Youth 10/3/07
Florida Boot Camp Trial Begins 10/3/07
LA Bakery Helps Troubled Teens 10/2/07
UK to Expand Number of Boarding Schools 10/2/07
Psychologists Aid in Helping Troubled Teens 10/1/07

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