The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville found suspicious indications of female staff abuse of male students at the state’s Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, including a female kitchen employee who transmitted chlamydia to a 17-year-old youth through a sexual encounter, and later lived with another male she had a relationship with at the facility. The employee was cleared in four separate state sexual abuse investigations even after she failed a lie detector test and was convicted of the abuse only after she turned herself in to police. A veteran supervisor alleged several incidents of sexual abuse by female staffers in a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. One verified case involved a guard who continued to work at the facility after she married a youth she had met there.
State rules governing how female staff members interact with youths at the detention centers differ from those for males. Most notably, a female guard is required to be present when a male guard is with a female youth, but the same rule does not apply for female guards who may be alone with males. Questions about sexual abuse at Woodland Hills and other state youth detention facilities arose earlier this year when a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that juveniles who had been in Woodland Hills reported one of the highest rates of abuse of any facility in the country.