The Walton Academy for Growth and Change in the Florida panhandle is supposed to provide a “secure residential treatment program for males, ages 13 to 18,” according to law enforcement. The facility, which is run by a company called Rite of Passage for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), was the site of a sexual attack and battery on a 15-year-old boy on July 5, the Miami Herald reports. The incident led to an investigation and the arrests of four juveniles and one adult employee, who was accused of facilitating the assault.
DJJ lockups and programs have seen a series of attacks — some of them carried out or encouraged by staff — on youths in their care. In April, Antwan Johnson, a detention officer at Miami-Dade’s juvenile lockup, was indicted on a civil rights violation after the death of Elord Revolte, 17, who was punched and kicked by a dozen detainees, allegedly at Johnson’s urging. A Miami Herald series, Fight Club, documented the beatings, often called “honey-bunnings,” after the vending machine treats that are offered as rewards. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office, which was contacted by the DJJ after Rite of Passage alerted DJJ, says the 15-year-old was grabbed off a couch by two juveniles. The juveniles dragged the teen down a hallway into another dorm room, where two other juveniles held him face down on a bed and pulled his pants down as one tried to penetrate the boy with a travel-size shampoo bottle. An employee, Antoine Davis, 27, was charged with lewd and lascivious battery and promoting sexual battery. “The clinical director of the facility advised deputies a victim had been sexually assaulted by several other juveniles. It was later discovered an employee watched and appeared to be laughing while the incident took place,” the sheriff’s office said.