STARKE, Fla. – A parent of one of the cadets at a youth academy in Bradford County is speaking out after accusations involving inappropriate behavior between her daughter and an employee.
The Florida Youth Challenge Academy, a program located in Starke that helps troubled teens, was under investigation for allegations that started in the spring involving inappropriate behavior between a cadet and an employee.
A mother, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told News4JAX that her daughter sent her a letter via email to inform her of an inappropriate relationship that was going on.
She said she is speaking out because she wants other parents to know the truth.
The mother said she trusted the academy to help get her daughter’s life back on track but instead that became more difficult as her daughter was allegedly being touched sexually by a staff member at the academy for months.
In an earlier report, News4JAX learned that two employees were fired. News4JAX has since learned that the two employees were females who were fired following accusations of inappropriate relationships with teens at the academy.
According to the mom, the letter included details about alleged “inappropriate discussions, private discussions, as well as kissing and other inappropriate touching.” She said a teen was seen on surveillance cameras with adult staff after hours. Her daughter told her, at times, the alleged predatory women would promise clothes and trips to the teen girls for sexual favors.
The mom said she was livid after reading her daughter’s email and promised her daughter that she would address the issue. She said before she got a chance to speak with someone at the academy, a counselor saw her daughter’s email and the investigation began.
The academy said this in a statement:
“Our cadre was first made aware of the allegations on April 8, 2022, and they immediately notified the Department of Children and Families. We terminated the alleged offenders and removed them from the installation. Our office is unable to comment on the case nor provide information on the alleged suspects or victims, and is referring all questions regarding the investigation to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.”
The mother said she decided not to remove her daughter from the academy because she was unsure about her life expectancy.
“At the time, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I wasn’t sure what was going to be the outcome for me. I kind of wanted her to get her education started,” the mother told News4JAX.
The academy assured her that her daughter would be safe. Her daughter graduated from the program and is back home now, but the mom worries about the other children, untold stories of possible abuse and wonders why the woman accused of touching and kissing her daughter has not been arrested.
She also told us the Department of Children and Families contacted her, but she has not heard from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office about the case.
News4JAX also tried to contact the Sheriff’s Office about the case but has not heard back.