Despite Alleged Sex Assaults, State Officials Give Thompson Academy Passing Grade

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Courtesy of Youth Services International.
A snapshot from a recent morale-boosting event at Thompson.
Despite allegations that teenagers were physically and sexually assaulted while living there, Thompson Academy in Pembroke Pines has received high marks from state officials.

In October 2009, the for-profit juvenile detention center received a "commendable performance" grade on a quality assurance review conducted by investigators from the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

This November, after a federal lawsuit was filed alleging various forms of abuse -- including one 15-year-old who said he was twice sexually assaulted by a staff member -- state officials returned to see if the good grade should stand.

At a facility that houses 145 teenaged boys, the officials reviewed a small sample of information. They examined six case management and medical files, conducted "three youth and three staff surveys," and did "several informal interviews with youth, staff and management personnel," according to a summary report.

When the review was finished, the investigators decided Thompson should retain its "deemed status," meaning it has an overall performance rating of 80 percent or higher.

In the lawsuit, five teenagers allege they were undernourished, assaulted by staff members, threatened, or denied access to their attorneys. Yet none of these complaints are mentioned in the state's review report. That's because the annual review is separate from any criminal investigation of abuse allegations, says Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson Samadhi Jones.

"They're totally different functions," Jones says. "We would still have to conduct our normal business to ensure that we're monitoring their performance."

The Department of Juvenile Justice will wait until law enforcement has completed its investigation of the abuse claims before launching its own investigation, she adds.

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