Bethel Shuts Down After Girls Flee
WDAM-TV, February 17, 2005

The director of the Bethel Girls Academy says he voluntarily shut down his school after allegations of abuse on Wednesday.

Herman Fountain Jr. says he's released the school's 50 residents into the custody of the Department of Human Services while the academy remains temporarily closed.

On Wednesday 11 girls ran away from the school, claiming they'd been abused. Sources say all 50 girls spent last night in sleeping bags at the Forrest County DHS office. DHS will not confirm that a state investigation is underway, saying only that the department does respond to all complaints about state-inspected facilities.

Officials say when there are allegations of abuse, the state health department, DHS, the attorney general's office, and local law enforcement are required to work together.

Sources say the 11 girls who ran away have gone back to their homes, while the remaining residents wait at the DHS office to be picked up by their parents.

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