Lawsuit accuses South Carolina's Camden Military Academy of brutal hazing

Rock Hill HeraldMarch 28, 2012 

KERSHAW COUNTY -- Hazing of a 13-year-old cadet at Camden Military Academy in South Carolina began with verbal assaults and elevated in severity until the boy was raped by a fellow student, according to a federal lawsuit.

The hazing began four days after the boy, who is from Georgia, enrolled in 2008 at the all-male school in Kershaw County, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Columbia. The lawsuit said the hazing was condoned by school officials, who ignored injuries the former student received and downplayed complaints from him and his parents.

The lawsuit was filed by the boy’s parents, who are not named in this story to protect the identity of a juvenile who may have been the victim of sexual assault. The boy is referred to in the lawsuit by the initials “JBC.” The family is asking for an unspecified amount in damages. Defendants in the lawsuit include Col. Eric Boland, the school’s headmaster; Sgt. Maj. Vertis Wilder, the tactical officer in charge of boy’s company of cadets; and four other employees.

Boland referred questions about the lawsuit to the academy’s attorney, Ronald Diegel of the Columbia law firm Murphy and Grantland. He was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

When asked if the academy condoned hazing, Boland said, “Absolutely not.”

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said his staff investigated an alleged sexual assault of an academy cadet, but no charges have been filed. The boy had enrolled at the academy after he and his parents visited the school and received assurances that hazing was not allowed, the suit says.

The first verbal assault came from an older cadet and the boy reported it to a secretary and asked to call his mother, the suit says. Instead, the secretary put him in an isolation room and called Wilder, the tactical officer.

“Defendant Wilder, in turn, escorted JBC back to the barracks,” the suit says. “Within hours, a gang of cadets accosted JBC in the latrine. They pushed him into a corner, beat him and then ‘informed’ him that ‘snitches get stitches’ at CMA.

“Thereafter, JBC began to face a continuous barrage of physical abuse at CMA. CMA cadets repeatedly beat JBC in his face, body and testicles. CMA cadets placed a plastic bag over JBC’s head and tried to suffocate him. And, most horribly, two CMA cadets sodomized him and one CMA cadet brutally raped him.”

The parents pulled their son out of the academy after the start of the spring 2009 semester. In 2011, they won a state court lawsuit to receive a $16,300 reimbursement for tuition. The school already had refunded $6,641.

The parents said their son did not tell them he had been raped until the lawsuit over the tuition had been filed and they began giving depositions.

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