Abuse Allegation at Youth Camp

11-16-05 - A Denison mom says her 5th grade son and five other students were physically and verbally abused on a school camping trip in Oklahoma, and now the school and the state are investigating.

It's the highlight of the year for fifth graders in Denison when they are taken on a week long field trip to the Arbuckle Mountains, but when one mother arrived to pick up her son last Friday, her son couldn't wait to get in the car.

"He grabbed me here with his hand and it was hurting extremely bad," victim Ben Cole said. "I could feel something popping."

Ben Cole says he's still in a lot of pain. The doctors told him yesterday he has a torn tendon in his neck along with a dislocated AC joint.

"I asked the doctor could this have been done by squeezing and he said yes, on a little kid like this, it could be done," the victim's mother Amber Dunn said.

That was all this mother needed to hear to prove what her son says is true.

Ben spent last week at Camp Goddard in Sulphur, Oklahoma, with the rest of his fifth grade class. Denison ISD sends all of their fifth graders to Goddard for a week in the wild extending their learning into the Arbuckle Mountains.

The students stay in cabins, and parent volunteers from Mayes Elementary serve as counselors for the week. Ben says his counselor verbally and physically abused him and five other students in his cabin.

The principal at Mayes Elementary, Brent Hoy, declined an on camera interview, but says he is investigating. Hoy also visited campers last Tuesday and Wednesday. He did say since the accusations are being made toward a parent volunteer and not a school employee, and there may not be much the school district can do.

That's why this mother has hired a lawyer and filed the case with child protective services.

"I'm not only worried about my son, but all the other kids this man will come in contact with," Dunn said.

Denison ISD has been attending Camp Goddard for the past 13 years, and there has never been any problems before. The final group of fifth graders are there this week.

The school district does administer background checks for all of the volunteers that go on the trip.

The Murray County Sheriff's department has also taken a report and will be investigating.