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Fight prompts lockdown at juvenile probation camp in Santa Clarita

Two girls and eight staff members were injured Thursday in a fight at Camp Kenyon Scudder. Lockdown lasted through Friday afternoon.

February 07, 2009|Molly Hennessy-Fiske

A Los Angeles County juvenile probation camp for girls was locked down Friday after two youths and eight staff members were injured in a fight the night before.

The 35-minute fight started about 8:30 p.m. Thursday in a dorm at Camp Kenyon Scudder in Santa Clarita, said Kerri Webb, a Probation Department spokeswoman.

The two injured girls were taken to a hospital and later released, Webb said. The injured staff members were also taken to a hospital, treated and released, although they remained on disability leave Friday, Webb said.

The county Probation Department supervises about 3,600 youths in 19 juvenile probation camps and three juvenile halls.

Camp Scudder is designated for girls with mental health needs and is located next to the county's only other camp for girls, Camp Joseph Scott. Camp Scudder housed 53 girls at the time of the fight, with a dozen staff on duty, Webb said.

After the fight, 16 youths involved were transferred from the camp to other facilities, Webb said. The camp was locked down until Friday afternoon, she said.

The lockdown came at a time when the probation camps face increasing scrutiny. After a federal investigation of the camps, county supervisors hired independent monitors last fall to make sure the Probation Department complies with its own standards for, among other things, staffing and violence prevention.

U.S. Department of Justice officials, in a report issued Oct. 31, said probation staffers routinely failed to protect youths in their care from attacks by other detainees.

A spokeswoman for the probation officers' union said Friday that the union does not believe that low staffing contributed to the fight or injuries at Camp Scudder.

Webb said she could not confirm reports from Camp Scudder staff that Thursday's fight was racially motivated, although she said racial tensions at the camps "are very common, unfortunately."

"We'll obviously look into that later on," Webb said. "Right now, the main concern is to make sure the kids are safe, find out what went down and what we can do to prevent it in the future."

A racially motivated attack at Camp Fred C. Miller in Malibu on Nov. 1 left an 18-year-old with two fused vertebrae in his neck, probation officials said. The victim, who is African American, was attacked by a group of Latino youths.

On Sunday, a camp manager sent an e-mail to probation supervisors warning of escalating racial tensions at other camps, including Afflerbaugh, Holton, Rockey and Munz. He noted that both Afflerbaugh and Holton had recently reported "multiple incidents of fights."

"Please instruct your staff to remain vigilant and on the alert for racial tension among the minors; and be extra cautious with minors arriving to the facility from these camps," the e-mail said.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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