Youth Boot Camps Under Fire | NBC Southern California

Youth Boot Camps Under Fire

"It border-lined on humiliation disguised as physical activity."

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    Newly released video seems to show questionable practices at so-called youth "boot camps" in Pasadena. But who was in charge? (Published Friday, Oct. 28, 2011)

    Newly released videos from youth "boot camps" show heavy-handed tactics that might go beyond the sort of discipline that could be positive for some at-risk kids.

    The Pasadena-Star News obtained the videos.

    In one of the videos, a boy can be seen carrying a tire around his neck. He falls to his knees and screams and cries. The instructor screams at him to continue.

    The videos depict activities at two Pasadena "boot camps."

    "It border-lined on humiliation disguised as physical activity intended to instill discipline," said Pasadena City Councilman Victor Gordo.

    In another video, children are forced to drink water to the point of vomiting.

    "Potentially dangerous behavior on the part of the instructors toward the kids," Gordo said.

    Gordo has asked the city's police department to investigate the incidents. An officer who viewed the tape was not ready to reach any conclusions.

    "It's disturbing to see the video," said Commander John Perez. "But again we have to take the video for the entire content."

    The investigation starts with Kelvin McFarland, apparently seen on both videos taken two years ago. McFarland operates Family First Growth Camp in Pasadena.

    McFarland was arrested in May for allegedly handcuffing a girl he saw skipping school, then demanded money from her parents to enroll in his boot camp.

    Friday, the operator of a second Pasadena boot camp, "Sarge's Community," defended his operation.

    "In our camp, we yell," said Keith "Sarge" Gibbs. "But it's a one on one individual. We don't surround and yell all at the same time."

    Gibbs and McFarland used to work together. Now police will sort out the timing of the videos, to see who is ultimately responsible, and whether any laws were violated. 

    So, what do parents think of this?

    "It appears that some of the parents have okay-ed it, from discussions with other people, " Perez said. "We're not sure if that's absolutely true. And did the parents know what the format was?"

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