COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Friday, the South Carolina Military Department responded to more questions following multiple fights Tuesday at its Youth ChalleNGe Academy.
The academy, which is designed to help at-risk youth achieve academic success, drew scrutiny after several cadets were hospitalized, leading some parents to remove their teens from the program.
Maj. Gen. Van McCarty helps oversee the academy and believes the incident involved fights that broke out in two different buildings and spilled into each other.
One fight was in a building with more experienced cadets. The other fight was among those who are newer to the program.
While these cadet groups were already separated, they've since taken steps to further separate them and dismissed some cadets from the program who were involved in the fight.
"We will look at this event of last Tuesday. We will open ourselves up to any scrutiny," Maj. Gen. McCarty said. "We will open ourselves up to those that may have a better way to address some of these issues."
While fights have happened at the academy, leaders say Tuesday's incident was not typical, as protocols are in place to help protect cadets.
According to Academy Director LaToya Reed, when young men and women enter the program, they have staff there to support them and teach them coping skills, along with other military teachings.
"We have several ways that we handle disciplinary problems," Director Reed said. "We will put them on cleaning detail sometimes. Sometimes, they will do extra PT - physical training.... Before we dismiss, let's try to make sure we have done everything that we could possibly do to save that child."
As the investigation continues, academy leaders say counseling services are available for the remaining cadets.
"We can't change what happened," Maj. Gen. McCarty said, "but we will look to ensure that we can do everything possible to prevent an event of that nature from occurring again."