PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The Southeastern Military Academy for boys is under fire from the Department of Children and Families. Its commanding officer, Alan Weierman, calls it a vendetta.
"When the department puts its scope on you, and they say that you're a target, then all the stops come out," said Weierman.
Erin Gillespie, spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families, said this is the second time the DCF has petitioned for the school to be closed. The academy claims to help troubled youths.
"Certainly, they're dealing with a difficult population," said Gillespie. "We do the same thing here at DCF. But there are rules about what you can and can't do with children, and abuse is just not acceptable under any circumstances."
Weierman was in court hearing Wednesday, on the charges that the academy is violating Florida statutes by operating without proper licensing.
"A school has to be accredited by educational and residential agencies," Gillespie said. "If they're not, Florida statues say the school needs to be shut down."
Weierman denies the multiple abuse allegations, including a question of whether leg restraints were left on a child for a week.
"They (DCF) verified us for bizarre punishment because of the shackles," said Weierman. "Both the Port St. Lucie Police Department detective bureau, and the state attorney, found no abuse. Most of our (allegations of abuse) cases were verified in absence of evidence, and at absolute opposite to what the police department found."
Weierman said he believes the DCF's fight to close the school is personal.
"Of all the schools in the state of Florida, and we're talking Florida Air Academy, Admiral Farragut, that fall under the same law I do, why am I singled out for judicial proceedings?" Weierman questioned.
"We have no personal connection to him," argued Gillespie. "This is about making sure that everyone in the state of Florida follows the law, and that every child is protected."
Weierman's lawyer in court said they could prove the academy is a candidate for academic accreditation, but said the school is just now learning about the need for residential accreditation, since it's a boarding school.
Gillespie says the school has already had years to meet its licensing requirements.
The hearing resumes Thursday afternoon, right here at the St. Lucie County Courthouse.
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