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Lawmakers target private youth 'boot camps'

July 31, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
In a shocking online video young people are yelled at and forced to drink water until they vomit. Now state lawmakers want to crack down on private boot camps. Pasadena authorities are still trying to determine if the operators of that boot camp committed a crime. But some state lawmakers aren't waiting for an answer, they say it's time for all private boot camps to be strictly regulated. Legislation has been proposed.

Authorities in Pasadena are still investigating whether criminal charges should be filed against instructors seen in online videos overseeing children in Pasadena-based youth boot camps. The videos show minors being taunted, forced to drink water and exert themselves to the point of throwing up.

"The activity that I saw in the videos, I think, was appalling, there's no doubt about that," said Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez.

The three-year-old boot camp videos went public last year. They got the attention of some state lawmakers, who proposed a bill calling for such boot camps to be regulated and licensed. Officials say while the camps are designed to scare troubled children straight, they are doing anything but that.

"We got the 'Wild West' going on right now. We got unregulated for-profit enterprises that are putting young people in dangerous situations with no regulation, no accountability and no enforcement," said state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena). "What this bill does is it sets a framework in place to start to regulate that industry, to set standards so kids are protected."

Lawmakers say the bill would allow the California Department of Social Services to oversee for-profit youth boot camps statewide.

"We have seen that without proper oversight, kids have been subject to traumatic experiences that threaten their mental and physical health," said state Senator Carol Liu (D-Pasadena).

Lawmakers say they have discovered a small number of youth boot camps across the state that push children to the limits. They say the camp involved in the videos is no longer in business.

"There's a difference between discipline and pain. You know it -- I know it. Unfortunately if you looked at those videos, the people screaming and yelling at those kids, they crossed the line, in my judgment," said Portantino.