Camp Webb staff accused of child abuse

Mother says her autistic son returned home bruised and traumatized

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

An Elliott County mother says her son was subjected to physical abuse at Camp Webb, and that she has filed a report with the Kentucky State Police seeking an investigation into the alleged abuse.

Amanda Ramey McKenzie says her 11-year-old son Rylan, who has Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of high functioning autism – was so traumatized by his treatment at the camp he won’t talk, and has been suffering from night terrors since returning home.

It wasn’t what she was expecting when she enrolled her son in the camp to try and help him develop his social skills; something many kids on the autism spectrum struggle with.

Rylan was only at camp for three days before she had to go pick him up, and when they returned home she found his arms and legs covered in bruises, including the imprint of adult-sized hands around his arm.

“There are tons of parents having issues with the counselors hurting kids, and bullying them,” McKenzie said. “It’s a horrible story. I’m just trying to find a way to make sure nobody else’s kid gets hurt.”

She said when she approached the Kentucky State Police to file a report, she was told they already had open investigations into other incidents at the camp.

She said, based on what she’s gathered from talking to other parents, 12 kids in her son’s cabin alone went home.

“So many parents are coming forward,” she said. “Their kids were verbally and mentally abused. Mine was physically abused. All were bullied by counselors, and the director was so bad, he made fun of them and wouldn’t let them call to go home.”

She said one staff member she talked to, once they finally allowed her son to call home, identified himself as an assistant director and told her that Rylan “was just being a titty baby” and that the only problem was that he was homesick.

While her son won’t talk about the abuse he suffered, she said she has talked to one of his cabin mates who said that counselors made sexually inappropriate comments in the presence of campers, and that counselors called the kids names and hit them with wet towels, among other abuses.

She said that after being left alone with one counselor her son, “hid in corners from them,” to try to avoid them when it came time for them to apply sunscreen before getting in the pool. She said her son was also punished at the pool for his lack of progress with swimming challenges and was “nearly drowned.”

Doctors at Appalachian Regional Health, in West Liberty, wrote her son’s injuries up as child abuse, she said, and her son was scheduled for an appointment with a therapist and an interview with a detective in Ashland on Monday morning.

That interview was private, and she said the detective told her he couldn’t tell her exactly what happened to Rylan, or share what little her son told them before shutting down. But, she said, he told her that he could tell her son experienced something traumatic.

While she’s upset at what has happened to her child, she said the reason she wants the counselors held accountable is to protect others.

“I just don’t want other kids to suffer, and I don’t want them getting away with hurting kids who can’t fight back,” McKenzie said.

Calls to Camp Webb about the allegations were directed to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Lisa Jackson, an Information Office Supervisor with fish and wildlife, spoke with the Times via telephone and email. In her email response Jackson said they were “looking into (the) inquiry” but

had no further information before press time.

Jackson said the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources was “committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and professionalism in all aspects of our operations,” and “takes all concerns seriously.”

Jackson said they were currently “conducting an internal investigation, including contacting all interested parties with respect to this matter.”

“We understand that parents entrust the safety of their children to us, and ensuring the safety and well-being of campers attending conservation camp is the department’s first priority.”

Calls to the Kentucky State Police seeking comment were not returned at press time.

These allegations are only the latest made against counselors at Camp Webb.

In late June a counselor at the camp was arrested following a complaint of sexual abuse against a juvenile victim at the camp. That counselor, Mason Rodgers, admitted to the accusation and was arrested and charged with first degree sexual abuse.

Camp Webb is restricted to Kentucky students in fourth through sixth grades, and doesn’t accept any campers over the age of 13. Students spend five days at the camp where they participate in activities related to firearm safety, archery, nature studies, and outdoor survival.

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