By BRADEN LAMMERS
Allegations of mistreatment at the Jeffersonville Boys & Girls Club were aired at a rally on Wednesday, causing officials of the organization to defend its policies and staff.
The alleged mistreatment of children attending the club by staff members voiced at the protest included accusations ranging from cursing at children, to following them to the bathroom and videotaping them on a cell phone.
Carol Moon, who organized the rally, spoke to a group of about 50 residents and parents of the Claysburg neighborhood and said the parents’ concerns need to be addressed.
Jennifer Helgeson, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana, said the misconduct alleged Wednesday has not been reported to Boys & Girls Club or the police. She did say the organization has investigated the lone claim that was presented to the organization.
She said the allegation investigated was of a child who had become upset and after an altercation occurred between two kids. But she said a staff member witnessed the incident and said the claims were unfounded.
“The Boys & Girls Club of Kentuckiana has strict policies in place that protect the safety and well-being of all children and youth who visit our clubs,” Helgeson said in a written statement. “We have a 60-year history of providing a safe environment and meaningful programming for thousands of children in this community. This community trusts the care and opportunities we provide for youth and we never take that trust for granted. We have thoroughly investigated these claims and have not found any evidence of merit. In fact, we have yet to find an official claim with any agency at all. The allegations of unprofessional conduct and abuse have been thoroughly investigated and we have determined them to be false. It is important to note that these very serious allegations have yet to be reported to the authorities and were never, at any time, brought to the attention of anyone at the Boys & Girls Club of Kentuckiana.”
But the mother of a 6-year-old girl, who has since been removed from the club, said that is about to change.
Sharese Mobley said that her daughter told her that every time she went to the bathroom she felt like she was being videotaped. As a result of the allegation Mobley said she filed a report with the Jeffersonville Police Department, but she said the report disappeared. She said she has subsequently scheduled an appointment to meet with an officer and the Jeffersonville police chief this week.
“I do have another appointment to put this on record and get this on file,” she said. “I have contacted CPS (Child Protective Services). I am prepared to take steps further, if they need to be taken further.”
Another alleged instance of misconduct was that an employee told a child to “back the [expletive] up” and police were reportedly called on a 16-year-old girl for running in the building.
Many of those at the rally said the issues began when the former director was removed from the location and new staff members began working in Jeffersonville.
Helgeson said she could not discuss the status of the former director, stating that it was a “personnel issue.”
She said an individual from another club, who formerly worked in Jeffersonville, has been helping run the location.
An argument broke out during the rally, that became heated at times, because those in attendance said there is not a qualified person running the Jeffersonville Boys & Girls Club. The News and Tribune could not verify the allegations about one employee, in particular, who was mentioned several times as having altercations with children. Helgeson again cited she could not discuss the employee because it was a personnel matter.
However, she said there is “absolutely” a policy in place for screening employees verifying they can work with children, which includes police background checks.
Moon demanded answers.
“We want to know why they feel they can talk this way, mistreat and abuse our children.” she said. “We’re trying all we can do to build-up, and then to go to a safe place an get torn down. What I was trying to do was bring awareness to the Boys & Girls Club of Kentuckiana. I wasn’t for sure if they knew or if they were aware these issues were going on with the employees.”
Moon added that she has reached out to organize a meeting with the leaders of the Boys & Girls Club of Kentuckiana.
Helgeson said she did receive a request to meet via email, but the request did not include any details and she has had no communication with this group about the alleged allegations discussed at Wednesday’s rally.
She did stress that if someone has a concern about the children’s safety that the Boys & Girls Club be contacted immediately or that the person contact Child Protective Services.
“We remain committed to our mission of ‘inspiring and enabling all young people, especially those most in need of our services, to realize and develop their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens,’” Helgeson said in the statement.
Individuals are urged if there is a concern for children’s safety at the Boys & Girls Club they contact 502-585-5437 immediately or call Child Protective Services.