Aug. 16, 2007 — -- A recent incident at a Texas Christian boot camp has reignited debate over high-intensity programs designed to help troubled teens.
Francis McClintock knew that her 15-year-old daughter, Siobahn, wasn't going for 'smores and group sings when she enrolled Siobahn at the Love Demonstrated Ministries program.
"We knew it was going to be physical, running and push-ups and sit-ups," McClintock said.
The camp is run by Charles Eugene Flowers, a San Antonio-based pastor known for tough-love tactics to rein in troubled teens.
But Siobahn said that Flowers was anything but caring. "Pastor Flowers was mean," the girl said. "Forceful, mean and strict."
According to the girl, after she fell behind on a run one morning, Flowers yelled at her and had an assistant hold her down. He then tied one end of a rope to her waist, Siobahn said, and the other to his van.
Every time she fell, Siobahn says, she was dragged along a gravel road. "I was, like, so scared," she said. The incident left the girl's knees and legs scraped and bruised.
Bobbi Greer, who worked at the ranch where the incident occurred, said the camp showed less than loving care toward the teen a day earlier. "The torture to this girl went on all afternoon," she said.
Flowers and the 20-year-old assistant, meanwhile, were arrested and charged with aggravated assault — Flowers will fight the charge.
"I'll tell you, we're ready to challenge those allegations," said Jimmy Parks, Flowers' defense attorney. Flowers remains in jail on $100,000 bond. Despite the charges, many who know him in the community are coming to his support.
"He's strict, but when we get to church, he's a caring person," said Chase Jonas, a former camper of Flowers.
But Kleberg County District Attorney Carlos Valdez said there's a more important question than guilt and innocence.
"How far can a person go in imposing discipline even if it is in the name of God?" Valdez said.
Valdez also urged parents to be careful if they choose to send a child to a boot camp and to read the consent forms before leaving a child in the camp's care.
In the case of Flowers' camp, the form warned parents and camp-goers that the program is "highly intense."
And Siobahn's mother signed it. "I wanted it to be a good experience for her," McClintock said, "and it turned out to be one of the worst things she'd ever been through."