OKEECHOBEE — In September, the Lake Okeechobee News ran a story about a teacher at the TrueCore Youth Correctional Center, who was allegedly battered by two youths, Jerahmeel King, 15, and Jerek Orrand, 16, inmates at the center. The teacher, Al Cole, claimed he had been in his office preparing for a class when the two boys entered the room and asked for a pencil and paper. Mr. Cole said he gave them what they asked for, but rather than leaving, they stood there smiling at him. He said when he got up to open the door and usher them out, King punched him in the eye and Orrand punched him in the face. At that point, Mr. Cole was able to escape the room and call for assistance.
After this happened, Jack Eich, communications director for TrueCore, was asked several questions:
His reply was, “With regard to the youth on staff assault that occurred on Sept. 9, 2019, at the Okeechobee Youth Development Center, the two youths involved in the incident have been transferred to the sheriff’s detention facility. No serious injuries occurred as a result of the incident. TrueCore does not comment on personnel matters as it relates to our employees.”
Since that incident, one of those boys was sent to prison for three years, and the other was placed back into the class of the man he allegedly battered. Because the attacker was returned to his classroom, Mr. Cole has resigned. “A victim of a violent attack should not be forced to continue teaching his attacker. Since the attack, my blood pressure has gone through the roof, and now I am taking twice as much medicine for it. I’m not sleeping, always on edge around the students, just waiting for it to happen again. I’m yelling at my own kids all the time, and my marriage is strained. I had to get out of there,” said Mr. Cole.
Last week, two female employees were allegedly attacked at facilities run by TrueCore. On Monday, Dec. 9, OCSO Deputy Matthew Huffman responded to a call at the Okeechobee Youth Development Center in reference to a battery on staff complaint. When he arrived, he met with a female therapist who said she was conducting her duties as a therapist in a classroom with multiple youths when someone turned off the light. She immediately felt someone grab her buttocks. When the light came back on, Kizuri Jackson, 16, was standing immediately behind her. She said she told him that behavior was inappropriate, but he just laughed. After his arrest, he was transferred to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
On Dec. 17, OCSO Deputy Bryan Holden responded to a call at the Okeechobee Juvenile Offender Correction Center in reference to another battery. When he arrived he contacted a female staff member who said she was a caseworker. She claimed 15-year-old Adrean Coleman-Graham jumped over her desk and attacked her, grabbing her breasts and between her legs. She said he stuck his hand down the back of her pants. A male employee was in the room when this happened but did not try to help her at first because he had broken his leg and was afraid it might be reinjured. Instead, he radioed for help. Eventually the employee put his hand on Coleman-Graham’s back and told him to stop. When correctional officers arrived, they secured him so the victim could get away. Video evidence reportedly backs up the statements of the employees. After his arrest, he was transferred to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Mr. Eich could not be reached for comment.