ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has closed a St. Petersburg residential treatment facility for boys after two employees were arrested on child abuse charges this week.
The department decided to close Charles Britt Academy and move its residents after police arrested employees Pete Aldolphus Battle and Andra Walters, both 53, in connection to an incident involving a 17-year-old resident, a spokesperson said Friday.
“Due to the serious incident that has occurred and the contracted provider’s failure to provide a safe and secure environment ... DJJ has taken immediate action to close the Charles Britt Academy and remove all youth,” communications director Amanda Slama said in an email.
The facility’s residents will be moved to nearby juvenile detention centers temporarily until the department can admit them to other programs, Slama said.
The operator of the facility is Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, state records show. A spokesperson for the academy said earlier Friday that Battle and Walters were initially placed on leave and then fired. A representative for Sequel could not immediately be reached Friday afternoon to comment on the decision to close the facility.
The incident happened on June 4 and is described in arrest affidavits.
Walters and the teenager exchanged words and then began shoving each other. Walters punched the boy in the face, giving him a bloody lip — then Battle held down the boy as Walters struck him in the face and elbowed him multiple times, leaving bruises and scratches, according to the affidavits.
The teen told investigators that he was pinned against a metal bed frame, making it difficult for him to breathe, and that he was not being combative at the time, the affidavits state.
Other adults at the facility watched the incident unfold and did not intervene, according to police. An investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible, St. Petersburg Police Department spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez said.
Walters and Battle each face one count of child abuse. Walters was arrested Tuesday and was released from the Pinellas County Jail on his own recognizance the following day, records show.
Battle was arrested Wednesday and released Thursday after posting $5,000 bail.
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The academy at 3001 26th Street Avenue S is a 28-bed non-secure facility for teens ages 14 to 18 who are “typically youth with high-risk behavioral problems,” its website states.
The teens receive substance abuse treatment, social and life skills, vocational training and on-site educational classes, according to a program overview included in a 2021 Department of Juvenile Justice compliance report.
The report shows the facility received satisfactory ratings in all but one category that was not related to safety and security.
Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report.