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Search for pencil ends in riot 

Last Wednesday, the day before a riot broke out at Spring Creek Youth Services Center, the state changed its policy and barred staff from using "radial strikes to [any] juvenile detainee's forearms." Staffers previously could use such strikes to gain control of a detainee, according to a police report.

The policy change "in and of itself created an environment that risks the health and safety of all staff members," Police Officer Scott Carnes wrote. And according to police, who were summoned at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday to Spring Creek, 1390 E. Las Vegas St., "a riot broke out" that day as staff tried to place the juvenile detainees into their cells "in order to conduct a contraband search for a missing pencil."

One juvenile resisted by grabbing a metal handrail, Carnes' report said. As other staffers attempted to help, several juveniles became involved. One staffer was struck in the chest by a juvenile's knee and also was kicked in the groin. Another was "power punched" in the face. A third was kicked in the head and back. Others were punched and bitten. More juveniles joined the melee, and eventually 11 staffers were involved in trying to quell it, the police report states.

While DHS spokesman Dan Drayer downplays what he called an "incident," the police report states that at least three staffers sought medical treatment for injuries and seven youths were charged with engaging in a riot, in addition to other charges. The police report says Dave Maynard, facility director, was punched in the face.

Youths arrested Thursday appeared in court Friday and as of that time were still being housed at the facility, according to the police report.

Spring Creek hit the news in May after Colorado Springs School District 11 told the state Department of Human Services, which oversees Spring Creek, that it no longer would provide instruction there. Teachers reportedly said they felt unsafe.

State officials subsequently told the Gazette steps were taken to address the center's issues, including staff turnover and injuries. Drayer admits changes were made on use of "physical management," but it didn't increase risk for staff.

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, who's been involved in Spring Creek oversight and is currently out of state, initially said he couldn't comment without knowing more details. When told of the charges and staff injuries, he said, "Sounds like there's work to do to make it a safe environment." He noted that teachers' and staffers' fears of being injured "evidently ... were justified."

— Pam Zubeck

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