State police and social workers Saturday rounded up youngsters who fled a Baptist boarding school moments before authorities investigating allegations of abuse could take them into state custody.
Sixty-four residents of the Bethel Home for Children in Lucedale, about 100 miles to the southeast, were taken to the Mississippi State Hospital. Most arrived Friday night, while others arrived at the psychiatric hospital Saturday.Some of the children, ages 8 through 17, were found in private homes, restaurants and along the streets of Lucedale.
Most of the 120 to 160 students at the school had fled Friday before state social workers arrived to carry out a court order assigning the state temporary custody of the children.
The whereabouts of the remaining children was not known Saturday, and state welfare officials said they might be in hiding.
The judge who issued the order said there was reason to suspect physical and mental abuse of students. Complaints by former residents of the home ranged from severe beatings to forced labor.Some children received excessive corporal punishment and no medical care and were harassed by other children at the home, state Welfare Commissioner Thomas Brittain said Saturday.
By Saturday evening, Brittain said he had released 10 children to their parents. He said he expected to keep interviewing parents Saturday and Sunday; by Monday, he said he hoped to arrange the return of almost all the children.