A grand jury has indicted several people for their alleged roles at an unaccredited school for troubled youth near Roswell that left many children bruised and their parents out thousands of dollars, according to Fulton County court records.
Rommys Beltran, now 49, was indicted last Friday on 29 counts, including theft and cruelty to children. The case came to light in 2016 after a joint Channel 2 Action News and Telemundo investigation uncovered years of alleged abuses at Advancing Youth's Academy on Holcomb Bridge Road.
Beltran, who ran the school, did not immediately respond to Channel 2’s request for comment. Four others were indicted on fewer counts than Beltran, but all face at least one charge of child abuse. Court documents detail how the others hurt children under Beltran’s leadership at the school that had students from all three traditional school levels.
State records show the school was approved by the state as a business in August 2010. As previously reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the school lost its accreditation in September 2014 but didn't close its doors until after being raided by the Roswell Police Department and the GBI in August 2015.
According to police interviews, parents found out about the school online and sent their children there to learn some discipline.
But parents told stories of their children being handcuffed, pepper sprayed, left to sleep on a concrete floor overnight and given haircuts or made to walk like dogs for humiliating punishment. One mother said her preteen was hospitalized because he was forced to “run with tires.”
Police said the school advertised as being accredited, but parents who withdrew their children learned it wasn’t when they went to enroll in public schools. In same cases, families wasted multiple years and thousands of dollars at the school.
A woman who drove a van for the school and had a daughter enrolled there told police she saw “two cadets handcuffed lying on the floor eating.” The daughter was supposed to be a senior in high school this school year but had to start as a freshman because AYA wasn’t accredited.
A longtime friend of Beltran who also worked at the school told police that “Rommys started the business because she wanted her own police precinct,” according to a police report.
Sandy Springs attorney Doug Rohan told the AJC he is talking to the families of 21 students who plan to file a civil suit against Beltran over the negligent nature of the school. Fulton County jail records indicate she bonded out a few days after she was arrested in early 2016.
Rohan said the indictment means he’ll move forward with filing a civil lawsuit against Beltran on behalf of the families.
Rohan said he didn’t know how many total students attended or graduated from the school.
As if dealing with getting a troubled child up to speed in school wasn’t hard enough, Rohan said most of the families are Spanish-speaking immigrants for whom navigating the American education system can be difficult.
“These families have been suffering for years,” Rohan said.
Ben Brasch is the reporter tasked with keeping Fulton County government accountable. The Florida native moved to Atlanta for a job with The AJC. If there's something important to you going on in Fulton, he wants to know about it. Help him better metro Atlanta by dropping a line, anonymously or otherwise.