Forshee said the second half of the school year usually yields an increase in teens ditching classes and getting into fights. They get antsy waiting for spring break and summer vacation, and the restless energy usually gets them into trouble, she said.
“It's just bad cases of spring fever,” Forshee said.
The secure room is an open area with bright white walls and about a dozen benches. Shoes, backpacks and cellphones aren't allowed. Talking and sleeping also are against the rules.
Scottie Pete and Terrell Johnson work the control room. They check in the juveniles, call their parents and break up gang fights when they notice rival members flashing their signs at each other from across the room.
Johnson has worked at the facility for 11 years. He said he grew up similarly to the kids that he sees every day, cocky and unappreciative of the people trying to teach him life lessons.
“I was kicked out of my house by my mom when I was 15,” Johnson said. “I don't want kids to go through these tough times, but life ain't always peaches and cream. I don't want to see anyone shot or killed so I try and teach them that lesson.”
Gahl said most people would grow frustrated seeing the same offenders over and over again because they can't understand what would make these kids want to keep making the same mistake.
“If you were living homeless or in a terrible home life, you wouldn't be afraid of this,” she said. “This is welcoming. They might be talking with strangers, but sometimes it's easier to talk with strangers.”