Friday, March 30, 2012
Christopher Michael Boothe at Red River Academy (From:youthrights.org)
It was November 17th, Friday, 2007. Around midnight, my parents came to my room and told me to get up. I was a little disoriented, having been asleep, so I refused and asked them what was going on. My parents said nothing and left the room. Just as I started to get up, two young men entered my room. This is when I started to panic. I knew it was immature to fight, but I struggled nonetheless. Obviously these guys knew what they were doing, as I went down hard and fast. They tried to tell me everything would be okay and that I'm just going to a school for suicidal teens. I wanted to believe them, so I gave up struggling. After I dressed we left my room. One of the men had his finger in my belt loop, to make sure I didn't run. My parents were putting luggage into a car I didn't recognize. A lot of luggage. This wasn't going to be a short endeavor. My parents tried to talk to me, but I pushed them away and got into the car. The two guys told me I could sleep, so I tried to. It was no use and they knew it. The guy who was in the back seat with me told me I was going to a school in Louisiana called Red River Academy. And that it would be a 7 hour drive.
When we finally arrived, I was exhausted. I figured that I'd just go inside and sleep the day away. How wrong I was. The men walked me to the front gate and used the intercom. Out came two extremely large males, who turned out to be brothers. They said nothing to me, only thanked the men I was with and then grabbed me by my arms and led me inside. This didn't look like a school. I was later informed by one of the staff members, that this place used to be a retirement home. That would explain the sickly smell of urine that seemed to fill every inch of the place. The dorms... if you could call them that, were small 10 by 10 foot rooms with 2 sets of bunkbeds. Each room was connected to another room with a bathroom. So it went... room, bathroom, room, room, bathroom, room, room, bathroom, room. Eight students to one bathroom.
The two large men, Justin and John... (I was to refer to them as Mister Jusin, and Mister John)led me to a white room where they unceremoniously dumped my belongings and rummaged through them. They pulled out nearly everything and told me that most of this I wasn't allowed to have. Uniforms would be purchased for me, on my parents credit. Nine Hundred dollars for six shirts, three pairs of khakis, and one pair of shoes. I found out later that the clothes I was given were used. This was already starting to feel like a nightmare. Mr. Justin, a fat balding man who looked to be 35 but was actually 25, handed me a Red River Academy rule book. I became more stressed as I read through it.
Students were to get up promptly at 7:00 and ready themselves for exercises. At 7:05 we went to the "Activity Room" and exercised for 30 minutes. 7:35 - 8:00 was breakfast. 8:00 - 9:00 was school. 9:00 - 11:30 was "educational video & emotional growth video". 11:30 to 12:30 was PE. 12:30 to 1:00 was Lunch. 1:00 to 5:00 was school, with a 5 minute restroom break in between. Then on to Dinner, showers, reading time and then sleep. This was how things worked 365 days a year. No weekends. No holidays. Nothing.
The school was built on points and levels. You earn points for following rules, and with enough points you gain levels. When you reach the highest level, you graduate. The most you could earn a day was around 15 points if you were perfect. You needed 200 to reach level 2. 1000 to reach level three. 3000 to reach level 4. 5000 to reach level 5. 5000 to reach level 6. Points started over at 0 when you attained a new level.
We had to walk in line structure and turn all corners at a 90 degree angle. We were not allowed to speak out of turn. We were not allowed to look at the female students or staff members (we had to turn our heads when they entered the hallways). We could not have contact with anyone outside of the facility, except through letters to our parents (letters that were sent to "family reps" and edited to fit the needs of the parents). We could not have any clothing with zippers or any other metal material. We had to sit "sitting structure" during school, meals, and videos. Videos were supposed to be on a 180 day rotation, but were rarely changed. We usually ended up watching the same videos 3-5 times. The Chaperones were our dorm parents. Chaperones didn't need any form of education to apply for the job. They only needed to be 21 or older. We had to do whatever the chaperone ordered us to do. Chaperones gave out "consequences" for breaking of school rules. Consequences ranged from Category 1 to Category 5, each with it's own punishment and point demerit. If you didn't have enough points to cover the consequence, you were sent to "Study hall" where you copied lines from the rulebook until the day was over. Sometimes you'd be in Study hall for more than a single day. Unruley students were sent to Intervention, where they were to lie spread-eagle on the floor and not talk or move. If a student did talk or move, chaperones were allowed to physically harm the student. This wansn't in the rulebook, but it went on.
Now, it is impossible for me to explain what exactly happened here at RRA without a biased opinion. But that doesn't make it any less terrible. I'll try my best to make a list of everything I think is important in the most objective way.
- I attempted to run away, and was tackled by chaperones. They literally threw me into the Intervention room and sat on me until I stopped struggling. I was bruised badly, and I asked to take a picture of myself to send to my parents. My request was refused. - A chaperone broke a student's tooth. - A chaperone broke a student's arm. - Three boys managed to escape and were found seven hours later in a mall. - I witnessed a student being molested by a fellow student. - I listened to a staff supervisor tell parents (over his cell phone) that we went on fishing trips and visited theme parks regularly. - I listened to the same staff supervisor tell parents that we did school work in Study Hall. - I witnessed a student stab a chaperone with a pen. - I witnessed a student break a lightbulb and attempt to harm another student with a glass shard. - I witnessed a student being slapped by a chaperone. - Fire alarms went off during the night for no apparent reason. I recall nearly 50 times. - Students were given 5 minutes to shower. - Four more students tried to escape. - Students began talking about a revolt. This was suppressed by chaperones not allowing us to talk to one another. - Students who could not keep up in exercises went to Study Hall. - Students who cursed went to Study Hall. - Students who attempted to make contact with people touring the school were stripped of all points and were sent to Intervention.
I was forced to live this nightmare for 362 days.
I don't think I've even scratched the tip of the iceberg here, but I'm going to stop now. This is bringing back terrible memories, and I don't want to experience them again. I hope this helps you with whatever you try to do, and I pray that you stop these things from happening. Feel free to edit my text, I know I'm not the best typist. Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience.
Christopher Michael Boothe
Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on cafety.youthrights.com