This testimony has been given by a former students as comment to an article about the closure of the school. All rights go to the original author
Having been a student at this school during it’s first 4 years of opening, it’s hard to describe my reaction to this news. Elated? Relieved? Perhaps vindicated is the best word to describe it. Though I did learn some useful tools and behavioral modification techniques, those pale in comparison to the horrible memories I carry with me, suppressed for years until I began working through them very recently.
I arrived at the school a very young, scared, self-loathing, 12 year old girl, who had already attempted suicide 3 times. I was stripped of the drop of self-esteem I had there, in the school’s process commonly known as “tearing the student down in order to build them back up”. When I arrived at MBA, I was on very strong prescription psychiatric medication. I met with a licensed psychiatrist twice during my 3 1/2 year stay. Once in the registration process, and one more time 6 months later. There were many times where the staff were “unable” or “forgot” to refill my medication, which, among other things, greatly effects the brain chemistry, as well as induces withdrawal symptoms. During the “lifesteps”, I was not allowed to take my medication, was only allowed 2-3 hours sleep, was forced to perform physical “emotional growth” acts to the point of exhaustion, was strongly encouraged, on a regular basis, to scream until my face was covered with purple spots of burst blood vessels, was consistently told I was “worthless, manipulative, a whore, a slut, a spoiled brat, unwanted by my parents” and other names I don’t care to share. I was 12 years old. The staff allowed other, older students to call me similar names while I was on a “self study” for kissing a boy, who was 4 years older than I. During the 3 month self study, I was not allowed to look at or talk to anyone, sat in a desk facing the wall in the dining area, was given writing assignments, of which 90% were about the “negative” aspects of my “soul” and personality–I still have 3 of those journals.
When I attended MBA, NONE of the staff were licensed in any mental health/child welfare/psychological areas. In fact, Sharon Bitz, now the Executive Director of the school, was hired as a Drama teacher in my second year at MBA.
I understand that others have had positive experiences at MBA, and I think that is great. The mental, and physical, abuse, the stripping down of my self-esteem, the pure negativity of my experience, however, has haunted my for over 15 years, and shaped me as a person for much of those years until I began to work through the issues brought on by MBA. For a few years after leaving MBA, I reached out to the staff for guidance and support in the very rough transition back into the “real world”. On MBA’s website, it is stated that every student who leaves MBA has “24 hour” access to staff support, and that the staff make it a “priority” to be available for the students. Not one of my calls were returned, not one of my letters were answered. It has been said by both professionals and fellow students that perhaps the staff were aware and “ashamed” at the way I was treated. That would be fine, except the main focus of the school is to take responsibility for your actions, but it seems that does not apply to the staff who enforce that. I also do not think it is a coincidence that more than 10 former students, 3 in my own peer group, have committed suicide or fatally overdosed on drugs.
My experience at MBA may be unique, and unlike any other student there. Yet reliving what I have not completely blocked out is incredibly painful; even as I write this, I have a lump in my throat and knots in my stomach. I was young, probably too young to be there. Yet I was accepted, and was subsequently treated as if I was similar to the other students, the average age being 16.
There is more to tell, unfortunately, but I think this entry has made my point sufficiently. I have stayed silent for far too long. I am more than willing to testify, under oath, and tell my story. Someday, I may even write a book, in detail, of my experience there.
So yes, I do feel vindicated.
The school closed in 2009 after the authorities intervened and closed it.