Monday, March 21, 2011

Schuyler's WWASP Article (From

This story was originally written on a webpage called, which sadly is not online anymore. All rights and credits goes to the author Schuyler, who posted the original story on has been relaunced as Unfortunately without the testimonial part and as a message board only.

The following is a day in the life of a male tb student. This brings back many memories. Well here we go. Your day starts at if I remember correctly at 0730 am. You are woken up by a shouting staff member. Sometimes they clang pots and pans other times just yelling. After wake up you only have 2 min to be in the court yard for head count. Head count can take as short as 3 min or as long as an hour. (I swear Jamaicans can't count.) After head count you would return to your rooms to clean them. This would include making four beds. (The bed folds down from the wall. it is 3/4 in plywood and a stained mattress maybe a sheet or two if you were lucky.)

After cleaning it varied by family. My family the renaissance went to shower. The shower consists of 12 showers. They had dividers but no hot water. The water flood down the 12 stalls to the end stall. Never be the guy in the end stall. Water backs up and if you feel warm water well someone peed in the shower. Total time from wake up to shower 1 hour. On some days you had wash cloths and shower. Washing cloths consists of a bucket and soap. Hands wash all cloths and hang dry. Mind you the infamous septic tank is near the cloths line. I say infamous because every day it would overflow. If the wind came up the cloths would fall off the line. (Only about 100 cloths pins for the whole group.) After showering we went up to group. This is where we were given points for out reflections (will discuss later.) this took about an hour.

So now after 2-3 hours we finally get to eat. We all line up in the court yard and get ready to go into breakfast. This is the best part for the family "father" ours had a thing called a water bottle inspection. (You carried around a 1 pint water bottle all day.) If your water bottle was 1/2 full or less you went to work sheets. Just for the water bottle.

After breakfast it was time for "school." school consisted of going to the top floor finding your school book and studying a chapter at a time. At your own speed. Some people could crank out 4-8 chapters a day. Others maybe 1 a week. If you could not get one a day you were sent to worksheets. So if you have a learning disability like me, (ADD) you are screwed. There is a teacher there. Not sure if they are an actual teacher. Don’t ask for help they will tell you to study harder.

After 1-2 hours of school (sorry for not being exact 5 years is a long time.) we went to lunch. After lunch we went to P.E. which consisted of finding your shoes in the shoe bin. (You wear sandals there so you don’t run away.) If you had good shoes more than likely they would be stolen. Or P.E. area consisted of a tennis court, 3 rackets no balls, a basket ball court made of asphalt that was not compacted so sharp rocks stuck up. More than one basket ball was lost due to this. The other option that you had was run, pushups, or if you were level 3+ you could use the weights. ( weights consist of a bar and enough weights to get to 200 lbs.

After P.E. off to the showers again. if you were lucky enough to be there for the dry spells you got water out of the well. the well is a large cistern. algae all the way around. mind you this is water to shower with cook with DRINK ( I remember pulling a dead cat out and still having to drink the water.) this time only about 15 min for 2 families. families had about 20 members. if you were the last ones in the shower hurry up because you have to be done in 15 min or they shut the water off. you have to walk around all day with soap all over your body. After that back to school. After school dinner. After dinner you go back up stairs watch a motivational movie and do reflections. reflections consists of motivational tapes that are played at each meal and the video. you than turn them in and go outside for final head count. Finally after head count off to bed. This is a normal life in the day of a student at T.B. I will add later the life of a TB student in worksheets and op later.

The best way to describe the location is on a point jutting out of the island. Nothing around. A small town maybe a mile or two away. Right on the edge of the big blue ocean. Lots of goats all around. And where there is wild life there is a lot of feces. Watch where you step. I really can’t remember much about the location as I have tried to block it out of my mind for over 5 years. Sorry guys. Nice sunsets if you can block the sound of screaming children. (Yes after a while there you can do that and much more to distance yourself.)

As for my overall experience, let’s just say PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a lot of fun thanks to that place. Living in fear every day took its toll. When I was there people had, far a lack of words, trench foot aka foot rot. Wonderful smell. The cure? Don’t know. All they gave us was backtrobon. Didn’t do much but mask the sent. I had an infection on my leg that was the size of a pencil eraser. It was so infected that it oozed yellow greenish fluid all day every day. Even through a bandage. When I got home and had a doctor look at it guess what! Tons of antibiotics some injections some sample taking and the best part, after cleaning out the wound he could see my tendons!! 1/ 2 a freaking inch deep!!!!! I still don't have any musical growth there. It’s discolored and droops inward. Lots of fun. Nightly activity, being put to sleep while hearing the sounds of screaming kids. Hours on end. The staff laughed at it. It was sheer hell. No other way to describe it.

I was there when the girl never did get her name but may she rest in peace and harmony with the angels that took her to heaven after her stay in hell, committed suicide the exact date was 8/11/01. Swan dive off a three (3) story building onto the concrete pavement bellow. My question is this, where was the staff? Great environment? That led her to do such a thing. What were we told "oh, someone fell but it was not that bad." till you saw the blood stain on the pavement. Brain matter was all over the place. I still hear the screams of the girls. It sends shivers down my spine. After the suicide attempt, we had a 1/2 group the next day just for that subject. After the half an hour we were told never to speak of it again. God rest her soul. And the souls of all the others. That place is nothing like they claim. If it was why did she commit suicide and so many others try. Some wanted the attention yes, I will give you that. But when someone cuts their wrists and needs a lot of stitches to stop the bleeding? I tried the wrists deal once. My friend stopped me. Thank god for him. There life had no meaning. It was merely for the staff’s amusement. God save the kids there. Before more die. If there are parents reading this, be advised there are many suicide attempts and suicides there. And it’s not because we are troubled. We just want the pain to end. Not emotional pain but real pain. Physical emotional environmental. Death would have been a welcome relief to me there. I would have enjoyed it far too much. An attempt that I tried was to hyperventilate for about 2 min and than push in on my corroded arteries then I passed out. Luckily I did recover. Lucky now back than I was hoping for death even embracing the feeling.

O.P. (observation placement.) ah yes. 6-8 people in an 8X10 room. (Mind you I paced it off and wrote it in a book. not sure how accurate my paces are.) We were in there like cord wood. No open windows no fan. 100 deg days. If only you could smell it. You slept in the hall ways. This was not a bad thing as it was much cooler in the hall ways than in the rooms.

Wake up was at 0700 you wake up and put your mattress back and go up stairs till the others are done with their chores. Than you go to the op room. You lay on your face until breakfast arrives. You eat breakfast and lay back on your face. Repeat with lunch and dinner. At 800pm (2000) it’s everyone favorite time. P.E. depending on the mood of the staff it would be something along the lines as follows. To start 100 three count jumping jacks all in unison. Any one falls out of count we all start over again. Then 50 unison pushups. Again fall out and start at one on the jumping jacks. After the push ups comes the sit ups. 100-150. same as before fall out of rhythm, well you get the idea. To finish it up another 50 three count jumping jacks. Mind you some times we did not get to sleep until 3-5 am. Wake up at same time. Now if you act up in op, you get restrained. The proper method, after looking it up after the program, is a person on every limb and has the individual facing up words. Man I wish that the staff would have done that. Most of the time this is how it wound up. Mind you this is from 5 years ago 2001. The staff would pick you up and take you to another room. They would have between 5-6 staff there. They would lay you down face down cross your ankles than fold your legs back at the knee. After the first fold at the knee they would than try and fold you back at the hips. Mind you theism is over your back. And for your arms, I'm sure you all have seen COPS where the officer has the individuals arm up behind their back. This is done for two reason number ones for control and number two because they can pull up and put you in pain. The Jamaican staff apparently did not know the first on as they only used the second.

You also had one, about the mid weight class, sitting on your back or having his knee in you back. This would go on for however long they wanted. No set time limit. 10 20 30 min or even 2-3 hours. Some times they would not let you up until you made a false omission of guilt. Such as I was the one who ate your food Mr. so and so. Then of course you would be given a longer stay in op for the statement you made. I have heard of kids with broken bones and dislocated joints. I apparently was one of the lucky ones. I only received strains and pulled muscles. After a long time there you learn to distance your self from the pain or you learn to love the pain. To each their own. I am still haunted by the screams. All hours of the day and night. I would cry myself to sleep knowing that there was nothing I could do. The screams of the brothers of mine will never be forgotten. If you do not believe me look at the link on the home page of and read the comments. God save my brothers and sisters there.

Worksheets. Now I encourage parents of students to try this. If you are coming out of OP you have 5 essays to write. Every cat 2 is one essay. What is an essay? It is this. 5000 words on why you did what you did. No more than 15 word a line no less than 9. And remember that at any time the staff can take your essay and make you start over. Have you ever written 5000 words in a day by hand? You have to write on your lap hunched over. Oh the back pain. Just try it. As for the food, you got what the family ate but in about 1/2 the portion. At times the food could be up to an hour or two late. And as always there was always something missing. Whether it is the main course, or the milk, or the juice. But what ever you do not question them if they forgot it. The reason why is because they hand out all the food. If you questioned them than somehow the staff would always stumble and drop your food on the ground. And if they did, well unless you eat at least 1/2 your meal you get a cat 5 for suicide attempt and go to op. yep eat it off the floor. Even soup. No replacement food. Not once did they ever replace food that they spilled. If they spilled your milk or juice. They did not care. At least you didn't have to drink 1/2 of that.

Your journal. According to the staff they can not read your journal. However they will take it from you and read it because you might want to "commit suicide." sot they read it and when they find out that you are not happy with one of the staff they make sure you are put with that staff. They will also take your journal away from you and refuse to give it back.
The pool. Yes believe it or not it does have a pool. In my long stay, we used the pool once and only once. Kind of dirty but it felt good to float around for a while.

FUN DAY. Yes there is a reliving day (at least when I was there.) Then Ken Kay had us sign up for contests. Such as swimming, arts and crafts, singing, and than at the end he had a DJ play about 1/2 hour of music for us. We were taken a back! We thought our luck had changed. Then when we saw a group of people leaving and Ken Kay said lets give the people from the US embassy a thank you for coming we realized what was going on. That is why it is called a reloving day. Whenever high ranking people schedule a visit we clean the place top to bottom new clothe and sheets new books, the works. As soon as they leave no outside cleaning nothing till someone comes again. We made the commit to ourselves "why don't they just show up and than look around." the reason, WWASP wouldn’t let them because the embassy has to make an appointment. Can’t explain it.

Letters to the embassy. Letters to the embassy goes something like this. You can write a letter to the embassy and the staff has to give it to the embassy. Whether they do or not I don't know. That’s up to them.

Time. Time does not exist in that place. You measure time by days weeks, months, years. Not minutes or hours. Time is your enemy. A person can go insane there. Many people "louse themselves" there.

Other than "normal religions." this can consist of many religions or beliefs. There was a member of my family that believed that God was a female. Oh man, our group mother was pissed. She tried to convince him that he was wrong but he stuck to his beliefs. She ripped him a new a hole. We also had a brother who was a Wiccan. She called him a devil worshiper and again tore him a new a hole. When asked why she disagreed with them she replied "just like in the program there can only be one religion and set of rules. That is the way of things are and that is t the way it should be."

As for the religious practice of worship. "Do it by your self." why well you have to talk only to a level 3 or higher so if you want to talk about religion, get on level3. Never made it there though. That’s kind of why I don’t go today. If they can’t express religious freedom there I will not either until they all come home. And to the catholic parents out there I am a 4th degree knight of Columbus. And I am very proud of that title.

After coming home and looking back at my stay I realized something that I thought I would never say. I did learn a lot of helpful things in the program. Do they outweigh the PTSD that I also got from there? I do not believe so. I also learned that every one who was there will some day have the feelings that I have. You learn self preservation there. You do what you must to survive or you give up hope. As you can tell for me it was to give up hope of life. In the book all quiet on the western front there is a quote on the last paragraph of the book. I read that book before, during and after the program and I would like to read it to you now. This is what I felt every day in the program and after each reoccurring night mare that I have.

"He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long. His face had an expression of calm as though almost glad the end had come."

I am haunted to this day by the memories that I lived through. I will never forget the horrors that I went through. After surviving that place you feel older than others in my age group which is a common complaint with survivors. You also have trouble with making friends and trusting people for a long time after words. I made a promise to my friends that I left behind. I promised that I would let the world know the horrors that go on there though it may be 5 years late here it is.

As my tag name says, I am a first responder. I have WWASP for that. While in the program I decided to dedicate my life to, in my opinion, they turned their back on. And that thing is cherishing human life. We call each other brothers and sisters because we have gone through more than any of you other than military veterans could even begin to know. I may die tomorrow in my line of work. I want the world to know what I went through so no other individual has to go through it. I will never be the same person I was before. Mo matter how hard I try. There is a country song that says you don’t know me any more. I believe the name is "I just got back from a war." this describes what I feel every day. I feel as though I am an out cast in society. The only place I feel a sense of belonging is with the other survivors on our website. Only those who have been there and know the feelings can judge me. No parent can know the pain in my heart and mind. Please do not try and tell me that I am just trying to hurt the program. For you see the program took a piece of me. Not only that but it took my youth. WWASP makes you something that no one can describe. You must feel it to understand it. If you have not been there and lived there for some time do not tell me well it’s a good program. I will tell you it has good intentions but not good quiltys. How can a place where even the newspapers say they hear screaming and those children under 18 commit suicide stay open??? Be aware, some pictures can look nice but when you see the place in real life you realize "hay, I’ve been misled and lied to!!!

On the first pictures are what are in the brochure. The last ones where you see our brothers in khakis are the true TB. Why won't the show you the real pictures in the brochure? If they hide that what else are they hiding???? Make an informed decision before you judge me and my brothers and sisters. For you see you will never know us, nor will you ever understand what we have gone through.

This is just some insight into my life at tranquility bay.

Tranquility Bay closed sometime in 2009

Datasheet about the boarding school from the Fornits Wiki database
The original story (Cached version of - may take a while to load)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Aileen Chu at Mission Mountain School (From:

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Aileen Chu, who posted the original story on

My name is Aileen Chu. I lived in Naperville, IL. In 2002, I was sent to On Track Wilderness Program in Mason, TX and then attended Mission Mountain School in Condon, MT from 2002-2004.

I was sixteen. Due to unaddressed issues at home and in my life, I was very depressed and angry. I fought with my parents, used drugs, skipped school, got arrested for shoplifting twice, ran away and snuck out, stole money and cars, and more. When I told my parents that I was going to drop out of school, they decided to send me away.

My friend had been sent away to a school in North Carolina the week before. His parents sent him away because he stayed out all night once. He ran away from that school and stole a car with an accomplice, but then turned himself in. As a result, he was sent to a school belonging to the same company in Jamaica, where he said that he witnessed staff beating other students.

Others I knew were sent to wilderness or boot camp and military school. They’re back in the same town as depressed and angry as ever, still on drugs, worse for the wear.

It was September 24, 2002. I made plans to sneak out that night but they fell through. I went to sleep at 2 a.m. and woke up at 4 a.m. to a voice saying, “Aileen, you’re going camping in Texas.” I opened my eyes and two strangers were in my room—one male and one female. My parents were nowhere in sight, and I found out later that they had left the house. The people told me to get dressed. I wanted to use the bathroom and the woman came with me. I wasn’t allowed any privacy and I was very confused.

They told me to come with them. We got into their car and drove to O’Hare. I still didn’t understand what was going on. When we got there, it hit me that I wasn’t dreaming. I demanded to know more. They said I’d be gone for a month. This seemed like the end of the world to me because I was supposed to go to the homecoming dance with a long-time friend in a week. I called his house collect and left a frantic message saying I’d been kidnapped.

I become more panicked and angry. I started yelling and demanded that the woman let me use her cell phone. I called my mother and started yelling at her, asking how she could do this to me. I ran into the street and then tried to run away. The man and police tackled and restrained me. I crumpled and ate the paper that turned custody over to the escorts and we went to the police station to get another copy.

My experience with these escorts was particularly traumatizing because I had no idea what was going on. I was taken away in the night by two strangers, and I had never even heard of these therapeutic programs or escorts.

We landed in Austin and drove four hours or so to Mason, Texas. I refused food or water and cried the entire time. When we arrived, they took my clothes, jewelry and made me remove any nail polish. They made me strip down and squat and cough in front of them. I had no idea what was going on. They drove me out to the field where the other students were. This was On Track Wilderness Program. I cried the first day and didn’t do much of anything.

There was a girls’ group and a boys’ group. We had about four people in our group. We weren’t allowed to go near or look at the boys. I don’t remember much. I blocked out a lot of my memories. We bathed once a week using a shower bag. We hiked in the mornings, set up camp and worked on projects or had various activities. I enjoy nature and am athletic, so I could enjoy some aspects of the program. They made us drink a lot of water, but we had to have permission to use the bathroom. There were quite a few times that they made me wait until I peed on myself, which was very shameful.

The staff didn’t appear to have been trained to help teenagers with specific psychological issues or substance abuse issues. Therapists only came out to the field occasionally for brief meetings. For instance, I binged at meals to alleviate pain and anxiety, and the staff, only aware of anorexia as an eating disorder, let me eat as much as there was. I didn’t know I had a problem with eating until later. A staff member continuously berated me about being an addict. I was in denial about my drug problem, but they apparently did not have experience with addiction because it is not something that someone can hammer into your head. I would just be confused when he got mad at me for not admitting that I was an addict. I don’t remember if therapists were always present at therapy “circles.” I seem to recall times when there were no therapists present, but the staff did not appear to be qualified to handle some of the subject matter. The staff members were competent as camp leaders, but they could have handled many problems better with training or perhaps better qualifications. They didn't know how to handle us and usually just reprimanded us unnecessarily. This lack of thorough training even led to a student’s death later on in my stay.

There was a girl in my group who didn’t comply with the rules and tried to get around them. The staff yelled at her aggressively, but yelling or getting her in trouble didn't get through to her. But I ended up carrying the load, literally, when she and I were the only students left in the group because I wouldn't participate in being mad at her. I participated in the program because I decided early on to "kill" and bury myself and get through this month. I was very tough and liked being outdoors, so I could bear it. The staff liked that I worked so hard so I didn’t get on their bad side as much.

I grew up with an intolerable fear of getting into trouble and aimed to please. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when it was the way I lived, I didn’t feel fulfilled and was constantly depressed, afraid and angry. I was used to it, though, and both wilderness and therapeutic boarding school reinforced this way of living. This kind of mentality is what led to me harboring all my anger until I was an adolescent and until I felt more empowered to fight back against my parents. The fear I felt at wilderness and boarding school reinforced the fear I felt getting in trouble as a child, when I would be beaten and was scared out of my mind. It didn’t teach me to think and make responsible decisions for myself, and that hurt me greatly later on.

The one thing I remember most from wilderness was when a student died. His name was Chase and he was 17. The other girl left in my group was on her solo, which is when students camp by themselves for a number of days before they graduate. I slept in a single tent that night, and the boys’ tent was nearby. The boys were talking after they were supposed to have been quiet. I heard a staff member yell at them to be quiet. They must have started talking again, because the staff pulled them out of the tent. They were going to make them sleep outside in tarps as punishment. As I recall, Chase talked back to the staff member. I didn’t make out what he said. The staff member said aloud that Chase shoved him. From the conversation and noises I heard, I gathered that they had restrained him. He was spitting at one of them, so a large staff member laid down on his face. My tent was slightly unzipped, so I could hear everything and see some of what was going on. The other boys were standing there with the staff. The police came to take Chase, but he had vomited and choked on it, since they had restrained him improperly. They tried to resuscitate him, but he was dead.

This experience was horrific. I had never watched somebody die, much less be killed by the negligence of these people whose care we were in. I think I suppressed most of my feelings surrounding this event, but I still feel extremely sad when I think of it--six years later. This never should have happened.

After that, I had to join the boys’ group and later graduated. I found out that instead of going home, I was to be sent to an all girls’ boarding school in Montana for two years. My parents came to the graduation, but again, escorts took me to the boarding school. This time, however, I went without incident. They said I was an angel, but really my spirit was just broken. I was back to being "a good little girl" because I was helpless to do anything about my situation.

I went to Mission Mountain School on October 31, 2002. I left in March or April 2004, while I was supposed to be on a home visit. I just never returned. Boarding school helped me learn a lot about myself, but it was also hurtful and detrimental in other ways. We did a lot of physical labor on a regular basis and as a punishment. Maintenance of the campus was a large priority, which I didn’t think was too strange, since I grew up mowing my own lawn and shoveling my own driveway. But we were also expected to do work on the headmaster’s house and property, which was a little ways down the street. It was even considered a privilege at times to go work on his property. I found this a little strange and manipulative, since our parents were already paying a lot in tuition and additional costs. I believe tuition was around $5,000 or more monthly, but I cannot be sure.

We were forced to buy a large amount of equipment. A lot of the clothing or items I said I would not use (and which were not some of the mandatory equipment) they still forced me to take and made my parents pay for, e.g., expensive wool pants and a sweater I said I would never wear because wool irritates my skin. I never did wear either item.

One winter, the staff said the group was doing badly and that we were going to be put on intervention. This meant sleeping out in the woods in summer tents in snow and -20 degree weather. The tents were not meant for winter camping and often collapsed under snow. One of the girls in my tent slept in a frigid lake because water seeped in. We were given short times to all use the bathroom or brush our teeth and take care of such tasks. We ate in the cold, albeit in a tarp-covered pavilion. We spent all day working on moving piles of brush in the woods. There were no academics, no showers, and no phone calls home. Going indoors was a privilege we had to earn, even for group therapy. One night, one of the girls said something offensive and we had to stand outside in the cold for hours until she apologized. This went on for some weeks. Many girls got a disorder that was short of frostbite and caused their extremities to turn purple or black in the cold.

Again, I don’t remember much. I always refused to take antidepressants, but Dr. Hauser, the psychiatrist who worked occasionally with the school, talked me into it by telling me it was to help me while doing therapeutic work and that I had the choice to get off it. But once I agreed and was on it, I was on it. I was given a couple other medications at times, but I was on Lexapro regularly. I ran away in April 2003, and my dosage was doubled. I had no choice about it. After I left the school, I wanted to get off the medication. I didn’t know anything about how it worked and quit cold turkey, which caused me to feel sick, dizzy and have shakes and noises inside my brain. I found out that I had to wean myself off of the medication because it was an SSRI. After I stopped taking it, I felt as if I had just woken up or come out of a cloud.

As I mentioned above, I ran away in April 2003. I performed well at the school, as we were taught to do. I worked on some of my issues but I still had a lot of anxiety and pain. I ran away but had an emotional breakdown. I broke into a church to find sanctuary and eventually turned myself back in. After this, I had more attention from the school in terms of therapy. Some of this, such as allowing my parents to come visit me, was good, but not all of it.
I didn't agree with all of their therapy methods. One thing all the students were mandated to do was disclose "histories." This meant filling out packets of questions related to specific subjects. There was a sexual history, a drug and alcohol, a violence and abuse, and others. I complied and answered all the questions very honestly and was forthcoming. These histories were shared with our parents by fax and over the phone. I now regret this because I lost all my privacy and still have a hard time maintaining an appropriate amount of privacy in my life now. While some things were important to confront, being forced to disclose everything about yourself, including very private matters that should not concern others, even your parents, was very invasive. There is a difference between dishonesty and privacy, and I still feel violated thinking about how I allowed myself to participate in disclosing these histories. Privacy was something that wasn't allowed at these kinds of programs.

The school used various methods to control us. The headmaster, John Mercer, would come on campus and hold special group therapy sessions, sometimes berating girls mercilessly. I don’t believe he had a license to practice psychology or therapy. If we talked about anything the staff deemed “bad,” we got in trouble. For instance, some of us girls were complaining that our parents paid a lot of money and the headmaster just got a classic Porsche and a mobile home. We got in trouble for even discussing money, though I don’t know to this day whether our complaints were valid or not. We were told normal, healthy things, such as masturbation or sexuality, were “bad.” If somebody masturbated, they were a sex addict. We were allowed to call home twice a week, but this was a “privilege.” Mail was strictly controlled as well.

The school pitted the students against each other. We used Q&F forms to report each other, and they told us that it was for our own good. As a result, many girls acted falsely, which I found out after I left the school. The school also kept us in suspense by controlling our release dates. The program was supposed to be two years, but they held some girls for much longer or pushed back release dates because they thought the student wasn’t ready yet. Sometimes this seemed indiscernible because the student seemed to perform well. When girls turned 18, they were no longer under the custody of the school, so they were legally allowed to leave. However, girls that tried to leave when they were 18 got in trouble. Sometimes, the parents would pull the student from the program, but most of the parents didn’t know everything that happened at the school and so trusted the school. My parents let me leave in March 2004 because they had talked to the school about letting me graduate in June so that I could be with my peer group in college, but the school changed their minds and were planning to hold me longer.

I probably didn’t have as hard a time at either wilderness or boarding school as other girls. I am naturally athletic and a hard worker, and I enjoy being outdoors. I also have a need to do well, and this probably helped me get through the programs, though it didn’t help me truly change. I do take issue with how addiction was treated in either place. At wilderness, they didn’t seem to really know how to handle it, besides by telling us that we were addicts. At boarding school, people were slapped with addict labels all the time, be it food addiction, sex addiction, drugs, alcohol, codependency, and more. A.A. was a large part of the programming. We had our own little A.A. meetings once a week. I went along with it and even reverted to my parents’ religion at one point. But after I left, I went to A.A. and N.A. meetings for a while and they made me feel worse. On my own, I was able to stop using drugs, simply because I care about myself and my loved ones now. At boarding school, they didn’t get to the root of a lot of problems. Their website now says that they don’t do behavior modification, but that is precisely what they do. We had a system to report on other students. Individuals were singled out or the whole group had to take part in “consequences” which were really just punishments, as I later learned in a college child development course. They helped remove me from my home environment, but they also caused damage. I have nightmares about boarding school.

Even though I didn’t graduate, the boarding school taught me to “be good” and revert back to my childhood fear of getting in trouble. I spent two years trying to be good, joining my parents’ church, then dating a man because he seemed responsible and kept me in line. After two years of this, I had earned my A.A. degree, which was good. But then I realized that I wasn’t being myself and was still depressed, angry and unfulfilled. Upon this realization, I left the man I was dating, dropped out of the university I had transferred to and began using drugs and alcohol and being promiscuous again. This led to further drug use and other very damaging activities. This backlash was severe and I was so confused that I ended up cutting off contact with my family and harming myself. Because of this, I am still experiencing and will experience for the rest of my life repercussions.

Now, I have come to a place where I am making my own decisions and have my own goals. I am thankful that my parents intervened, but what I really needed was their love and attention. The institutions they used as intervention caused a great deal of damage themselves. I saw an anti-psychiatry museum in Hollywood recently, and although the museum was overblown, Chase, the boy who died at wilderness, was in one of their presentations. I was reminded afresh of what happened and was greatly disturbed. Perhaps I needed an awakening, rude or otherwise, at sixteen, but there could have been other ways. I met many students who, like my friend who had been sent away, could have been helped with a little patience and attention from their families. There were so many who were just acting like teenagers or who were just depressed and needed some help, not to be sent far away and to be isolated from their families.

While these programs have the opportunity to be helpful, the behavior modification and control is harmful to adolescents who are turning into young adults and who need to learn to truly make their own choices. In that way, my growth and development was stunted. They also need to reject students who just need more attention from their parents or who are just acting like normal teenagers and don’t need an extreme intervention. These programs also need to abide by laws, train staff properly and be up front about what is going on. Nothing is perfect nor works for everybody, but in the case of these programs, there are a lot of things that need to be done better, especially since they have such a huge responsibility with the lives of children in their hands.

Mission Mountain School closed in 2008

RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT PROGRAMS - Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth, Testimony Before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives
Datasheet from the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement
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