Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jonathan Ziv at Elan School (

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 Jonathan Ziv, who posted the original story on

The first day I arrived at Elan I walked into a room where a "three house ring" and "general meeting" was being held. A boy's nose was the receiving end of a boxing glove and blood streaming down his face was the result from being in the "Ring". Then about one hundred and fifty students in rows of about five all "got their feelings off", which involves screaming and swearing in a persons face who is deemed to have done something "wrong" in the eyes of the so called "Directors" of the school that is a "General Meeting". The "Directors" keep the momentum of these unbelievable events going. I always wished my parents would make a surprise visit and stumble in on a "General Meeting". What would they think? ("General Meetings" could happen as often as two or more times a day. "Rings" happened occasionally, which consist of a circle of students surrounding the "offender" and the other student who are both wearing boxing gloves. The outside circle is taunting the offender while the two box. When the student gets tired another takes his or her place to be in the ring with the "offender")

The "Directors" are the ones who tightly control each of the students lives. Reading students mail, having phone calls listened to.

At night a student stays awake to guard the dorms of his or her gender. Every ten minutes for eight hours a night a "bed check" is conducted. Each student has their sheets lifted up and a flashlight is shone on the student's body to make sure they don't have any hidden clothing to take with them in the event that they try to run away. Could you imagine having your sheets pulled up every ten minutes for eight hours every night for years? Can you imagine that students are expected, who are in positions of responsibility, to stay up all night and be a "night guard"? And if you fall asleep you will be punished and be made to scrub the floors for a couple of days and have your shoe laces taken away.

"The Corner", which is really a term dubbed for being put into isolation, is used to take a child who is not conforming with Elan out of the population. Another student is then placed with them as a "support person". This support person could be subject to the other student acting out, which could involve attempts at self mutilation, being spat on, sworn at, screamed at, exposed to the students genitals, exposed to them masturbating for shock effect but Elan has a no kick out policy. The "support person" may be expected to physically restrain the acting out student. Sometimes the support person had to hold them down on the floor and have plastic restraints put on the student so his or her hands are behind his or her back. Sometimes this student who is acting out could be in the corner for over a month. Spending his or her days facing the corner of a wall and sleeping on a dingy mattress on the floor. This student could spend a month acting crazy like this and then stop and come out of "the corner" only to be put right back in because he or she starts acting out again. Usually there was at least one student in "the corner" for the two year period I was there. Also if the "support person" may take their eyes off this other student in "the corner" and he or she decides to self mutilate and succeeds then the "support person" will be stripped of his or her position of responsibility and made to scrub floors for a time of maybe two to three days. Can you believe that this is allowed to go on? A fifteen year old child being forced into this responsibility if he or she wants to succeed in Elan? Also that child who is"acting out" does so because he or she is standing up for themselves albeit it is in a damaging fashion but that is how a person may cope when being forced to stay in a place like Elan.

The school curriculum, is fabulous for an unmotivated child, with no tests, exams, or projects it couldn't be better. When parents receive news that their child, who was once possibly failing in school, is now getting great marks they could only think that Elan is doing something right. That is one of the tactics Elan uses to decept parents and school boards but ultimately rob that child of a real education.

Could you imagine not being allowed to go outside when you want? When I was in Elan you pretty much got outside once a week for a gym class. If you were lucky you got to go out for special outings maybe once every month or two but that only happens after about six months, which I would say is about the average length of time it takes for the "brainwashing effect" to be fully active in a student. After that constant fear and guilt consumes a student and everything from brushing up against the opposite sex to taking a minute longer in the shower than is allowed is written down on a piece of paper(referred to in Elan as "copping to your guilt") and given to the powers at be so they know your every move. So basically everything that Elan deems as "wrong" is instilled through feeling immense guilt and usually eventually you fess up. When I was in Elan for about a month I spat in a staff member's coffee but nobody knew except me. A year later I told on myself. By the way Elan is co-ed but no physical or flirty behaviour is allowed. Can you imagine a house full of hormonal teens being watched over so severely that you're scared to look someone of the opposite sex in the eye for too long? I received a " general meeting" for being flirty. I had people scream and swear in my face for ten minutes because I am human. This is where the ultimate control happens and the "Directors" or staff were ruthless. They would scream and swear in your face and make you feel absolutely hopeless. They controlled the level of fear among the students.

Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on

Monday, April 16, 2012

Connie Wagner at the Hephzibah House (

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 Connie Wagner, who posted the original story on

Hello. My name is Connie and I was at Hephzibah House from Oct or Nov 1980 to July 1983. I currently am involved with Foster Parenting/Adoption and have worked closely with The Department of Child Services. I have read a lot of the postings and been through the sites online. I feel it is my time to write my experiences and hopefully bring some insight to help those still there.

I came from a rather good home. At the time, you don’t see or even understand some of the things you go through, but you do learn from them. I was the youngest of three girls. My next to oldest sister was what my parents called “a bad influence” on me. We ran around together quite frequently. My parents’ biggest concern for me was I was going to turn out like her. They also did not like the boyfriend I had at the time. So, they thought if I went to another place then I would not be able to ruin my life.

I really did not think I was that bad of a child to have gone through this even though I do believe my parents did what they thought they had to do at the time. I also know that if they had known all of this they would not have sent me. I do believe it has done some damage along the way and I am not sure it will ever be overcome. At the time and quite some time after that I really never stopped to think that it was child abuse. Probably because it was not much different than the home life I came from.

I was confronted about going to a girl’s home where I could come home for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and 2 weeks in the summer. I asked for how long. They said for 15 months. I said okay, not knowing what I was in for at the time. My parents, I do believe, had good intentions.
The night before I left, my father and I had a disagreement. My father was abusive. He used the belt as well as his hands on us girls. You only spoke when you were spoken to and you always did what he said no matter if you agreed or not. You were never to voice your opinion or even question things. After the disagreement, I had a black eye, busted knee, and bruises.

I must put in that my father has since passed away. He ended up being a GREAT man that I looked up to. He admitted that he did us girls wrong and apologized. He tried to make it up with the grandkids. He was and always will be my best friend.

My father, mother and I made the trip to Winona Lake. We had stopped at a restaurant for breakfast/lunch. We then went to the School House location where I would spend the rest of my time. We went in to what was called “the blue room”. Little did I know that was where all the paddling would occur. They went through my suitcases and took out almost everything my parents had sent saying I could not have it. My parents left and I was then taken upstairs to the “big dorm” where I would live for the moment. I had to go into a closet to change into the uniform assigned. I was then taken downstairs where lunch was being served before going over to the Pierceton Road location for school. I told them I had already eaten, but they insisted I eat and gave me a bowl of soup. I was only able to eat part of it. I was ready to get sick. But, since I did not eat it all, it was put in the refrigerator and I had to eat it cold for supper. Everything that was given to us for breakfast, lunch, or supper had to be eaten at that time or we would get it for the next meal cold. There were no excuses.

I could write for days on all the stuff that happened and how things went, but that would be a book. I remember a lot of things about Hephzibah House. The cleaning and inspection of our chores was definitely white glove. Demerits we received for not being good or doing things wrong. After so many demerits, you got paddled if you could not get them down. You could not be in the hallway with any other students. You always had to yell “coming through” if you were going through the hallway or “going down” if you were going downstairs. We as well had the BM chart that others have talked about. All our calls were screened. All our visits were screened. We did not have talk lists. We could not talk to any other students. Discussions of home, location, and phone numbers were not allowed at all.

The first time I ran around the Pierceton Road location for gym, I thought I was going to die. My asthma medicine was returned home. Later that night I had an asthma attack and could not breathe. I told the staff I needed my inhaler. I was told I didn’t need it and would be fine. I could not breathe and had a hard time catching my breath.

One time I got paddled because I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and another student said I had to go downstairs. Because I finished brushing my teeth, I got in trouble for being disobedient. The paddling was done in what they called “the blueroom”. Our upper body was held down by one staff, the feet were held by another staff, and one staff paddled. I would be safe to say the paddle was approximately one-two inches thick and about 12 inches long. I got paddled quite frequently. I remember getting paddled about 22 times one time. It hurt to sit down and I had bruises. I do not remember why I got that one or the one I got on my 16th birthday. Eventually I got the hang of the rules and life was not so bad.

We went out to a Smorgasbord place a couple of times. If you got sick, you got paddled. I never got sick, but I sure did stuff myself with the ice cream, chocolate, and junk food that we were not allowed having at all. I do remember a couple times that someone got sick and you could hear them getting paddled from the small dorm room. The blueroom was right underneath it. If your bed was in the small dorm, you could hear the students screaming.

I also remember a student finally getting taken to the hospital. She was sick for awhile. Actually, it seemed like days. If I remember correctly, they finally took her after her urine turned green. They did end up having to do exploratory surgery on her and when she was better, she came right back instead of going home.

I remember getting letters from my parents. And right before I left to go home, I found out that both my sisters had children. I was not told because neither one of them were married. The children were about 6 months old by the time I found out. The letter I was to get telling me that was held and did not pass. We had to watch everything we said in our letters, on the phone, and visits. They were always supervised. My parents had gotten me a radio/cassette player as a graduation present. I received it the day I left.

I also have to comment on the cockroaches at the School House location. It was a game. They were a dime a dozen. I guess it was because the house was built on a cockroach farm. After church, when the lights went on, we would see how many we could kill.

We worked in the garden constantly. Our work was checked to make sure all the weeds were pulled. If not, we had to redo the work, no matter how long it took. I do not remember being allowed bathroom breaks until we were done. Eventually I was put on Kagins crew. We shoveled manure-chicken and horse. We did most of the heavy labor. If I remember correctly there were 5 of us. We missed out a lot on the happenings at the house because we would get home late. Even so, we were constantly under supervision.

I also want to mention the concern of not having a period for the whole 34 months I was there even though I had a normal one before I got there and got a normal one again about a month after I left.

I remember the bath time to be 15 minutes total, from going in to coming out. I also remember every Sunday morning inspection. Your nails were checked to make sure you were not biting them and your hair was checked to make sure it was curled. I had a terrible problem of biting my nails. I remember getting paddled for it as well as demerits. I did not have to worry about my hair curling because 2 rollers always curled my hair, but I remember those girls that had straight hair and no matter what they did, their hair just would not hold a curl.

I remember every day except Sunday we were required to memorize a verse in the Bible. Each week we would have to recite what we learned back to a staff member. That got to be quite tedious after one year etc. If we did not know them, we did get demerits and sometimes paddling. I had a shoe box packed full of index cards of them.

When my parents mentioned me coming home for about 2 weeks before I went to College at a college Pastor Williams recommended, I was treated terrible. I was not able to speak to any girls or even say bye. I was separated from them. Pastor Williams did not even say goodbye. Even though I had been there 34 months, he still did not think I was ready to go home. My belongings were already packed and when my mother showed up, I was pretty much shoved out the door. Pastor Williams did not figure I would end up at College. When I did show up, two other students were there as well. They took awhile to talk to me because Pastor Williams told them I was not a good influence on them and they should stay away from me.

I always looked up to Pastor Williams and his family. Mrs. Kagin was the best. She seemed to understand us girls more than some of the other staff. I always felt a connection with Miss Emery, but you still had to watch what you said. But, I always felt since I left that I was never good enough and some of the things that have happened in my life was because of me not being good enough. I went and seen Pastor Williams when he came to a church near me to tell them about Hephzibah House. He did talk to me, but he never acknowledged me as being a former student to anyone in the congregation. It was like he was ashamed of me.

I did carry some of the repetition forward. When we washed dishes, it was cups, plates, silverware, pots and pans. They had to be dried perfectly or we got them back. Even one little drop of water was not acceptable. To this day when I wash dishes, it is cups, plates, bowls, pots and pans. I also have a “neat freak” problem. When I clean, it is just not clean enough and really gets me frustrated. I have tried to break these things, but have had no luck.

I think the hardest part of all this for me is the fact that I stayed so long, graduated, and went to the college Pastor Williams chose and still got rejected when I left. I did everything I was told to do, but because I did not stay for long after graduation and because my parents requested me home, I got humiliated and condemned. I did not have Pastor Williams blessing when I left. That disappointed me because I looked up to this godly man for so long and he did not even have time to say goodbye. He just had them pack my stuff, keep me from everyone else, and send me on my way. He also told other girls going to the same college that I probably would not show, but if I did, I would be trouble and I was not godly.

I may not be godly according to his standards, but I will say the good Lord has walked with me and helped me through all the hard times in my life. I know this because without Him and His assistance, I probably would not have survived through it. I am older now and do recognize things more, but I still believe that the good Lord has been with me all this time and when I make mistakes it does not mean I am going to Hell.

Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on

Sunday, April 8, 2012

James Clark Word at The New Bethany Home (

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 James Clark Word, who posted the original story on

My freshman year of high school I skipped class, smoked a lot of pot, drank, and snuck out of the house in the middle of the night. I actually managed to skip almost an entire semester of school, turned myself in and still passed. Don't ask, it's a story for another day. During the summer I guess my mom started worrying about what to do with me before the school year began. Well she found it in New Bethany Boys Home in Longstreet, LA.

My mom thought she was doing what was best and was led to believe that by the people she entrusted me with, namely the Rapiers & Ms. Savoy.

Thus "Nightmare on Longstreet" begins!

I got there on a Saturday. I really don't remember what really happened that day or night but the next day was an eye opener. We started out with waking up and breakfast. Then we got ready for church. We loaded up on the bus and went to the girl's home for some hell fire & brimstone preaching by Mac Ford. On the way there a 10 yr. old boy, dusty blonde hair, had to use the restroom. L.D. wasn't having any of that and we weren't stopping the bus. The boy goes in his pants when he can't hold it any longer. For that he got a full fist in the mouth and a tooth knocked out of his head. All this happened 5 ft away from me. Being the new inductee to the hall of horrors I was placed near the front of the bus right behind the Rapiers and Ms. Savoy so they could keep an eye on me and let me know who was in charge. Welcome to New Bethany!

The 1st corporal punishment I received was for fighting with Jeff. Jeff was a boy the Rapiers were trying to adopt. When the Rapier boys Mike and Terry were around Jeff wasn't allowed to mete out punishment. But let that little weasel catch ya by yourself and the power trip was on. Well one day I was out either fixing the puppy pen (more on that later) or working on the rabbit cages. Both were right below a window to a small office in the gym building. Anyway Dee Rapier was on the other side of that window and heard Jeff and I fighting. Next thing I know I'm being dragged by my hair into the gym and that room and sat in a chair along with a slap to the face when I denied saying anything smart to Jeff to start the fight. Jeff really did start the fight and played Dee like a fiddle. Well once Dee calmed down she talked to me like one of the most loving mothers in the world would talk to her own child.

Does this sound like bipolar to anyone? Not that it would excuse it, just trying to make sense of it all.

Now to the puppy pen. When I got to NB there was a puppy pen and of course puppies. One puppy was a gray little female "Benji" type of dog named "Fluffy" she would fly on the plane with me to a new home in Birmingham with my family 7 months later. She lived a long good life and was 14 when she left us.

Well I got put in charge of the puppies. I was to feed them, let them out of their pen to play, and of course maintain the pen. Fluffy was an escape artist, kind of ironic, but anyway it didn't matter what I did to that pen she always found a way out. Every time she did and was caught I got paddled severely for it.

I managed to stay out of trouble most of the time. I worked a lot. Not because I had too but because I figured out that if I volunteered for as many projects possible it got me away from the buildings and the hell inside of them. I helped with raising calves. 2am in the morning if a calf was sick I was in the barn, 6am feeding the horses. I also helped Ms. Savoy and Dee Rapier in the kitchen and was trusted with the keys to where all the food was locked up. I built a split wood fence the old fashioned way with an axe, wedges, and sledge hammer. We walked into the woods and L.D. showed us what trees to chop down and how to do it. I've built barbed wire fences for the horses as well as their pens. I'm not complaining about the work. I learned a lot. It kept me busy and my mind on things like escape and going home.

Even though I did do a lot of work the paddle still found my rear a few times. There was two prices for working.
  1. Mess up, waste some materials, whatever, a paddling was coming. I hate the word paddling because paddling makes you think of something like the principles office at school. It was a mild beating at best. I also want to state that it was L.D., Terry, or Mike who did the paddling out on the farm. Dee and Ms. Savoy were in the building working, teaching school, torturing someone, etc... I don't think Terry liked paddling, L.D. told him to paddle me harder one time. He was being a wimp about it, but Mike was into it.

    Another time I was feeding the calves one morning and a horse leaned over the fence and grabbed an empty bottle. He pulled the giant rubber nipple of the plastic milk bottle. He swallowed it whole when I tried to get it from him. I slept on my stomach that night after L.D. served up punishment. We found the nipple several days later, whole, in a pile of horse shit. I had to get it out, carry it to kitchen porch, and sterilize it in a pan of boiling water.
  2. The second price I paid for working so much was when I tried enrolling back in a normal school. I was missing credits or whatever stuff was called back in high school. The first few months I was in school but as I took on more responsibilities I was excused from school like it was a privilege to go work and miss an education. Well in a way it was a privilege, it got me away from Dee Rapier. School was fine as long as you said the right things, gave the right answers. If you didn't you would pay, fall behind on homework, you would pay. I saw my share of faces slapped, hair pulling, and heard my share of yelling in that classroom and I probably only spent 3 months of my 7 in that room.

Back to work and responsibilities. I was finally given the job I never asked for and that was to watch over a boy named Ben. He was 11, reddish brown hair, freckles, and completely ruined before he got to NB. I don't think it mattered where you put him he never had a chance. I don't remember his story other than I believe he was a ward of the state and was dropped off. He was practically unmanageable. No matter what I did or said he wouldn't listen. I tried to tell him, teach him, show him how to stay under the radar and survive. He clawed me, bit me, all kinds of crazy stuff. He was paddled, slapped, and slung around by his hair practically on a daily basis by Dee Rapier. She would yell at me to do it, I'd hesitate, and wham she’s strike like a snake.

L.D. gave 3 of us charge over Ben and paddles to use and we were not given a choice. If Ben ever sees this I hope he can forgive me. I took some beatings myself because of him and my lack of ability to make him conform. It was a bad situation all the way around. I also caught my last tennis ball with pride because of Ben. Ben escaped, got sent back to a state facility. I don't remember it all clearly, things got really hectic, and a lot of stuff happened in the weeks leading up to the closing. There was a rash of escapes and attempts to escape in the last months.

It wasn't long after that the law started putting on the heat. We were in the auditorium and L.D. started a sermon about beating people and how it was wrong. He told us how Ben's butt had been beat to a bloody pulp and the police had seen it. He singled me out, said it was my fault, and started humming them damn tennis balls at me. He should have been a major league pitcher. I had whelps on face, my chest, arms. Them damn things stung like hell. I just stood there and took it. He lost control, some of the balls actually started to miss. The great L.D. Rapier had actually lost control. I had only seen that once before when a boy said he wanted to have sex with Dee Rapier. L.D. was very calculated and beat you with precision and cold calculation. No L.D. had lost control. He knew the law was coming down on him and that there was a jail cell in his future. Ben's butt was the final straw and the dominoes were falling.

I could go into more stuff, the beating Guy took with golf clubs, where did he really go? Seeing L.D. Rapier clock a horse in the head with a 2 x 4 trying to make it conform. Or seeing Ms. Savoy go off, it was a rarity, but it happened from time to time and it wasn't pretty either. She preferred other methods of punishment like a mouth full of alum. If you've never tried it, go get some, be sure to have water near by. It will completely dry your mouth out and make you think you are about to choke to death. And then there's the hunting down the escapees. I was only required to go out on the hunt a couple of times. It was actually better than being in the dorms and hearing the screams from the laundry room when someone got caught. Since I was already outside in the middle of the night I just went and checked on the horses and calves. You could hear the screams out there too, just no where near as loud as being in the building. I hated those nights the worst.

My last week there L.D. was in jail. Dee was loading up the van everyday with some boys and meeting Mac Ford with some girls in Mansfield and singing hymns and stuff in front of the courthouse or something. I was left behind because when they took L.D. away I got sick and stayed sick for days. I think it was because my body and my nerves couldn't handle the relief my body was feeling knowing there was a chance it was all over. I couldn't keep any food down. I also think I was scared because I knew if L.D. got out of this I was going to really pay for Ben's escaping and the police seeing his bruised, battered, and bloodied butt.

During this time Dee called my mom almost everyday to tell her how well I was doing and how the law was persecuting a religious and godly man. Then one day she walks in and pulls me aside, I was still pretty sick for whatever reason. She calls my mom and asked her how quick could she get me a plane ticket? They moved us to the gym at the girls’ home in Arcadia to keep the police from finding us and interviewing us. A few days later I was in Shreveport getting on a plane with Fluffy and headed home. I was no longer sick to my stomach.

Would my NB experience end here? Nope, I get home and Dee Rapier and Ms. Savoy would call to check on me, talk to me, get a pulse check, and give us updates on L.D. and his court case.

I was petrified. I refused to say anything bad about them. What if NB opened back up? What about Ben? If I say anything bad about them and end up back there I won't have to worry about Ben's butt mine will be toast. So I remained silent.

The next year or so my brother was having problems so my mom sent him to Walterboro, S.C. where New Bethany Boys Home had been reopened. Of course Walterboro was raided by law enforcement and shut down. My brother came home and he did tell my mom about the abuse and it was all in the papers too. My mom wanted to know why I didn't speak up. She didn't know any better again. I didn't say anything to prevent his going and I have had to live with that fact. Tonight I learned that my brother was the child that the police found shackled and chained in his underwear in the cell at Walterboro that was in the news. He helped build that cell, he was the first to use it, and the last.

The harm that the Rapiers and Fords have caused others is immeasurable. Yes there are a few whose lives were worse before going to one of the homes and grateful for them but they are definitely the minority. I'm happy that NB hasn't left scars on your life, count your blessings.
NB dramatically changed my life and the lives of my family. It has affected us in ways we may never know about. It's a snowball that hasn't stopped yet. For some it's over, for others it's not, the affect NB has had will last for years to come.


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