Sunday, March 31, 2013

Q/A about living in an ordinar religious boarding school

This Q & A statement was seen on the homepage NHYM alumni. All rights belongs to the original person answering the questions.
  • What is your name?
    Deirdre Sugiuchi
  • To which institutions were you sent?
    Escuela Caribe Jan 1990 - Jun 1991
    Canada 1991
    Marion fall 1991
  • How old were you?
  • When were you enrolled in The Program?
    January 4th, 1990 - Dec 1991
  • What was the highest level you attained?
    4th with weeks towards 5th
  • Please describe the circumstances that got you sent to The Program:
  • In which house(s) did you live?
    DR: TKB
    Marion: Herrick
  • Please describe instances of abuse you experienced while in the program, if any:
    I entered the program compliantly because I thought it was a Christian boarding school. That impression was reversed my second night when my housefather (HF) made me perform exercises for hours. According to him, I had "an authority problem" at home. He made me do bear crawls, pushups and duck walks. He had me hold my arms out balancing books until I cried from pain. Such interrogations are typically used to brainwash individuals.
    - When I entered the program I was very sick with an ear infection and strep throat. The staff ignored my illness. Later they said it was because they did not know if I was faking. I had to do the daily drills, and make it up the casita with my 6'4 (?) HF outrunning all of us girls. As a “low-ranker” I had to stay within an arms-length of him. On my first free day, I couldn't keep up with him (I am 5'4") when we hiked up a mountain, so he gave me push-up support- ten pushups for every five steps that we walked. Everyone else watched me. This continued until the house mother asked for a break. For the record, the supervising group leader did nothing to stop this mistreatment by the housefather.
    When I was depressed it was viewed as something I could control, and my points were routinely slashed because of it. I got low points for “moodiness” when I became withdrawn.
    - I was part of a group punishment session in which my entire house was forced to maintain a push-up position for hours. The house mom couldn't find a spatula. We were blamed for its disappearance. The session ended only when the house mom came in with the spatula, which she had misplaced. It hurt to laugh for days.
    Once I moved up the levels and became a high-ranker, I had more responsibility. Part of this responsibility entailed narc-ing on my peers. Another responsibility was that I had to inspect the low-rankers to make sure their privates were soaped during showers. One girl did not wash herself properly; the housefather said he could smell her. He required all low-rankers to have their soaped privates inspected during showers. This was an edict of a HF who later became assistant director. For the record, all students had a maximum of fifteen minutes to wash, dress, and leave their personal areas in perfect order. Low-rankers usually had much less than 15 minutes. Her hygiene problems most likely resulted from not having enough time to wash.
    The house fathers regulated how much food we ate at meals. My first HF enjoyed assigning a large amount of food to students. Many girls had a problem eating the large portions, not just me. His own wife, who was closer to our size, would eat about half of what he required us girls to eat. Eventually my stomach became accustomed to the portions, but I gained several pounds during my time in the program, despite spending the majority of my time working or completing forced exercises.
  • Describe abuse of other students you witnessed, if any:
    During one of my first weeks in Escuela Caribe, my HF made a housemate do exercises for "becoming angry" during a counseling session. She “performed” exercises long past midnight; I could hear her outside the dormitory window. I learned from this incident never to express my true feelings about anything - not a healthy reaction in a supposedly “therapeutic” boarding school.
    - Two girls were molested by a housefather, K. When the school administration learned of K's inappropriate conduct he was fired, but he was never prosecuted. At the same time, a male teacher, R, confessed to looking at pornography with K. Not only did the administration not discipline R, they later promoted him to housefather in a GIRLS' house (see Tara's questionnaire for details about living with him). A few years later, he was convicted by an Indiana court of molesting one or more girls in his charge.
    These incidents should have never happened-the administration knew the staff member had predilections, but they ignored the danger signs, keeping R on staff. Furthermore, the administrator who failed to discipline R kept his position even after R. was convicted of sex crimes.
    - One fellow student asked K, the HF, for permission to use the bathroom for 8 hours straight, but he wouldn't let her because he claimed she was being “manipulative in the way she asked permission.” After dinner that night, she could no longer hold it and urinated on herself in front of the whole house.
    Another HF, JB, singled out a friend of mine. He played mind games with her, ignoring her requests to move from room to room. He abused her often in different sections of the house. We knew she was doing exercises; we could hear him yell. Once he ordered her to do pushups in front of the rest of the house, and when she was physically incapable of completing them (from exhaustion), he insisted that she continue. She kept falling and hitting the patio. The next day she had large purple bruises on her hipbones.
    - There were several students in the program who had obvious mental health issues. Instead of getting the psychiatric help they needed, they were treated as if they had authority problems and kept on low levels. Being on a low level for a long period of time was the kiss of death in the program because the staff would single out low-level students for punishment and humiliation.
    There are many more instances. I am in the process of writing a book detailing the abuse.
  • Do you have any good memories of The Program? If so, what are they?
    I liked hiking in the pine forests. I enjoyed going to the aquarium. I liked going on privileges with Lisa, Liz and Doug, getting to know staff like Eric, Susie and Jay. I enjoyed participating in service projects. I made some friends. It was hard to form deep relationships because everything was monitored, and when you became close to someone, they would confront you for excluding others.
  • What is your overall impression of The Program? Did it “help you”?
    No. I had several sets of house parents; the instability was difficult, especially since most were abusive and/or sadistic.
    I am a teacher and have completed courses on teaching students with special needs. Everything the program does—the strict schedule, the point sheets, focusing on negative behavior, not the positive, etc.—is how you are not supposed to treat children, at least according to the research.
    I would have been much better off had I gone to a normal, rather than punitive, boarding school, or if our family had gone to counseling.
  • What do you think of the quality of education you received?
    Abysmal—we learned from workbooks.
    As a teacher, I realize that a lot of my classmates at Escuela Caribe struggled in school because the administration made no attempt to accommodate different learning styles. Any deviance—behavioral, emotional, academic—was viewed as rebellion.
    I learned to read at the age of four and have always been a self-learner. I attribute this skill to any academic success.
  • How old are you today?
  • Did you go to college after attending The Program? If so, what degrees do you have?
    B.A. in English Literature, M.Ed. in Instructional Technology
  • What is your profession?
    School Library Media Specialist, Writer
  • Do you consider yourself a Christian today?
    I have spiritual beliefs but don't consider myself a Christian.
  • What effect did “The Program” have on your faith?
    Before I entered the program I was a Christian. I was raised in a strong Christian family. Being in the program and being tortured in the name of God changed the way I felt about Christianity. I equate my experience there with religious abuse. I no longer participate in organized religion.
  • Please feel free to add comments here:
    Despite their “certification,” staff members are not certified to treat students with special needs. Any program as isolated as the Escuela Caribe is almost guaranteed to be abusive, by virtue of its isolation.
    According to the National Institutes of Health, boot camp programs like EC do not work, and may exacerbate a student's problems. What does work is utilizing family counseling to address dysfunctional relationships, as opposed to placing the burden of responsibility on the child, who is simply acting out in response to the family's problems.
    Any program that restricts communication is suspect, especially at the level used by Escuela Caribe.
    Escuela Caribe uses excessive physical punishment, emotional and verbal abuse to keep children under control. It has a history of neglecting the health of students.
    Most of my classmates were sent to Escuela Caribe for minor offenses. However, isolating your child with other troubled children, makes deviance become that child's norm, practically guaranteeing they find it difficult to adjust to “normal” life after they are released or find “normal teens” as friends.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Book: Reform at Victory

We were happy to learn that the school that once was named Victory Christian Academy and housed the now deceased author Michele Ulriksen is closing. For many too late. For decades this school and the people behind it had made life miserable for the girls who happened to be captured inside it.

The book "Reform at Victory" is the story about how the author lived through the difficult years when she was forced to live locked up on the campus of the school.

The school was placed in California until an accident killed one of the girls and the authorities forbade the management from ever running a school in California again. They moved to Florida where religious school could do whatever they liked until the free and independent press decided to investigate the boarding school business in Florida and found evilness which forced the authorities into action. Being put under pressure the management decided to close their school before they could be forced to do it.

Sadly Michele Ulriksen is no longer among us. The past she the school gave her was a heavy luggage to carry through life despite her actions to write it down and put it on paper.

She would have been happy to learn that the school is closing. We can only hope that she is happy where she is now.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Red Rock Canyon School testimony

The statement was given on the message board belonging to the HEAL-online organization. All rights belongs to the unknown author

Hello, my name is ******* **** and I am 16 years old.

Orange County Mental Health and the Capistrano Unified School District recommended me to go to Red Rock Canyon School through the courts because I was truant. On March 14th, I was arrested at court and held overnight and at 6:00 am Westfield, or Westerfield Transporters came and picked me up and drove me out to Red Rock Canyon School. They were nice. Apparently, my mom did not sign the papers but my father was manipulated into signing them.

The courts made Red Rock out to be something much greater than it was. Anyhow, I was told on the way there by the transporters that right when I got there I would be allowed to call my mother and my boyfriend of almost one year. I got there, and they told me that I couldn't write letters to anyone, including my parents, or have any contact with them whatsoever for the first 21 days I was there. Need I remind you, this is a level 14 lockdown facility. I couldn't leave. But for kids there that do try to run and get over the fences, apparently the only requirement for staff members is that they bring the child back alive when they go looking for them. I can recall a story that was told to me by a lady named Gina who worked there about a young girl trying to escape, and when they got her, she did not fight back, but yet they tackled her, stepped on her face, and cracked her jaw.

But back to what I was saying, the first 21 days there were the worst hell. I had to wear these shoes they would call "Jesus Sandals", was only allowed to have my jeans, I had to be "belt looped" everywhere I walked off the unit, and I had to be body searched before and after showers.

Every time we use the restroom we had to have the door 6 inches cracked, no less. I was on Green Unit, and my group leader was Alan Shalby. Him and the registered nurse, Nicole, were the only nice people there. My therapists name was Carol Williams, and I later came to the conclusion that she was a polygamist.

After 21 days, you get one family therapy phone call per week, where you and your therapist talk to your parents on the phone on speaker for 45 minutes. After my second therapy call with Carol and my mother, Carol ended up hanging up on my mother because she was "being rude" and I was "breaking the phone rules". The phone rules were "No cussing, no bashing on staff, no bashing the program, no guilt-loading, and no manipulating/lying". Apparently I broke them by saying that "I didn't feel my medical needs were being met". During my first treatment team meeting, Dr. Shannon told me that my family therapy had been suspended and I wouldn't be allowed to contact my mother for 60 days.

When Carol hung up on my mother that afternoon, my mom knew something fishy was going on. Somehow, she had a man named Kelly come to Red Rock to speak to me about what had happened. Apparently he is the man who "gives these places licenses to operate". We spoke in Brian Pace's office. I brought up the fact that I was scared and didn't quite know what was going on with my mother and how long I would be staying for. He replied by saying that I'm just a child and I shouldn't know what's going on in my life as far as how long I'm supposed to be in "treatment" for, and that adults have more rights that children, therefore I should just listen and behave myself because there's nothing I could do to get myself out of there. About the whole "not meeting my medical needs" part, you see, I have had surgery on my spine 4 times, and to this day there is something wrong with my spine that hasn't been fixed yet.

While I was at Red Rock, whenever I asked for tylenol, they told me to "drink water". After a while, they gave me advil, and I was coughing up blood from it. They did nothing. The following weekend, I had a fever of probably 100% or more, and a horrible cold. I asked a lady who takes care of the "student store", Tami, if she could call my mother just to let her know I was really sick. Tami called my mother and told her "Naomi isn't feeling well but she's being given medicine and as much rest as she needs. No worries." My mom didn't know until she got a letter from me that I was given an allergy pill for my cold and fever, yet I have no allergies, and was forced to go sit in the schoolroom and work on schoolwork all day long and was never given a chance to rest. Now about the staff...well there's a lot of shadiness, and a lot of "drama" and rumors breaking confidentiality of the children.

Last year, (I was not there but certain staff members like Annie, Gina, Laura, and Alan Shalby all on Green Unit have told me this themselves) the paramedic, Adam, had sexual relations with a young girl in the program. They brought it up to him and questioned her, but when they came to the child, she put the attention on someone else, and he was never given a consequence. In fact he still works there. Even the days I was there, I would see him flirting with all of the young girls, ages 12-17. In my unit, there was actually and 11 year old girl there, when the minimum age was 12, who was placed there for "attitude problems".

Anyhow, another horrible staff member was Melvin, the weekend supervisor. He was always going around, staring inappropriately at all of the young girls. There was a girl named Sabrina who was there while I was, and he apparently "wanted to be with her". Which is quite interesting, considering Melvin is waiting for his child to be born. The mother of the baby is a woman who worked at the front desk, and they conceived the baby on the Red Rock campus in Melvin's office. And Darlene have her down as "Girl's Resource Room". Darlene is the IEP teacher for both girls and boys, and Tami M. is who the boys and girls go to for resources, such as toiletries, clothes, ect. Oh, and Vincent, the PE teacher; when I told him I had back problems so I couldn't participate in PE, he let me sit out everyday, but he would never call me by my name- he would call me "broke back", making fun of the fact the I have rods and screws up and down my entire spinal cord.

And Brent...well he is very manipulative. He is the person that loves making sure these poor kids are becoming institutionalized, so they think that it isn't "wrong" for them to be there. Now, Oscar. Oscar is very scary. There is a ground of four girls on Coral Unit who always physically beat up the most vulnerable girl in their unit at the time.

As a punishment, Oscar would make them all go into a small room together called "RI", or "re- investment", from 5 AM until 11 PM. They would eat their meals in there. The RI rooms are very cold and you aren't allowed to have any of your belongings including your sweater or shoes until you get out. Oscar would send them there daily for this amount of time. Bo Hunt is Oscar's sister, or they are related in some kind of way. There was never a day where I didn't walk by Bo and see her screaming at a different kid each time, putting them down, making them feel at fault about everything bad that's happened to them. Kaitlynn Robertson is the Green Unit teacher, and she is a drunk. She'd always come into work very hungover, and very grouchy towards all of the kids. She rubs it in the children's faces that she gets to go home at night, but we don't. Angela, the nurse, was another large problem for me. She was always very rude, and when I would ask for help with my back pain, she would always tell me I was "drug seeking". Excuse me if I said this once before, but to kindly correct your information, Alan Shalby is the group leader on Green Unit. Steel Unit is no longer running, but before I left they were going to open it back up again because all of the other male units were filling up. Green Unit was very crowded. There were two bunk beds and one normal bed in my room, which I'm sure exceeds the legal population of a tiny room in a place like this. Kasey Nelson no longer works for Red Rock either.

This place is very unhealthy and unsafe for children. I was there for fourty- something days. With barely any contact with my mother, I prayed to God every night that he would bring a miracle my way. In the end, he answered my prayers, and my mother drove out and picked me up and pulled me from the program out of the blue and placed me in a very nice dual diagnosis treatment center that was a 60 day program in Long Beach, CA called Center for Discovery. My therapist at Center for Discovery saw the report and told me she was disgusted to the point of vomiting from reading all of the nasty, untrue things they wrote on the report about myself. I was released from there on May 24 and am at home now.

I apologize for my email being so scattered, but hopefully this information will be useful. I saw my surgeon two days ago, and I'm waiting for the CT scan to come back. The second I find out what is wrong with my spine, my family is going to be filing a lawsuit against them for not meeting my medical needs while I was there and not meeting my therapeutic needs. There are a few things that I left out. Sherman Habibian, the owner, is engaged to a nurse in the clinic at RRCS named Lacey. And also, they have two potbelly pigs there at Red Rock in a pen, and the students sexually abuse the poor pigs all of the time. Sources:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shoiryu at Thayer Learning Center

This testimony was found on Livejournal. All rights belongs to the author known as Shoiryu:

This particular post is about my own three month experience in a behavior modification facility. A boot camp.

In 2002 I graduated high school a year early. I was very smart but not very experienced in the ways of the outside world. I've always been very good socially, but I'd never really held a job for very long or done much outside of my family. Never been in any trouble with the law, never drank or smoked or had sex or anything like that. Blah blah. I went off to a very expensive art college, a very long way from home.

While there I essentially crashed and burned out in the first few months. I became lethargic and depressed. I slept all day and skipped every class, became essentially a shut in for a month or two. Basically, I failed out, and had to be taken home again. I was pretty numb about it, to be honest. That was near the middle of November, 2002. I was seventeen.

At home I continued to be depressed and unmotivated to do anything at all. I'd been prepped my entire high school career for this illustrious success at college, and failing at that was difficult for me. My parents sent me to a new therapist, who spoke to me a lot about "God's plan" for me, which put me automatically into a distrustful position with her as she persisted after I told her I wasn't Christian. I told her nothing. I basically sat at home all day, being sad and feeling lost and not knowing what to do with myself. I spent quite a bit of time on the internet, talking to my friends. Trying to find answers.

At the end of January 2003, my parents informed me that my therapist had recommended I be sent to a "special school". It was described in those exact words. I had visions of kind of a boarding school, which was odd to me, as I already had my diploma. It wasn't a college, either. They asked me how I felt about this school, and if I'd like to go... I said, probably not, thanks. I was then informed that I had been enrolled anyway, and I was to arrive there on February 2nd.

To make a long story short, my parents enrolled me in a "facility for problem students", AKA, a boot camp, those things you seen on daytime television, where Jerry Springer sends mouthy kids off into the woods to get yelled at by fuckwads in military costume. The thing is, that doesn't even really scratch the surface of what these places are like. They're tailored for violent and/or "troubled" kids, neither of which I was.

I spent three months in the facility. It was military run. When we were bad, we exercised until we passed out. When we were too good, we were also made to exercise to the point of exhaustion. Children were hooked to the back of 4-wheelers and dragged when they wouldn't run at exercise time. We were made to scrub and clean every inch of the facility, daily, until our fingers blistered. We were made to eat whether we liked it or not, some children to the point of vomiting. Some children were then made to eat their vomit. We were made to wet our pants by being denied bathroom breaks when they were needed, and being forced to drink excessive amounts of water. Medical complaints went entirely ignored. We learned to say "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" to anyone and everyone, because we were the lowest of the low. We learned that we had been Bad, and now it was time to be broken down and rebuilt. We learned to march in formation. We learned that we were worthless, and we were liars, and that the only way to survive was to suck up, and kicked the other children around until they, too, marched as they were told and kept their eyes pointed forward. Our letters were censored for any mention of problems, pain, or fear.

While there, I turned eighteen (Feb 17th) and thus a legal adult. I attempted to escape, but the facility was located in the middle of the Missouri wilderness and there was nothing to do but hike a mile to the nearest store and call my parents, who convinced me that I should go back, because they'd be oh so proud of me if I completed the program. I returned, having nowhere else to go, and no way to get out of Missouri without their help.

Initially I was extremely rebellious. I spent a great deal of time in solitary confinement, which was essentially a small dark room in which I was made to face the wall, and listen to motivational tapes, over and over again, for literal days at a time. A few times I was made to sleep in there, with nothing but my clothing. While in Solitary one was only fed wheat cereal and water. I endured it all right, at first, but eventually it began to get difficult.

There were a lot of head games played in the facility, especially where I was concerned. I was the oldest (and according to the drill instructors, the smartest) cadet, and they delighted in pointing out the latter to the other cadets, in that textbook attempt to turn them against me so that I would then rise against adversity and become an amazing military leader! Mostly I outsmarted them on that front by being everyone's best friend and crying shoulder. I was made leader of the other cadets, and while in charge of them my team was flawless. Our formations were perfect, our bunks clean and neat and tidy, and our manners perfect. We were so perfect that they began to wake us up in the middle of the night, at one and two am, to exercise until we were exhausted. I think they were trying to see if they could get us to crack. Half of my girls were promoted to the next stage of the program under my leadership, myself included. I think that was my first step towards succumbing to the brainwashing, honestly.

See, brainwashing is a strange thing. When you're in a situation where there is no way to escape what's going on, eventually the people who are hurting you become the people you want to please. It's difficult to avoid. I consider myself an individual of strong mind and personality, but I fell under it, to be honest, and for the last month or so of my time in the program, I was effectively brainwashed. I lived and breathed the program even as I was exercised so hard I cracked a rib. I loved it as I watched them force a girl allergic to orange juice drink two glasses full. While they made a Hindu child eat meat, and then eat her own vomit. It was her own fault, after all. She should have known better. Nothing comes before the program.

About a week before I left, I began a day where I couldn't stop crying. I wasn't feeling anything, to be honest. A quiet blankness, but there were tears streaming down my face, and I was sobbing. I attempted to explain to a drill instructor, reasonably through my sobs, that I thought something was wrong with me. Perhaps I needed to speak to someone. I was told to run laps. I collapsed eventually in hysteria, and was demoted back down to the first level of the program for my upset. That night I was forced to sleep on a stone floor with only a sleeping bag for warmth, in the midst of very cold weather. I think I was beginning to come out of it, then.

The next day I informed the staff I was leaving. They laughed at me and mocked me openly, taunting me and saying that I had nowhere to go, no one to run to. There was no escape. But I was pretty zen. As the sun set that day I took my sleeping bag and walked out of the facility for the second time, in dirty smelly sweat clothes that hadn't been washed in days. My rib was still cracked, and my right knee was screwed up from another injury I'd received there that hadn't been properly treated. (A seriously infected gaping hole in my kneecap, which I'd bashed open on broken cement while being forced to run from the main hall to the dining hall within a certain amount of time; I was only given a doctor's care for it when I could no longer walk properly on the leg.) I left all my of my other stuff behind.

I walked for four miles. Several times people who worked for the facility would drive up along side me in their cars, asking me, don't you want to come back? Aren't you being silly? I told them all, quite literally, to fuck off. Eventually, I found a gas station with a pay phone. I called my father collect, and informed him that if he didn't buy me a plane ticket home immediately, he would never see me again. After a few minutes of discussion, he bought it, a flight that left the next day. I was asked to return to the facility for one more night.

That night was spent sleeping in an entirely seperate room, so that the other cadets could not see me. I was not to speak to them, not to give them any indication that I even still existed at all. (Other girls had disappeared from the program similiarly; we were always told they were sent to the more "violent" facility in Mexico.) Eventually, the owner of the facility drove me to the airport. I told him, also, to fuck off when he attempted to tell me he was disappointed in me for not completing the program. I got on the plane and flew home.

The last thing I remember of that May was meeting my parents at the airport. My next memory is two months later. There is a blank spot in my memory there. I moved out of my parents house that November and into my first apartment in this city, a city I've lived in ever since.

I have triggers, yes. I have a lot of them. They come up in odd ways and at odd times. There's a scene, for example, in the movie V for Vendetta that I have trouble watching, as it reminds me intensely of my solitary confinement. I see a therapist twice a week for PTSD and other issues. I panic sometimes if I feel the urge to use the bathroom, because my subconscious says I won't be allowed to. I'm terrified of letting anyone know that I'm injured or sick or feeling emotionally off. And I bristle up into good soldier mode sometimes, when the right words and attitude are aimed at me. It's been almost four years since my time at the facility, and I'm pretty sure it's never going to fully leave me.

But. I am all right. I am okay. There is that soldier's kneejerk, that "obey or something terrible will happen" feeling. It's not pleasant, but I deal. I am happy, I am whole. It does not rule my life.

Editing this to add a few random horrific things I can remember.

I was told by a drill instructor while there that those of us who had had trouble holding our bladders thanks to all the water we were drinking just weren't concentrating on it hard enough, because a human could go a whole week without urinating. That was, of course, at the point at which the bladder would simply burst instead.

I was told by girls who had been there before me, about being forced to clean out the old basement of asbestos, with bare hands.

I heard of more than one allegation of female cadets being raped, though I never witnessed anything like that.

Most girls, when they were brought in, would have their hair forcibly cut.

A boy died at the place I was sent. In 2004, one of the male cadets was bitten by a brown recluse spider. The facility told him he was faking. He suffered for a week before he died. According to the reports from the case, the other male cadets were forced to drag him into the showers and out again.

We were required to write letters home once a week, but we absolutely could not write anything negative in them at all. They would be carefully read and reviewed before being sent out. Any mention of negative feelings, or negative reports about the facility, and the letter would be given back to be re-written. Punishment was usually doled out afterwards. Similar things happened with phone calls home, in higher levels of the program.

Often times, if you didn't drink all of your four full canteens of water a day, it would be dumped on you. This was in winter, mind you, in Missouri, where it snows.

May add more as I remember them.

Editing to add further: For those of you who're coming here from other peoples' links, hi! Please please please feel free to pass this account on, or to post it in your LJs. The more people who hear about this sort of thing, the better.

The biggest reason that these facilities get away with what they do-- and I will tell you right now that there are hundreds of children in America suffering in them as you read this-- is because nobody hears about them. It sounds entirely sensational when survivors come forward to tell their stories. Many get called liars, especially when/if the facilities get wind of stories being told. Likely, if you tell the nearest person on the street, they won't believe you. I, for one, would love to change that someday.

The youngest children in my facility were twelve(male) and thirteen(female). They were treated with the same amounts of cruelty as the rest of us.

The facility closed in 2009. One boy died at the facility. The owners have been sued by parents.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book: Lake Convict

The book covers a dark chapter in the area. Years ago a terrible accident happened when teenagers fell through the ice. Several people came to their rescue and some of them lost their lives as well.

The teenagers came from a camp where they excelled in behavior modification. It is not known how the employees were trained. The court system secured an agreement with the owners that they never would establish a program in the state again.

The owners started a new program in another state and it only took a few years before a teenager was discovered on his own at sea while he was trying to escape the program.

The book focuses on the impact the tragedy had on the local community.

It also questions why many programs like Camp O'Neal to this very day continues to hire employees with no or very little training. A terrible accident happened in 2010 in Utah. Two teenagers were killed in a traffic accident. The driver was no professionel driver. In 2011 a poor driver with many fines on his record managed to kill another teenager in Florida.

Maybe it is all about profit. We don't know how much the care of the teenagers in their care count in their mind but it seems that the teenagers are looked upon as a necessary burden - a cost needed to run the business.

For more information about this book please visit the home using the link below:


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Heather Harding at CEDU (

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 Heather Harding, who posted the original story on

My name is Heather Harding and I give full permission to use my statement.

Cedu Survivor June 1989- Dec 1991

I attended CEDU school in Running Springs, California from June 26, 1989 until December 7, 1991. I was 14 years old when I arrived and graduated the program 3 days after my 17th birthday.

On the morning of June 26, 1989 I was abruptly awoken by a bounty hunter standing over my bed and telling me to get moving. He was recommended by the school and/or the educational consultant that handled my case. I arrived to the campus, was toured, and then taken to the administration building to say goodbye to my father and supposedly sign away my rights to tell anyone outside what happened inside. Legal action was threatened regularly if ANY information was divulged to the outside or people inside that had not gone through the experience yet. I was too young to know that this was illegal.

The Program:

The program consisted of seven 24 hour emotional growth based "propheets", one 3 day workshop, one 6 day workshop, three wilderness trips (a 3 day, 5 day and 14 day trip), 30-36 hours of physical labor (work crews) per week and 12 hours of "group" therapy (raps) per week.
The basic layout went as follows: (meals excluded for simplicity)

  • Monday Wednesday, Friday: You would have 4 hours of work crews in the morning and a 4 hour rap in the afternoon.
  • Tuesday, Thursday: You would have work crews for 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon.
  • Saturday: Saturday work crews where the entire campus would be cleaned top to bottom for 4-6 hours
  • Sunday: 2-4 hours of cleaning with free time in the afternoon

Work crews changed every 6 months. The first six months you would chop wood with a cross cut saw and sledge and wedge. The second six months you would work on the farm taking care of the animals. The third six months you would maintain and add to an upper and lower ropes course. The last year of the program you would do miscellaneous chores. This was supposed to be the major time for classwork, yet I only attended one class during that entire time which was about an hour long and we talked about PeeWee Herman getting caught in an adult theatre.

Every evening after dinner there was "free time" called floor time where people would share personal stories and "smoosh". If you had been in trouble you would also fulfill your punishment at this time called dinner dishes.

Dinner Dishes: You are assigned an area to clean by an upper school student after dinner (pot and pans, upper level, lower lever, etc.) Bans were enforced where you could not acknowledge any other person, could not smile, be touched, talk, sing and could only be speak if spoken to by an approved peer or staff. The detail usually lasted 1-2 hours with Deep meaningful conversations or personal beration for whatever you did to get into trouble. This was the lightest punishment anyone would receive, usually for leaving your snow boots in the closet overnight or something similar. It was also mandatory during harsher punishments like a Table or Full Time.

Table and Full Times: This was a harsher punishment for breaking an agreement on accident or deliberately. It consisted of your regular rap cycle Monday, Wednesday and Friday. During your regular work crew times you would be doing "work assignments" or "work details". These consisted of hard labor that usually had no real purpose. Many people would work at digging a hole that is 6 feet deep just to fill it back up. The point is to see how "You dig holes in your life" or "run yourself into the ground". During any other free time you were restricted to sit at a table in the dining room with a hard wooden bench and would have to work on writing assignments which were usually harsh and defamatory. You were on a ban from the entire school except approved upper school students and faculty. You were not allowed to be touched, smile, sing, laugh and could only speak when spoken to. You were escorted everywhere by the upper school student who was running your table. Tables could last several weeks. Full Times were longer tables that could last between 1 and 3 months. People on tables were an easy target in raps and usually suffered extreme defamation and verbal abuse at the hands of their peers and faculty. If you tried to run away from the school a Full Time was an absolute once the police or bounty hunter picked you up and brought you back. If you refused and continued to not participate the school would recommend a 21 day.

21 day: Many kids were taken from the school and put on a 21 day in an attempt to get them to cooperate. It is a harsh wilderness experience ran by an affiliated program like Ascent or Outward Bounds. I did not experience one so I will not make a personal comment, but if you did not succeed at the 21 day and come back the CEDU, Provo Canyon in Utah was usually suggested by the school to your parents. I knew many many kids that went on 21 days, one in particular that did 3 consecutive 21 days... (a 63 day)

Propheets: There were seven 24 hour propheets based off of chapters in Kahlil Gibrans book "The Prophet" They propheets get their name because we were "learning to put feet under the prophet" Supposedly learning "tools" that would later help us succeed in life.

Here is list of the propheets in order through the program
  • The Truth
  • The Childrens
  • The Brothers
  • The Dreams
  • The I want to live
  • The Values
  • The Imagine

The basic outline of propheets were the same during the 24 hour period, but the intensity and harshness increased with each one. Basic outline: Your "peer group" enters a secluded building away from the rest of the school at around 5pm. All the windows are covered so you never know what time it is. The kids would sit in a semi-circle of hard chairs with one of more faculty at the front in plush arm chairs. Dirt lists are written and disclosure circles start. A few emotional growth based exercises and bio-energetic exercises are done with the attempt to weaken you. These exercises are usually harsh in nature and the faculty will take personal experiences from you and berate you with them. (example: If you were molested by an uncle... they would yell something around the lines "Yeah, you deserved it didnt' you..... You asked for it because you are a whore". Most were physical and emotionally humiliating. A certain song designed for each propheet would be played repeatedly for hours on end. Around 2 or 3am, a rap is started. You would only be allowed to wear a short sleeve shirt, sweatpants and socks. The room was kept at around 50 degrees all night and faculty would come up behind you and slap their hands really loud if you were to fall asleep and make you stand behind your chair. This rap would end around 6 or 7 am where you would have some meaningless uplifting exercise, eat a small breakfast and take a nap for 1 hour or so. The rest of the propheet (about 6 hours or so) was designed to "build you back up". The next day exercises were usually soft in nature. Unfortunately, the emotional trauma, physical exhaustion, and malnourishment would defeat any feel good moment. You would exit the propheet around 5pm the next day and re-introduce yourself to the school and share your newfound personal wisdom.

The Workshops were similar with harsher exercises and lasted 3 days or 6 days. These experiences were pinnacles in the program. You would get your next set of issues to deal with in each propheet and expand on prior propheets.

In my 3 day workshop they made me lay on the ground, bite on a towel while keeping my head on the ground and pull up as hard as I can while they played the rocky theme song several times. My meniscus disc in my jaw joint was displaced anteriorly and posteriorly. They would not let me see a doctor for several months until my parents demanded it. Scar tissue developed on the joint making it difficult to do the surgery and the doctor hit a main nerve and half of my face was paralyzed for almost 3 months. During this time the school only allowed me 2 eye drops per day.

The belief was that I really didn't have a physical injury. They told me to "take care of my feelings" and everything would be ok. My physical wellness was neglected for almost 5-6 months. I have had 2 other surgeries for this injury after leaving CEDU.

This is only the tip of the iceberg that was CEDU school. This is only an outline of a few key ingredients. Day to day you were berated and I personally lived in fear of doing anything because any faculty at any time could make it "out of agreement". An example: I used to yelled at for having curly hair (which I was born with!?!?!) One faculty decided that if my hair was curly I was "off"... if I was "off" I had done something out of agreement. I would be a sitting duck in raps for all the school to attack. Punishments were typically ludacris and irrational. I was put on a table just before I graduated only because I had not been on a table yet. The staff also liked to put you in lose lose situations that would end in work details or worse.

17 years have passed since I graduated from this program. I left with no high school education and started college at an 8th grade level. I did receive my high school diploma somehow from CEDU which boggles my mind. I was later told that the state had approved the program and that I got math units for chopping wood and english credits for floor time. This is ludacris! My parents paid an extremely expensive tuition for me to be physically and emotionally abused while doing free labor. And the worst part, to this day they don't know what I actually went through while I was there. I wasn't allowed to tell them while I was there and now, they just don't want to hear it. I am just coming to terms with what happened at CEDU.

Again, My name is Heather Harding and I give full permission to use my statement.

CEDU war a large organization and very much founded the term "Therapeutic Boarding School". The first CEDU school was opened around 1968 and all the school closed in 2005 due to some lawsuits.

Datasheet about the boarding schools from the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on Youthrights
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