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April 19, 2009 1:05 PM   Subscribe

An Oregon School for Troubled Teens Is Under Scrutiny (TIME) - Allegations at of abuse at the facility have been made for decades, and now it is being investigated by the state for the second time. Of course, abuse at private residential facilities for troubled teenagers is nothing new, but some female students at this school claim there was an additional, cruel twist:
One 18-year-old former student and victim of rape wept while recounting what happened to her during a Lifesteps seminar. Jane, who asked not to be identified by her real name, left the school in March. "They had me dress up as a French maid," she said, describing an outfit that included fishnet stockings and a short skirt. "I had to sit on guys' laps and give them lap dances," while sexually suggestive songs, like "Milkshake" by Kelis, played at high volume.
The abusive and humiliating "Lifestep" methodology may have its roots Synanon (Wikipedia), a former self-help group turned violent cult that was finally disbanded after its properties were confiscated and sold by the IRS.

In a related article in the Huffington Post, the author of the TIME piece follows the chain of ownership and ends at Bain Capital, a private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney (who is a retired member but still receives income from it).

(Hat tip to Jezebel)
posted by Kutsuwamushi (76 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is nothing. Christian boot camps for troubled teens have been humilating kids, dragging them with ATVs, beating them and suffocating them to death for years and years.
That doesn't even include the ones in Latin America that you can have your kids kidnapped to to make them stop being gay.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:20 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes, abuse and violence - a historically proven tool for making the world a better place!
posted by yeloson at 1:23 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


...the chain of ownership and ends at Bain Capital...

More about the "chain-of-ownership."
Mount Bachelor Academy is part of Aspen Education Group.

Aspen Education Group is owned by CRC Health Group.

CRC Health Group is owned by Bain Capital.
posted by ericb at 2:01 PM on April 19, 2009


Brings to mind the recent FPP/story regarding privately-owned child-rehab centers, etc.
"On January 26th. two Pennsylvania judges were charged with taking $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care...."
posted by ericb at 2:03 PM on April 19, 2009


I am deeply honored to have a story of mine as an FPP here!!!! That was originally going to be a short article about the Supreme Court case-- the Court will decide soon whether parents have the right to sue for reimbursement for these kinds of places if their disabled child hasn't tried public special ed first. In other words, your tax dollars could be going to pay for this. At $6400 a month per kid!

The teen in the Supreme Court case had ADHD and smoked pot-- and his parents believed Mount Bachelor could provide the "appropriate" education for kids with that disability that his public school couldn't.

Then, I heard from the Mount Bachelor employee who was trying to figure out what to do about the horror stories she was hearing from kids there and the things she was seeing. And then I was drawn into interviewing dozens of people about their experience there and the legal situation.

I'm happy to answer any questions people might have if I can...
posted by Maias at 2:08 PM on April 19, 2009 [56 favorites]


Congratulations on a great story, Maias.
posted by languagehat at 2:22 PM on April 19, 2009


@maias

I didn't know that you were a MeFite! Neat.

@ericb

There was also a not so recent post about these places that came up when I tried to post this one. The horrible stories keep coming, and nothing seems to change about how these places are regulated.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:27 PM on April 19, 2009


And an older story which was turned into a stage play
posted by the latin mouse at 2:27 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Synanon story is awfully familiar. Even the *non name is just . . . hmmm.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:29 PM on April 19, 2009


Remember that Utah State Senator Chris Buttars who got in trouble recently for making anti-gay statements (that they were the greatest threat to America that he knew of) He had actually run one of these kinds of schools before getting into politics.
posted by delmoi at 2:30 PM on April 19, 2009


@maias

This isn't twitter.
posted by delmoi at 2:30 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


More on Synanon.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:34 PM on April 19, 2009


Er, just to clarify, my last comment was directed at Kutsuwamushi for using at-notation for replying to people, which is totally unnecessary. I wasn't using at-notation myself to direct a comment at maias, I was quoting Kutsuwamushi.
posted by delmoi at 2:35 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


~♥~♥Delmoi~♥~&hearts

Sorry, I don't use Twitter. It was around long before that. If I had known it would ruffle people's feathers, I would have chosen something even more annoying for my first MeFi faux pas.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:37 PM on April 19, 2009 [40 favorites]


This isn't twitter.

i can't imagine this place with a 140 character limit
posted by pyramid termite at 2:40 PM on April 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Er, just to clarify, my last comment was directed at Kutsuwamushi for using at-notation for replying to people, which is totally unnecessary.

Ha!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:41 PM on April 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


i can't imagine this place with a 140 character limit

Sounds like what they should have done for April Fool's.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:47 PM on April 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Uh, linked here days ago, but I couldn't FPP it because of the restriction on posting your friends' stuff to the blue.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:58 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Looks like I am going to have to use @ for talking to delmoi and quonsar, now. At the risk of repeating myself ...

@delmoi, pretend the @ is a delicious cinnabun. I made you a Cinnabun, but I eated it!
posted by adipocere at 2:59 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was amused by that @, myself. Thought it was a nice crossover.
posted by Peach at 3:20 PM on April 19, 2009


Mmm... cinnabuns..

thanks languagehat and katsu...

There are complicated reasons why nothing seems to change. A big one, I think, is news coverage that simply tells these stories like "Joe says this program saved my life" and "Lisa says this program abused me."

When you tell them like that-- and throw in some quotes from the people who run the place saying "We need to do tough stuff to get through to kids like this," which not only discredits the kids but supports the methods-- most people just think, oh a few whining brats or at worst, an out of control employee.

When coverage doesn't cite the law that says that this stuff is not allowed in places that work with kids and/or doesn't include commentary from experts who explain that humiliation is never appropriate in "therapy," many people don't understand the problem.

Basically, you can call virtually anything "therapy" for kids and people will think it's OK unless you have experts explaining why it's not therapeutic. Unfortunately, lots of news organizations don't include the expert POV and just do "he said, she said."
posted by Maias at 3:25 PM on April 19, 2009 [15 favorites]


Horribly boring derail. Great article.
posted by billysumday at 3:26 PM on April 19, 2009


Why is there no oversight of these residential treatment programs by State or Federal agencies? Are there no regulations which insist that places where children are housed en masse with people who are not their parents needs to be vetted regularly? Not just treatment programs, but summer camps, etc?

Seems that should have been established a long time ago.
posted by hippybear at 3:31 PM on April 19, 2009


Btw, if you want to see a discussion in which some staffers and supporters of Mount Bachelor Academy try to get the kids who are speaking out to back off (and in the process, make some interesting admissions), see here.
posted by Maias at 3:33 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Joe says this program saved my life"

This reminds me a lot of the psychology behind things like hazing: People justify the suffering they're going through by seeing membership in the group as worth even more.

I wonder if some kids who have been abused at these facilities and go on to say that it saved their lives have convinced themselves that that's what really happened because it helps them make sense of the abuse and not feel victimized.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:42 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


The comment stream of one of Maias' links contained this rather excellent flyer designed to help parents recognize when a treatment program may not be a-okay. (Sorry about the .pdf link. I know they aren't always welcome.)
posted by hippybear at 3:52 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]




i can't imagine this place with a 140 character limit

The arguments would be even more inane.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:15 PM on April 19, 2009


websleuths.com link requires registration.
posted by hippybear at 4:20 PM on April 19, 2009


Thanks for this post. Rather than copy/paste it all over again, I'll just link to a new comment I made in another thread, which I think is relevant here.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:37 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


The problem with these programs is that they are regulated as "boarding schools" and the educational accrediting organizations don't expect to deal with places that are as restrictive as psychiatric hospitals (and often use isolation and restraint) and so they don't have standards and even when they do, they don't police them, as accreditors any way.

Oregon actually *does* have excellent regs for "child caring" agencies which covers Mt. Bachelor.

Here's the relevant section on discipline:

413-215-0076 Behavior Management
...
(6) Discipline Policy. The agency must have and follow a discipline policy that includes prohibitions against all of the following:

(a) Spanking, hitting, or striking with an instrument.

(b) Committing an act designed to humiliate, ridicule, or degrade a child or undermine a child's self-respect.

(c) Punishing a child in the presence of a group or punishment of a group for the behavior of one child.

(d) Depriving a child of food, clothing, shelter, bedding, rest, sleep, toilet access, or parental contact.

(e) Assigning extremely strenuous exercise or work or requiring a child to spend prolonged time in one position likely to produce unreasonable discomfort.

(f) Using physical restraint (see subsection (8)(a) of this rule) or seclusion as discipline

(g) Permitting or directing a child to punish another child.

(h) Using any other kind of harsh punishment.


Congressman Miller's bill to regulate these programs on the federal level was modeled in part on Oregon's language, apparently. This story illustrates why regulations alone aren't enough: you need money for enforcement and enforcers who aren't too close to the industries they regulate.

But having federal regulations would at least be some improvement over none and would show parents that these practices are not acceptable in "therapy." The Miller bill passed the House in Feb and there is work ongoing to intro in Senate.
posted by Maias at 4:40 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, Marisa, sorry to learn about your relative's Straight experience. My book Help at Any Cost has a big section on Straight, as many of the later programs were modeled on it. I profile Richard Bradbury in there--he's the guy who basically kept fighting and fighting till the truth was eventually exposed. He'd been sent there because his *sister* had a drug problem! They had a very scary way of getting siblings into treatment: put them in a small room till they confessed any kind of use at all and then tell the parents they needed to be admitted, too.
posted by Maias at 4:46 PM on April 19, 2009


Christ. We either go all "Won't someone think of the CHILDREN??!!?" or we want to lock them in cages and be beaten. We are fucked up.
posted by rtha at 4:55 PM on April 19, 2009


Once again, this seems like something that regulation and inspection would probably resolve.

Just like the Georgia peanut scandal.

Just like the Wall Street shenanigans.

Just like a whole lot of bad news that we keep getting week after week after week.

I'm all for free enterprise, build yourself a successful company, make piles of money society. But, dammit, we can not allow the miscreants to get away with hurting people in the process.

When all our transactions and socialization was local, this sort of thing was more difficult to get away with: everyone knows what everyone's doing. Now that we are attempting to have a massive society, we need to regulate it. Otherwise the creeps will win.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:56 PM on April 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


The arguments would be even more inane.


But shorter.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:59 PM on April 19, 2009


They had a very scary way of getting siblings into treatment: put them in a small room till they confessed any kind of use at all and then tell the parents they needed to be admitted, too.

I'm actually still kind of shaky after writing all that. So many memories come back to me - the weekly meetings in the large, plain-white room, row after row of children sitting on metal folding chairs, their eyes dead, the "motivations" (you didn't raise your hand to answer a question - you flapped your arms in the air wildly in an expression of being motivated about participating in the program), seeing kids "frozen" (punishment where a child was kept stuck in whatever phase they were in, for whatever infraction some higher-phase kid thought was freeze-worthy), kids just spontaneously weeping at the dinner table. I can't imagine how my relative made it through two years of it, when I only had to deal with it for a few hours twice a week.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:59 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


The St. Petersburg Times (Tampa Bay area) ran an investigative piece on child abuse at the Florida School for Boys today. The school opened in 1903 and the abuse charges started piling up by 1906. The "school" is still open today.

There has to be some sort of linkable mental illness that afflicts a small number of people who work in programs for trouble teens and abuse them. It just seems so common.
posted by photoslob at 5:03 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa, the horrifying thing is that there are Straight-descendant programs-- "host homes" and all-- *still* open in the U.S. and Canada. The end of my book deals with the story of a girl who was held *for 13 years* in one in New Jersey and how she won $6.5 million in a lawsuit against Straight's former clinical director, who ran that place. It was open till 1999, still using "motivating" and all!

Pathway Family Center in Michigan and AARC in Canada are still open, though the web, the economy and exposes have been taking a toll.

The CBC documentary about AARC linked above is worth watching, though it insinuates that KIDS (the New Jersey program based on Straight mentioned above) was the first to use these methods, I think because they didn't want to get into Straight or further back, The Seed and of course, Synanon.
posted by Maias at 5:21 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


the web, the economy and exposes have been taking a toll.

Resources we didn't have in 1989. Well, I'm glad the exchange of information is doing something to shut these cults down.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:31 PM on April 19, 2009


Do any of these places have links back to the 60's/70's large group awareness training courses, particularly the like of Leadership Dynamics, which I believe became very abusive.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:56 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


There has to be some sort of linkable mental illness that afflicts a small number of people who work in programs for trouble teens and abuse them. It just seems so common.

Phil Zimbardo would like a word with you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I wish this place had a KillsALittleBitOfYourSoul tag so I could filter stories like this out. But since closing one's eyes is the wrong response, so instead I'll say thanks.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:22 PM on April 19, 2009


Phil Zimbardo would like a word with you.

...and William Golding with him, no doubt, with Lord Acton next in line.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:37 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Five Fresh, yes, they are directly based on LifeSpring-- which came out of Leadership Dynamics, as did est. Synanon-- similarly confrontational and humiliating and using of "marathon" sessions without food, relief or sleep-- is also a direct influence.

Former Synanon members founded CEDU, an earlier chain of schools that folded following similar abuse claims.

Former CEDU staffers founded Mount Bachelor and still run it.

LGAT/ "human potential movement" stuff left a toxic influence on these places, particularly the ideology that "you are responsible for everything that happens to you."

This is a particularly lovely ideology for people who were raped, survivors of genocidal attacks and people who have cancer.
posted by Maias at 6:41 PM on April 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


The comments on the HuffPo article are something else.
posted by Decimask at 6:42 PM on April 19, 2009


Thanks for writing this, Maias — and thanks, Kutsuwamushi, for posting it. I've got no connection to any of these schools, but it still just infuriates me that they're out there, and I'm glad someone's doing something about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:13 PM on April 19, 2009


The comments on the HuffPo article are something else.

They are indeed, and I've noticed similar comments elsewhere. Looks almost like MBA has got a little team tending to net coverage.
posted by Monsters at 7:29 PM on April 19, 2009


MBA apparently has an online parent bulletin board and they have called and emailed people for letters of support. The staff has also made calls to former students, asking them to retract their negative stories. The state investigators have been informed about these phone calls.

They sent all kinds of letters to every Time exec they could find before the story was published-- and issued this press release, calling me biased.
posted by Maias at 7:44 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sounds like par-for-the-course Cult Reaction Strategy: harrass and inundate. The CoS have been using it for years.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:53 PM on April 19, 2009


It's fascinating, the number of people that the school is able to motivate to post comments on these articles. Do you think they are emailing their followers or calling them on the phone? Or are they mostly sock-puppets, do you think?

I mean, it's a fairly small school, so to have the scores of positive comments about them shows a real diligent effort on their part. As far as cults go, the Scientologists would just send a cease and desist and a lawsuit about the whole thing. These guys get the koolaid drinkers comments. Fascinating.

Do you think they have a committee?
posted by MythMaker at 7:59 PM on April 19, 2009


Wow. I took part in an LGAT. Even in its thrall — they did introduce some damn fine ideas about how to commit to pursuing one's goals — I could see the potential for abuse. A lot of becoming a different person is in identifying and overcoming one's own faults. But as far as I know, no one was getting abused in that LGAT — though, still, I can see where there's potential.

I did a bunch more reading, and it seems to me there was this original powerful idea for gaining self-mastery, and it bifurcated: a branch that is outwardly abusive and subtlely manipulative; and one that is obviously manipulative and only inward abusive (like I said, you're learning about your faults).

An LGAT-style event that many people have experienced is in "adventure training" — a day excursion to go do something fun and challenging, like ziplining or parasailing. A little scary for most people, a little unfamiliar to most people, a lot exhilirating to most people, and a chance for employees to challenge themselves to go for it. The idea being that they'll come back to work energized for change.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:03 PM on April 19, 2009


photoslob There has to be some sort of linkable mental illness that afflicts a small number of people who work in programs for trouble teens and abuse them. It just seems so common.

I think it's nothing more than sexual sadism. In the same way pedophiles seek work as teachers, priests and scoutmasters, sexual sadists seek work as camp counsellors, prison wardens, military interrogators and police. The line of work appeals to them, the culture (traditionally) allows a great deal of independence, a great deal of authority over one's charges, a very strong predisposition from third parties to believe them rather than the purported victim especially in situations where there is a distinct possibility of "victims" potentially being liars, significant leeway to physically restrain or otherwise touch one's charges, few relevant records kept, a strong sense of brotherhood in the profession and tradition of mutual protection against external threats. It's the perfect environment for them.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:15 PM on April 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I mean, it's a fairly small school, so to have the scores of positive comments about them shows a real diligent effort on their part. As far as cults go, the Scientologists would just send a cease and desist and a lawsuit about the whole thing. These guys get the koolaid drinkers comments. Fascinating.

Do you think they have a committee?


Imagine, for a second, the situation a lot of special ed parents are in. Your kid has a learning disability. Or they left the house when they were thirteen. Or they have a substance abuse problem. At any rate, the affectionate, happy, loving child you always wanted and who you wanted to be never panned out. Top it all off with a public school system that more likely than not ignores any problems they have, if it doesn't expel them, and you're desperate for a solution. If you live in rural Oregon, there's probably only one other choice for a school. Maybe you know something's going on, maybe its even happening to your child. But imagine the alternative.

It doesn't excuse their behavior. But posting comments on HuffPo takes far less deliberate ignorance than leaving your daughter in this school, even after all this.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:18 PM on April 19, 2009


The evil LGATs are run by people who "think people won't change until they've suffered enough." Ugh. Sound like the same people who say God is going to punish us.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 PM on April 19, 2009


I spent 3 years of high school here. That field where there is now a couple of sports-courts? I cleared that forest by myself, with chain-saw and pick-axe, all summer long one year, as punishment for calling my parents from an off-campus phone and asking them to let me come home.

Staffed with recent college grads whose primary interest was Christian Leadership Training, there were many times our lives were in danger, and only sheer luck that no one was killed. Many of the kids that were there because of drug/alcohol abuse, not given the treatment they needed to address WHY they were addicts, would do serious damage to themselves huffing gas, sniffing glue/scotch-guard.

I could go on and on. And it really sounds like we were at one of the better places. We had a wrestling mat and boxing gloves in the basement, for fighting out our disagreements, but they never forced a kid to participate, only allowed those that insisted on fighting, a safer environment to fight in.
posted by nomisxid at 8:30 PM on April 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


The thing is... from the Christian standpoint (or at least the sort of fundamentalist that would support this institution), all gays or people who don't submit to Jesus are going to hell... forever. So really anything, anything at all, that brings them "back in line" is a-okay. So they can tell themselves, contentedly, that it's in the child's best interests and all done out of love -- tough love, maybe, but necessary to save their immortal souls.

Those of us without invisible friends see abuse for what it is: simply awful.
posted by LordSludge at 8:49 PM on April 19, 2009


The thing is... from the Christian standpoint (or at least the sort of fundamentalist that would support this institution), all gays or people who don't submit to Jesus are going to hell... forever. So really anything, anything at all, that brings them "back in line" is a-okay.

Ugh, no. Cruelty isn't a-okay.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:55 PM on April 19, 2009


Wait, hang on - I see you used the qualifier "at least the sort of fundamentalist that would support this institution", so alright. But then if that's the qualifier - that only a select few share this viewpoint - why even drag the entire "Christian" heading into this? It doesn't tell us anything about the institution, or why parents send their kids there. Just seems unnecessary.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:06 PM on April 19, 2009


This reminds me of the Stanford prison experiment. The creepy thing is, I can see a continuum between that experiment, these boarding schools, multilevel marketing and some religious groups. It's as though our minds have an exploit that lets malicious programmers alter the way we treat other people, just by telling us that's OK. The exploit doesn't work on individuals, but put a whole lot of people in a room and wham! - they'll do whatever you tell them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:11 PM on April 19, 2009


Cripes. That there was one person in the MeFi core community that has been through a similar system somewhat surprises me; that there are many shocks me. Either I'm blithely unaware that similar problems exist in BC, or this is somehow unique to parts of the USA, no?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:13 PM on April 19, 2009


Either I'm blithely unaware that similar problems exist in BC, or this is somehow unique to parts of the USA, no?

The anti-drug hysteria of the 80s let a lot of predators run wild on other peoples' children, so yeah, in many ways it might have been a very American thing. I don't know very much about how it was in other countries, though.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:16 PM on April 19, 2009


> posted by Kutsuwamushi
>
> ...my first MeFi faux pas.


Wonderful. Just wonderful.
posted by Mephisto at 10:01 PM on April 19, 2009


>Either I'm blithely unaware that similar problems exist in BC, or this is somehow unique to parts of the USA, no?

Without bothering to Google, off the top of my head, I'd guess this is a uniquely American thing: the combination of self-improvement, puritanism, authoritarianism, prurience, and institutionalized sadism seems very American.

Obviously, other countries manifest many of these traits, and sometimes to even greater degrees, but they don't seem to smoothly and readily combine all of them and then neatly package and systematically apply them, as the citizens and officials of our fair nation do.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:02 PM on April 19, 2009


>It's as though our minds have an exploit that lets malicious programmers alter the way we treat other people, just by telling us that's OK. The exploit doesn't work on individuals, but put a whole lot of people in a room and wham! - they'll do whatever you tell them.

I once saw a group of gentle yoga teachers and therapists turn into a bunch of seething, raging sadists, imbued with the kind of fury that got increasingly close to physical violence, within the space of 72 hours... just through repeated in-group vs. out-group suggestion.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:12 PM on April 19, 2009


I think his point was: Because it's a feature of Christian fundamentalism to be concerned about the immortal soul, they would view abuse as OK if it stops the undesirable behavior. The problem I have with this notion is that I doubt it's the most common reason parents send thier kids to these institutions. More likely to me is the desire to shift resposibility to an outside agency that promises results, when they themselves are failing to effect their childs behavior.

There's another dimension to this that I'm surprised no one is mentioning here, and this is the fact that people (teens or not) abusing hard drugs can be dangerous to have in your home. Stealing money to support their habit, less than savory friends around, unpredictable behavior. You can only put up with so much shit from people, whether they are your kid or not. I went through all this and my parents just kicked me out, which straightened me up right quick. I imagine some parents (especially ones that can afford these options) feel that kicking them out would be just abandoning them to the street.

Now, I'm not sure these programs are actually better than the on-the-street alternative. Certainly some kids would just end up in jail, whereas a structured program might keep them out of trouble. But I don't think any parents are sending their kids to these places *knowing* they will be sexually molested, humiliated, or otherwise abused so much as they are at wits end and wilfully ignorant of the conditions of the programs. It's not like they are passing out glossy brochures outlining all the exciting ways they will crush your child.

None of the above is meant to justify the conditions of these places or excuse parents who pack their kids off there for just being normal teenagers (smoking pot, and such), I just don't think it's useful to mischaracterize people's intentions. All that leads to is failing to understand why such programs exist in the first place.
posted by cj_ at 10:17 PM on April 19, 2009 [4 favorites]



>Either I'm blithely unaware that similar problems exist in BC, or this is somehow unique to parts of the USA, no?


Alberta is a US State now?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:48 PM on April 19, 2009


I once saw a group of gentle yoga teachers and therapists turn into a bunch of seething, raging sadists [...] just through repeated in-group vs. out-group suggestion.

That sounds interesting. How did it happen?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:56 PM on April 19, 2009


The leader of a retreat picked out some members of the group and designated them as a subgroup; asserted and reinforced two ideas-- that this subgroup was bad, and that to not be part of the main group was to be part of the subgroup-- over and over; and then singled out and positively reinforced displays of hostility toward the subgroup.

Which is to say, it was textbook.

Utterly transparent, one might think-- there's no way a group of educated professionals-- and mainly humanistic, sensitive, psychology professionals, at that-- would fall for something so obvious and manipulative.

And yet... and yet.

As that's the limit of detail I'm willing to provide on this, for the curious, I'll just say... You know what you imagined when you first learned about the Stanford Prison Experiment, The Wave, et al? Yeah, well, it was pretty much like that.

That stuff works, and predictably-- mob mentality is a powerful thing, a program lurking inside all of us, more or less. (And no, I wasn't involved in running the retreat.)
posted by darth_tedious at 11:42 PM on April 19, 2009


darth_tedious - Why? Can you at least explain why they did this? Was it to demonstrate a point, or was it intentional malice on their part?
posted by vernondalhart at 1:11 AM on April 20, 2009


This story illustrates why regulations alone aren't enough: you need money for enforcement and enforcers who aren't too close to the industries they regulate.

In before the the Randian hoardes, claiming that if they want to inspect child abusers at work, parents should hire their own inspectors -- otherwise, this communistic type of edict would have us all completely demotivated, like the serfs in the USSR or China.

Without bothering to Google, off the top of my head, I'd guess this is a uniquely American thing: the combination of self-improvement, puritanism, authoritarianism, prurience, and institutionalized sadism seems very American.


I agree, but whenever I point that out, I'm reminded that we've got a reality TV show based on the idea of identifying a couple of naughty girls (or Girls Gone Wild) and then shipping them out to one of these places where they get a taste of this particular medicine.

The TV companies and their shills present this tripe as though its some kind of Reithian socially redeeming TV -- in reality, it's just another Caged Heat style fap-fest.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:15 AM on April 20, 2009


I knew a kid who got shipped off to Samoa for doing lines of Adderall.
We never, ever saw or heard from him again.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:36 AM on April 20, 2009


Was probably sent to WWASP's Paradise Cove, which was in Samoa and put kids in an isolation room called "the box," which was just like it sounds, tiny, wooden, hot. The state department eventually made Samoa shut it down, but WWASP still has at least half a dozen sites in and outside the U.S.-- though the notorious Tranquility Bay in Jamaica recently died of financial woes and bad publicity.

Btw, regarding the cult issue, a lawyer I know who is the only one to have won civil cases with damages for kids who weren't dead, says that it is really the parents-- not so much the kids-- who are indoctrinated into the ideology.

At Mount Bachelor, there are apparently "parent weekends" in which they get some kind of LGAT, too-- and WWASP has them as well. The comment boards wherever kids try to speak out about this are usually filled with those people-- and some kids-- saying that the kids who didn't like it are lying, weak, etc.
posted by Maias at 5:16 AM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a line from a fairy story:

MeFi faux pas.

I smell the drinks in an English bar
Be I alive or be I dead
I'll drink that booze till I'm off my head
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:08 AM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Vernondalhart: it seems to have been malice-- members of the subgroup had previously ticked off the group leader--, packaged as instruction.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:53 AM on April 20, 2009


On cult responses to criticism: There's a residential drug treatment program here in San Francisco called Walden House, direct descendant of Synanon, LGAT flavor. As an employee at the administrative offices I had some direct contact with clients but not in any sort of clinical capacity. We did go through some training where we sat in on group sessions called ponds (small inner circle of participants, large outside audience observing) and the one thing that I found disturbing was the way counselors and other staff demonized critics and people who left the program before completion.

Clients were banned from speaking to or hanging out with anyone who had been kicked out/walked out before finishing treatment, and there was a "ban board" in the main hallway listing the most recently excommunicated. I could sort of understand this, there are 100+ active clients at each facility and obviously we didn't want them hanging out with people who might be using drugs.

But it went far beyond that, where any person who left was never reported to do so because, hey, maybe this somewhat brutal residential program isn't what they needed, but always because that person was a "failure" or a "danger" or "self-destructive" and would, the clients were warned, take them along for the ride if they so much as looked in their direction. Never mind that some of them left for more short term and white collar treatment programs, oh no, they were "delusional".

But back to that group session I observed. I remember one of the clinical staff asking another client that only the people who left Walden House had anything bad to say about the program, "and that should tell you something."

Indeed, it told me all I needed to know.
posted by dantsea at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2009


I was just thinking about this thread as I rode the bus past one of the Walden House facilities this morning. I will give them credit for moving away from their Synanon roots and towards more evidence-based treatment modalities over time. Not that they couldn't be better, but oversight from the city and the demands that come with funding have moved them quite some ways. They are licensed and monitored and reviewed, and I think that has made a big difference in how they operate, compared to some of the youth programs and schools discussed here.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:38 AM on April 20, 2009


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