Behavior modification schools under intense scrutiny.
April 21, 2005 5:33 AM   Subscribe

WWASP stung by alleged victims, goverment and watchdog organizations. The WorldWide Association of Specialty Schools, a program that manages a series of domestic and overseas behavior modification schools for "troubled teens" is under intense scrutiny right now by a lawmaker in Calfornia who just filed legislation requesting more oversight, officials in New York investigating various claims against their Ivy Ridge Academy (PDF) & Utah looking into Majestic Ranch, recently having an offer turned down to purchase property for a school in Boonville, Missouri, and having to file a lawsuit against the International Survivors Action Committee, a watchdog organization closely monitoring WWASP and its large network of educational consultants, recruiting companies, transport services, real estate ventures, and lots of Limited Liability shell companies.
posted by bkdelong (11 comments total)
This kind of stuff keeps happening over and over and over again and WWASP still survives unscathed. I suppose it's nice to have this much happening simultaneously as it will hopefully bring more light to the situation.

WWASP and Ken Kay are smart. They have so many LLCs, Management Companies and other corporations in between that they can perfectly and legally say that WWASP has no affiliation with these schools. However there is a huge, tight network of transport companies that transfer kids to and between schools, (often staffed by parents and former "inmates"), "educational consultants" who make money referring kids to these schools, (often parents with kids in WWASP schools or had at one time as well as former WWASP employees), schools setup by former WWASP employees not directly affiliated with the organization but often receiving funding or placements through them and affiliate organizations......the list goes on and on.

You can have a FIELD DAY on the Utah Department of Commerce site doing Business Entity and Registered Principal searches starting with Robert Lichfield and following his relatives, partners and former employees. It's fascinating to see his brothers, sisters and brothers-in-law get in on the act and just how wide these connections spread.
posted by bkdelong at 5:41 AM on April 21, 2005

As a child, I would have been horrified at the prospect of being farmed out to such an institution. The power and control parents have over their children is not a right but a privilege and a responsibility. I can't think of few things worse than the abuse of that trust. However, it seems a natural extension of the "children as chattel" and "cruel to be kind" viewpoint espoused by the American religious right-wing.

That such schools can continue to operate by closing and moving on, or operating outside of legal jurisdictions is abhorrent and something should be done, and quickly, to close the loopholes in the law that permit this kind of extraordinary rendition for kids.
posted by axon at 6:31 AM on April 21, 2005

Speaking of "control", I've noticed that's the reason many parents turn to places like this - they want to have full control over their children and realize they don't or can't anymore.

One of the first things that happens after the child is sent away or "kidnapped" in the dark of night by "escort agencies", is the parents participate in seminars run, staffed, or provided curriculum by Resources Realizations which has its roots in est and Lifespring.

The parents are torn down by facilitators and then lifted back up in an incredible rollercoaster of emotions that exposes their own intense psychological issues. IANAPsychologist but this comes from talking with parents and reading their experiences. It is also drilled into parents that everything negative their children send them in letters or phone calls are manipulative - so there's very little chance of kids being believed unless their parents have strong faith in them.

I wish I could find ,ore parent's accounts of TASKS, Discovery etc.
posted by bkdelong at 6:53 AM on April 21, 2005

The power and control parents have over their children is not a right but a privilege and a responsibility.

I don't know exactly what to think about this. To say it is not a right seems to me to imply that either there should be some watching oversight that sets acceptable bounds on parental behavior, which DOES have the right to power and control over the children, or that people themselves are the only ones who have that fundamental right, regardless of age.

I don't feel comfortable with your use of privilege there honestly. I don't know that I think parents should have uncontrolled, unmonitored domination over their children at all times, I just don't think there's a better possible scenario. I don't buy into the idea that there's a board of politician staffed people out there that are the ones who really have the power over your children, or have a deeper, truer connection and right to try and raise your children than you do.

I don't really know how to say this exactly, because I can't get around the fact that there are abused children out there, really abused children, and if I saw a child being abused, I don't know if I could or should resist the urge to grab them and run. I'm not sure. But it is not my right to do that I don't think.

I know that giving parents free permission to raise their children any way they want results in some really messed up kids, even with our current system this happens all the time. I know that probably I'll get a response to this from someone who is grateful to some overseers for being removed from an abusive situation. But it just doesn't seem like our right as a society to me. Even if it ruins people's lives.

I could easily see myself, if I had a child diagnosed with, say, ADD, deciding that it was ludicrous to medicate my child so that they would be more docile and controllable in a classroom, that my child's personality, whatever human flaws it had in it, was something precious to me and I wasn't willing to try and change it. I would throw any medication I got for him/her away. Would that make me abusive? Would I lose my parenting privileges or license? I don't think that my actions in that above situation must necessarily be how every caring parent reacts, but I think that they should have the choice, and it is necessary to honor that right of theirs above any other that I can imagine.

It is a responsibility, but there is something flawed to me in thinking that it can be both a responsibility and a privilege. It's a responsibility that isn't escapable or removable as a privilege is, and molding a human being is such an overwhelming task that I'm sure that everyone who has done it recognizes their own failures, but it is no outside force's right to judge.

I'm not sure that my thoughts on this are completely fleshed out, I just saw "privilege" and I had to say something. This might be one of those situations where I think something that is completely insane and incapable of implementation. I'm sure there are flaws, I'm sure this is a slippery slope, I'm sure foster/adoptive parents can be just as loving as biological ones (and I'm not trying to make that distinction, if a child is adopted no one should have rights over the adoptive parents either), but I'm also very very sure that parenting should not be a privilege that can be taken away.

On an actually on topic note, that company sounds horrible and their manipulation of troubled families seems absolutely diabolical. I do hope they are shut down.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:03 AM on April 21, 2005

To say it is not a right seems to me to imply that either there should be some watching oversight that sets acceptable bounds on parental behavior

Strictly speaking there is: it's called society. Society dictates you cannot abuse your children, for example, regardless of your parental rights. That aside, your argument is somewhat strawman. I make no suggestions of a "watching oversight", only that a parent's power over their children is not a right, like a property right, but a position of responsibility. Since it can be abused it should never be absolute.

I don't think that my actions in that above situation must necessarily be how every caring parent reacts, but I think that they should have the choice, and it is necessary to honor that right of theirs above any other that I can imagine.

Honor their rights over the rights of their own children? I think I would definately disagree there.
posted by axon at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Society is I think a poorer judge. I would absolutely put parent's rights first.

And I wasn't trying to strawman, only look at how it is done in current society. We have groups that represent the will of the society, and they do wield a power of oversight. I don't think it is flawed at all to take that stand. It can be abused certainly, but that fact alone doesn't mean that it is even possible to create a system that fairly addresses that abuse. Maybe I personalized them as evil figures too much, but I still don't think it is completely unfair, because we do use small groups of people to make judgements like this.

Yes, even though I can imagine some truly horrible cases you could throw at me because I take this stand, I think their rights should be honored over rights of their children until their children reach adulthood. I don't see the alternative really.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:32 AM on April 21, 2005

It seems to me that there are limits to what "children" can be subjected to. If these are children, then this environment seems inappropriate and abusive. If they are not children, then being subject to such an environment in absents of court proceeding is wrong. Being held against their will, incommunicado, without recourse, is criminal.

These people are profit motivated. They are out to convince parents that their adolescent is "troubled" and would benefit from their "program". And the definition of "troubled" morphs into whatever it takes to fit the behavior and the parent's expectations.

I long for the day when these bastards that go to take youths by force, in the dark of night, end up shot dead in honest self defense.
posted by Goofyy at 9:17 AM on April 21, 2005

Society is I think a poorer judge. I would absolutely put parent's rights first.

Even when those parent's are abusive? There are many examples when a parent's right should be ignored for the safety of a child.

I have to admit, I dissent from this view that children are things that can be used anyway by their parents short of grievous bodily harm or murder. The example of deporting children to countries with lax protection of children is a perfect example of how this kind of viewpoint can, and is regularly, abused. Children's rights and parent's rights should be considered in balance, and one should definitely not trump the other.
posted by axon at 10:08 AM on April 21, 2005

I knew a girl that went to the school they mention in Boonville, MO...she talked about rampant abuse (sexual/physical/mental) by both students and "guards." Uggh...I don't think most parents realize that they are building a PERMANENT wall between them and their child. This makes me so effin' angry...
posted by schyler523 at 10:42 AM on April 21, 2005

Yes but when people refer to children's rights they always (as far as I've seen), place somebody in charge of protecting and administering, and even defining the scope of, those rights. I think that should be the parent's job and not society's. I don't think that children are things, (I mean any more than any person is a thing, technically I suppose everybody is a "thing" but they are all people as well). They haven't reached whatever magical age it is that we ascribe self-sufficiency to, and it is the parent's responsibility not only to raise them well but define what raising them well means to them personally.

I know there are situations where we can all agree that a parent has crossed a line, murder being the easiest to look at. And in those situations parents should be prosecuted. But I don't feel comfortable with the level of definition of "acceptable parenting" that I see around me personally. I don't think that it is the government's business and I would rather accept the fact that some children would be grievously harmed by the lack of a system than empower a group or society or whatever to remove children from their parents against their wishes. I think it is really horrifying to call parenting a privilege.
posted by SomeOneElse at 2:54 PM on April 21, 2005

Writer sneaks into WWASPS sales meeting
posted by inksyndicate at 4:31 PM on April 21, 2005

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