The Cedu Program Resurfaces in Mount Bachelor Academy, Oregon

The Cedu Documentary project is having the intended consequence of starting a conversation about abuses of teens in Cedu-type ‘therapeutic’ reform/re-education boarding schools; from the Oregonian newspaper, reporting on an investigation into the practices Cedu survivors know all too well:

Former students have posted on MySpace and Facebook numerous complaints about the school, ranging from what they characterized as humiliating group therapy sessions to sleep deprivation. Judson DeVries, who left the school in 2007, told The Oregonian he was forced into “very embarrassing” role-playing games.

“Humiliation. Food deprivation. Overwork. Taking away school credits as part of the punishment. Dressing up in French maid costumes and doing lap dances as part of a therapeutic session. It goes on and on,” she said.

Ex-students of Cedu-type schools, (Benchmark, Amity, Northwest Academy, Rocky Mountain Academy and others), describe these practices throughout these pages and in interviews for the documentary. The ‘dress-up role playing’ charge relates to one experience, a six-day workshop in what was called “The Summit” at Cedu.

The executive director of the school is quoted rebuffing and putting a shine on the charges:

“This whole thing is difficult and terrible,” Bitz said Monday. “That a few people might suggest that we’ve abused kids who have already suffered so much. For 20 years we’ve been helping more than 2,000 kids redirect their lives.” […]

Bitz said allegations of public humiliation, sleep or food deprivation are “absolutely not true.”

“We do have a workshop that has role-playing in it,” she said. “Those roles are chosen based on the individual therapeutic needs of the students and they’re done in a positive way so that they can work through an issue.”

If you have insight into the story, or inside information, please contact Oregonian reporter Michelle Cole; michellecole@news.oregonian.com. And as always, please share your experiences, at Fornits, Cafety.org, and here in the Cedu Documentary pages.

Thanks go to AStart for their work in pushing for transparency in the (troubled) ‘troubled teen’ industry.

State conducts two investigations of Mount Bachelor Academy near Prineville

by Michelle Cole, The Oregonian
Monday April 06, 2009, 7:53 PM

SALEM — The state is investigating reports of child abuse at a private school for troubled teens in central Oregon.

Mount Bachelor Academy near Prineville takes in students from around the country. The academy is licensed by the Oregon Department of Human Services, which confirmed it has launched two concurrent investigations.

The first investigation centers on reported abuse and the second on possible licensing violations. State officials would not discuss details of either investigation Monday.

“We cannot comment on the details or timeline of the assessments while they are ongoing. When they are concluded, there may be information that can be shared,” Gene Evans, a department spokesman, said in a written statement.

Former students have posted on MySpace and Facebook numerous complaints about the school, ranging from what they characterized as humiliating group therapy sessions to sleep deprivation. Judson DeVries, who left the school in 2007, told The Oregonian he was forced into “very embarrassing” role-playing games.

Sharon Bitz, executive director of the academy, said the allegations are unfounded.

“This whole thing is difficult and terrible,” Bitz said Monday. “That a few people might suggest that we’ve abused kids who have already suffered so much. For 20 years we’ve been helping more than 2,000 kids redirect their lives.”

Mount Bachelor Academy, in an isolated setting about 30 miles east of Prineville, is licensed as a therapeutic boarding school for up to 125 teens ages 14 to 17 1/2 years old. Tuition is $6,400 a month, and students typically stay 14 to 16 months.

The state Department of Human Services licenses public and private child-caring agencies to ensure that they meet safety and care standards.

But the department admits its resources are stretched, with just two licensing inspectors to keep track of about 240 child care agencies. A bill is pending in the Oregon House that would allow the state to charge for the licenses and use the money to hire more inspectors.

A state licensing inspector last visited Mount Bachelor Academy in June 2008, when the academy’s license was up for renewal. Her report notes that the school had a lot of outdoor activities, a seasoned staff and a program that requires parents to be involved.

But Susan Owren, hired as a part-time van driver last fall, said she quickly heard different stories from the students.

“Humiliation. Food deprivation. Overwork. Taking away school credits as part of the punishment. Dressing up in French maid costumes and doing lap dances as part of a therapeutic session. It goes on and on,” she said.

Bitz said allegations of public humiliation, sleep or food deprivation are “absolutely not true.”

“We do have a workshop that has role-playing in it,” she said. “Those roles are chosen based on the individual therapeutic needs of the students and they’re done in a positive way so that they can work through an issue.”

Oregonian researcher Lynne Palombo and staff writer Brent Walth contributed to this report.

— Michelle Cole; michellecole@news.oregonian.com

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/state_conducts_two_investigati.html

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About Liam Scheff

"Author, Artist, Film, Permaculture." Liam Scheff is a writer, artist and stand-up lecturer on issues that people usually don't make comic books about. (Visit liamscheff.com). Liam's highly-praised book "Official Stories" reveals the complex details behind the myths of our times.

Posted on April 8, 2009, in Surviving Cedu. Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. Jonny Possibly

    “But the department admits its resources are stretched, with just two licensing inspectors to keep track of about 240 child care agencies. A bill is pending in the Oregon House that would allow the state to charge for the licenses and use the money to hire more inspectors.”

    Precisely why regulation will never work. Not enough resources, not enough money, and plenty of people with personal anecdotes who will refute any claim, especially if they are staff, or students currently enrolled and under the influence of the program. Regulating something that is wrong won’t make it less wrong. It will simply lend it credibility it should never have.

    Abolition is the only solution.

  2. morgan genser

    Liam nice work on coming up with this info. I hope Mt. Bachelor does get shut down. Even though we could never shut down Cedu it will be a step in the right direction in getting faculty at Cedu that are teaching now such as Rudy Bentz

  3. Jonny,

    So, we’ll count you as a vocal “abolitionist!”

    I’ll put a vote in for transparency. People sure learn to behave quickly when stories like this break the surface. Don’t discount the power of threat of lawsuit, or public exposure.

    That said, I’m sure there will always be boarding schools of this type. They exist for a multitude of reasons. There will always be bad parents who have a little or a lot of money. There will always be some kids who feel they might do better removed from their home situation.

    So, transparency, transparency, getting the stories to the public.

    I count this as a major victory, by the way, in that struggle. I mean, somebody ‘enrolled’ (or trapped) in one of these places has actually made it to press with a complaint. Just imagine how that would’ve gone at RMA or Cedu. What we wouldn’t have done for a few pairs of prying eyes from the outside, to put a stop to the more outrageous and blatant abuses…

  4. Morgan – thanks to us, for talking about it, and thanks to ASTART – and I hope people with complaints about these schools will make contact: http://astart.fmhi.usf.edu/

  5. CEDU did get shutdown I thought?? I went to Mt. Bachelor Academy and have spoken to the bend bulletin on they’re article about it. Watching the “Surviving CEDU” interviews was like watching students from MBA. The top 6 people left CEDU and went to MBA and started up the program, Bill Hoffman, Sharon Bitz, Alex Bitz, Steve Houghton, Linda Houghton and another lady shes mexican in phase 3 at the school.

    They changed the words “propheets” to Lifesteps once they started MBA. They use the same techniques and what they do there is horrible. I saw a girl in my peer group have to do the French Maid, and another girl was supposed to straddle guys in our first Lifestep but she got kicked out because she didn’t want too, she felt uncomfortable. Alex Bits is a liar about the abusing kids is horrible, he agrees with the program hes been there since the beginning.

  6. I am a former student of Mt. Bachelor Academy, and have been subject to the same types of abuse that were mentioned in this article. The worst part about it is that most of the students won’t talk about what goes on in these “workshops” because they are sworn to confidentiality during and after the workshop. The things that they make you do in these workshops are extremely degrading, humiliating, and could have very damaging effects on people. If you tell any one what happens in these workshops, they punish you by forcing you to do “work projects” all day for a week. On top of that, you aren’t allowed to talk to anybody, and you have to eat every meal alone for a week. What they do at that school is awful, and i garuntee that you wont hear anything positive from a single student, past or present. MBA needs to be shut down!!!!

  7. Ex-amity student

    This is not very surprising to say the least. One of the ex-amity staff members (Ron Cavanaugh) works there. I agree with Liam that this is a major victory. I would like to see the oregonian due a investigation on New Leaf Academy which is where Marci Padgett if the headmaster. The thought of her running a school for young girls gives me the chills.

  8. maurice Verlinden

    Wow guys, so many bad rapps, Ha Ha. You can t bad rapp someone. Rapp box I am from Amsterdam Netherland. The most rotten but greatest city in the world. I graduated in 1985. I was 19. 1 year of Hilltop institute. Bill Rizzly, my educational counselor from NY advised me to go there. I have a rich, tyrannical father. The fucker is still alive today.He payed the school in advance 7.000 USD per month. The dollar was at its highest level 3.85 dutch florin per dollar. He was manipulated into buying a 1 way ticket. So I had no way of going back.

    I was there in the time of Scott Elliot, Randy Lusky, Drena Dinero, Michael Cruciano, Murph Maier, Lynn Lawner, Michael Allgood, and my seriously so lovable Barbara and Craig Cass. I wasn t seriously fucked up back then, and I seriously charged my bateries untill 4 years ago. After I came back from Cedu, I could concentrate very well and I did the FIT Amsterdam Fashion that is. I ran an exclusive leather trademark and I moved amongst well known European Designers. After this I moved into real estate and that went also quite well. BUT It went too well and I got sick of all my FRIENDS. I needed to learn again, and couldn t find level with anyone and I didn feel I was growing. I had no satisfaction. So I started to use Charly of which there is a lot in my City. Then I started to smoke the stuff. Endlessly. I am43 now. I live in Tunesia on the African continent. I started Fashion again.

    Ok. At CEDU I loved Barb and Craig. vActually I am looking for them. Colin too. I don t know it the program harmed me because I only know my life with this experience included. I have made the best dicisions based upon all that I knew then. BUT I am somehow still very different from anything. Some people who didn t run out of my live when I didn t want to be my best, I qualify as very intelligent people. Their functions in life are significant. You should try to hold back the energy, that people are used to receive from you and just temporairily be meaningless to yourself and others. See who runns away. See what happens if you ask to lend some money from a friend. See how you feel when you have no specific pride and ask some back. Well, after this you learned a little more. So life goes on. Now I want to mean something to myself again. If I lift my vinger to pick a booger from my nose, weels will start to turn. But I allready knew that. I just wanted to be a nobody for a while. I won t die. I call it consolidation. Withdraw. I am still an addict on many of the lustfull things in life. I am looking for a beautifull female partner with a nice butt. Like Jennifer Lopes or Byonce. I actually made a jacket for her.

    Well Thanks for having the opportunity to spill my gutt. I am under the impression that you understand. Love Ya. Gimme a Huggggg. I hope not to get indefinite dishes or other sanctions Sincerely yours. Maurice. Helpe to find Barb and Craig Cass

  9. public humiliation is a founding principle of the cedu schools. It was how you pulled people up was scene every day in raps

    Sleep depervation and role playing and so called behavior modification was the very core of propheets, The longer you were there for the more extreme it got. Just to give you a slight idea of how much more extreme it got. The starting propheet was over night the last one was 5 days.

    To say that they are not apart of the cedu program is the most absurd lie i could think of. You could be there for a week and realize that public humiliation and group think were some of the prime motivating factors in people following the more absurd rules.

    I am kind of surprised that he would even lie about it. All of the time i confronted the staff on it they were quite open about it. They were the very pillars of the cedu way, we dont run the school the students do.

  10. Mt. Bachelor Academy was a hell hole. The allegations you are hearing are true. Survivors please look on my space and facebook for your fellow survivors. Remember the bans? Well, it’s time to band together and let your voices be heard. The people are criminals and should be prosecuted for child abuse.

  11. I went to Amity. I am currently looking for old friends. I hated the place. I was on dishes the entire scholastic year. John Padgett was sick

  12. To be quite frank for all those who are bitching about MBA, i was in as well. i feel many of you are exagerating the circumstances you went through. I was in the military and had to go through some of the most grueling challenges in a special operations training called S.E.R.E. had the shit kicked out of me went through actual sleep, food and water deprivation. was being chased in the forest from people with automatic weapons, had to hide in the wilderness, later thrown in a hole where they sprayed cold water on me from a hose in freezing temperatures then every 15 minutes for 2 days they took me out of it just to beat the crap out of me and interigate me. now that was bad, but i had the time of my life. not to include, i lived off and on the streets for about 4 years.

    to be honest now this i went through was sleep deprevation and food deprivation and abuse, and yes it was for a purpose. MBA wasn’t even close to that, i had 3 meals a day a bed to sleep in and education. and durring these lifesteps yes there was a few days without sleep but not that bad. Even humiliation, you really dont know what public humiliation is till you end up being a scapegoat and every time someone was caught falling asleep you had to get beaten because of it then later having a gun in your head while being pistol whipped and shakin’ to regain consciousness.

    seems like everyone is bitching about the fact they werent able to play their Nintendo and play with their barbies. you guys complain about how you dont get your soda or cant eat a cheese burger try visiting places like morroco or ethiopia where people dont have any food and are unable to grow their own crops.

  13. ex-amity student

    cory-I think comparing your military experience to cedu is not comparing apples to apples. First of all most young adults that were taken to these schools were held there as hostages until the age of eighteen. Secondly, you cannot compare the emotional tear down done at these schools to the military, there is no comparison. Yes the military plays mind games and wears you down physically but nothing even close to the games and emotinal abuse of these schools. I too am a ex-veteran and take great offense regarding your comments. Everyone had their own experience at these schools, some horrific and some not so bad. For you to come in here and compare your military experience to these schools is just downright stupid. Obviously you never learned to respect the opinions and feelings of others. As well if you would have taken the time to look you would have realised that this site is more than just a website, it is a spot where people can share the experiences they went through as a young adult. Maybe at some point in your life you will realise what these schools did was not o.k…Would you ever treat your own children the way these people treated you, subjecting them to abusive language in raps and propheets.

  14. Hi ‘ex-amity student,’

    Thank you for your comments, and for being so kind as to support the conversation and the website.

    If I can ask you what I ask everyone – I do request that people avoid name-calling at the site… I want to hear your personal story, of course! But please avoid the ‘downright stupid’ kind of thing.

    I’m glad the site is here to let people talk about the schools. Do educate us, of course!

    Let me take some blame here – I didn’t respond to Cory… so I will now.

    Cory! Yo! Hi,

    well… you see you’ve struck a nerve.. I should say what I always do say, which is, do share your experience, in detail; please keep in check the very and intensely angry comments that you seem to be directing to fellow students who don’t share your immensely angry and defensive ‘love’ for the schools.

    Thanks!

    Moving on…How was the military? Sounds like you have some immense and intense stories you could tell.

    Thank you both for your consideration,

    Liam

  15. I’m ex-military as well. I would have to agree with ex-amity that there is no comparison between military training and ‘therapeutic boarding schools’.
    Unless you were in the US military during the Vietnam era or before that time, you voluntarily signed up to be trained and shaped by your drill sargents/instructors. Cedu and like-clone students did NOT volunteer for the treatment they received in 99.9% of the cases, their parents, guardians, etc. signed them up unwillingly. Military instructors are rigorously trained to shape our nation’s youth, Cedu and other riff raff staff were rudimentarily trained, if at all.

    Military training has a definite point and goal to it’s completion and your following time in the military after Basic and AIT is closely monitored and updated; once you’re done at Cedu and the money is all gone – they cast you into the world and could care less what happens to you afterwards. SERE training is done to consenting adults specifically to prepare them for possible capture by enemy combatants who more than likely won’t follow Geneva conventions. What is the mental torture at Cedu and like schools supposed to prepare you for? A miserable life at the hands of more predators that you shouldn’t have to be exposed to as a civilian minor. Extremely apples and oranges.

    Also, I guarantee you that no responsible US soldier is going around in Afghanistan and Iraq and telling orphans and villagers bombed out of their houses, “Hey, suck it up! I can hack it and so should you!”

    One thing I can say is that the mind fucking I received at Cedu made my boot camp experience in the Army seem like cake in comparison. I saw some whack job drill sargents in my time, but they couldn’t hold a candle to Rudy Bentz.

  16. ex-amity student

    Cory-

    Maybe I came off a little strong so maybe I should take the time to explain some of my experiences. When I was seventeen I was sent to Amity against my will. Passport was taken away so I could not leave all communications (phone, mail….) were controlled by staff. I was subjected to verbally abusive raps three days a week sometimes lasting up to five hours. The propheets, well I do not need to explain those, just view the clips.

    As for my military experience when I left the Amity school I was so pissed off at my parents I saw the military as the only constructive thing I could do to keep away from my parents. Spent most of my time at Fort Bragg, but did travel a little. Learned allot of important things in the military that were never taught at the Amity School or Cedu. Respect being the biggest thing. As well I learned how to complete missions and task on my own. The military slowly rebuilt my damaged self esteem.

    The military for me was a real turning point in my life without it I think I would be dead. When I had all of the mixed up emotions unburied from amity, the military game me some constructive outlets to deal with them. As well I still have friends from the military that I have known for almost two decades. So when I said I took offense, it was because The Amity School is not something I am proud of nor was it a major milestone in my life.

    The military on the other hand taught me how to be a man and was a major turning point in my life. The military is something I am still very proud of to this day and I am a extremely patriotic person. My experiences in boot camp do not even compare to some of my raps with Marci Padgett or some of the propheets I have been through. I think the school prematurely prepared me for some of the stuff that I faced in the military. Kind of calloused my soul or spirit and made me thick skinned.

  17. I was a student at MBA in 2001-2003. Sharon Bitz stated in an article published in TIME magazine that “students got the costumes out of their own dorm rooms and were chosen by the students.” Bitz is of course referring to the Venture lifestep. This is a complete and utter lie from Sharon Bitz. In the Venture lifestep the staff have a closet full of clothes in the lifestep room that are specific costumes for specific characters that they assign to each student (superman costume, car salesman costume, a clown costume), and most importantly, THE FRENCH MAID COSTUME.

    This is the costume and character that is being referred to in claims of “sexualizing” the students. Almost every Venture lifestep has a french maid. This character is given out by staff to the slutty and promiscuous (staffs words, not mine) fifteen and sixteen year old girls from the peer group. The costume is extremely low cut showing cleavage and the skirt is extremely short to the point where if the girl bends over you can see her underwear. This costume had to of been purchased at an adult erotica store. The male facilitators in my Venture were both over 40 years old. These men sat back in their chairs and watched while the teenage girl in the french maid outfit was forced to act out her character.

    This involved her sitting on all the boys’ laps and saying sexual things to them in a high pitched french accent. I specifically remember her taking her feather duster prop and dusting one of the boys’ crotch while saying something along the lines of “Oh he’s a BIG boy, I like that” as the adult male facilitators watched and laughed with their arms crossed in their chairs. These men were laughing in her face. It made me sick to watch. These men were intentionally making her feel ashamed and dirty. One of these facilitators was Alex Bitz, the other is someone who no longer works there but is a married man and has daughters of his own. They also have a costume and character of Miss America.

    One of my best friends at the school was the girl who had to do it. She was insecure about her body like most sixteen year old girls are, and was forced to put on a bathing suit and prance around the group of peers and staff as if she was in the swimsuit competition. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she acted this out. Thats not even the half of it. I have always joked about writing a book about everything that happened to me and my peers at MBA but we look at each other and laugh knowing that nobody would ever believe us. The staff at this school (if you could even call it that) have absolutely no concern for the long term affects these “lifesteps” can potentially have on someone.

    I left MBA ten times worse than when I came in. This is not the case for all students but certainly is for me and many of my fellow MBA peers that I keep in contact with today. MBA is beyond unethical. I would go as far as to say that its sick in some aspects such as the humiliating and damaging tactics used in Venture. These tactics also include the staff members being sexist and racist.

    Bill Hoffman called an Indian student a sand Ni**** in my forever young lifestep. Sharon Bitz is lying. She was lying about the ethics relating to that school when I was there and she’s lying about it now. Like I said before, I can’t speak for everyone. There are those that managed to make it out okay perhaps even better. I do however feel it is important to mention that within the first two years of me being gone from MBA, three of my fellow peers committed suicide and one died from a drug overdose. There have been countless suicides and deaths relating to drug OD’s before I went there as well as after.

    One of these suicides even took place at the actual school in the surrounding forrest. I was personally relieved when I heard the news that MBA was under investigation. It is my honest hope for the sake of all other troubled teens out there that MBA be shut down so these teens can have a better chance at growth and healing by attending somewhere else with a more ethical, stable, healthy, and professional program.

  18. Hi ‘Brown,’

    We experienced the same drill at the end of our program, in a six-day bit of torture and nonsense called “The Summit,’ which was, like yours, bought wholesale from Lifespring. Costumes and all! Yes, it was beyond strange, being subjected to this bit of sexual parody and humiliation comedy, after years of being screamed at for all sexual impulses!

    Quite a program they invented, huh?

  19. Mount batchelor academy was by far the worst experience of my life. I was made to feel like little to nothing there by the people who should have been protecting me. all the staff there are full of shit! I was made to dress up in a uglyred dotted dress and then forced to walk around in a circle of people while they called out “boom chica boom chich boom” and i was made to put my leg up on a chair with a boy sitting in it and say things like ” is there a gun in your pocket or are you just happy too see me” which is very clearly not going to help someone with my problems. All the issues i had with my self and my past were made to feel like it was all my fault. for example my father was in jail for rape and drugs.. the staff there in group and in servel life steps told me i should feel bad I SHOULD CRY OVER IT AND IF I DONT IM A BAD, HEARTLESS PERSON.

    Many times i tried to tell my mom and step dad what was going on but they just would cut off my calls or they would simply not give me a call at all. I only got one 10 minute call a week with one person… how is anyone ever going to get close to there family with one 10 minute call a week! wasnt that what mba was about?! well i guess not!

    they made me feel like a slut and like i was nothing .. i got so depressed they i turned to self harm because i had no other way out, no one would listen to me none of the staff truely seemed to care. I can honestly say i hate them all for what they did too me and the people i cared about there! I will never forgive these people at mount batchelor for what they did to me and my friends.. the hurt and trama they put me and others through for so many months. I believe that each evil and cruel person involved in this torture toward us kids should be punished. I have now been out of MBA for around 2 years. The happiest day of my life was the day i left there and knew i never had to return.

  20. At CEDU during the Summit (the 6 day workshop Liam speaks about) it was called a stretch if I remember correctly.

    Mine was to dress up as Wonder Woman with very direct orders about my costume.

    Blue short shorts
    Red knee high boots
    head band
    2 “strategically” placed stars (obviously over my nipples)
    etc etc..

    This costume had to be produced from everyday items around my dorm and in the art gallery. We had a few hours to put it together and if you got it wrong they would berate you, make you sit down and give you another chance to “get it right”

    After everyone is in costume.. they make you stand up in front of everyone and act something out. I had to….

    Get up..with a lasso… do a dance.. give someone a lap dance, lasso someone and then state loudly singing “I DID THIS CAUSE I’M A WOMAN… W..O..M…A..N..UGH UGH”

    with stars on my nipples. Thanks Rudy.

  21. Did I mention I was only 16 years old?

  22. Morgan Genser

    I can remember various times when I had to role play at Cedu. It was not only in the summit, but also in the brothers keeper where I had to play out the character from Gomer Pyle where I would say “Well Golly Gee Sarg Shazam Shazam Shazam, In the I Dreams I had to be a silly Don Quixote, and finally when I was in the summit I was Indiana Jones. The Last one I actually had fun with, but the first two I will always remember as an event that I would like to quickly forget. Due to my speech impediment at the time I was at Cedu Rudy Bentz gave out a rap lug in which he called me “Elmer Fudd”

  23. So Marci is at it again? She hasn’t simmered down at all, has she?

    God, these posts sicken and sadden me. I pray this place gets closed down, and soon.

    Hey Marcie, no worries dear! I’m sure you’d make a wonderful phone sex operator! You’d never be out of work.

    Seriously, Marcie. You should be ashamed. Thank God you never had kids.

    Sorry about John-boy! I hear he’s in the big rap session in the sky, or below.

  24. Heather, I feel you on this. It amazes me that some people actually think inflicting sexual abuse on kids is a therapeutic method for treating kids who’ve survived sexual abuse. I recall in the Truth propheet icebreaker I had to pretend I was a groupie for another student/hostage who had to do a skit where he was a rock star. Basically, I was instructed to scream “Do me, touch me” as an audience member with a group of 3 or 4 other girls in my peer group — all sexual abuse survivors.

    Seriously, WTF???

    Morgan, I got the cowardly lion for the icebreaker in my brother’s propheet. “Tough” on the outside, and a “pussy” on the inside — WOW. They made me shadow box in front of my entire peer group, then run and hide and cry, then sing a verse of “If I were the King of the forest” over and over again until I did it with enough conviction to please them. I was 15 years old.

    These people who held us as prisoners and tortured us in such degrading fashions were really sick. Now, here, a lifetime later, I’m grateful it’s over and that I’ve survived with my mental faculties intact. Though, the thought that it’s still happening to helpless young people today disturbs me on a level that’s hard to describe.

  25. I went to Mount Bachelor, and I can attest to personally having witnessed the abuse that occurred there. I saw a girl have to do the french maid costume and also walk around in a swimsuit and act like miss america. I also witnessed Georgia having to do the “boom, chica boom” excercise. They sent her to wilderness for not doing it right. These people need to be punished for the things that they have done to children, many of whom had only played too much video games or smoked pot. The year and a half that I spent there I can honestly say was the worst year of my life.

  26. Maurice Verlinden,

    Please tell me who the Lynn Lawner is you mention as having been in school with you. Is there someone else with my name? Thanks so much. I graduated from Wellesley College in 1957, went on to Cambridge, England, earned a PhD from Columbia University in 1970. I have never been on West coast except when Visiting Professor at UCLA in 1977. There are not so many Lawners in the world; hence my curiosity. Thanks so much.

    L.L.

  27. Fuck MBA. No more politeness that place is messed up, and all of the staff need to be held accountable for theyre mental abuse towards kids. Especially Bill Hoffman who ran the program for 20 years without any theraputic licenses. God help the students there.

  28. I actually laughed at this article. Yeah, what we went through was monumentally horrible.

  29. I am so glad that people are finally able to speak out about this. I agree that more kids need to come forward about these schools and programs but the kids are terrified (for good reason). They operate in the darkness and in isolated places for a reason (a parent cant just drop in, can they?). They lure parents in with false advertising and most parents do not even visit the places before they sent them there. What about the idea of the transporters. Is it even really legal to shove a kid in the back of the van, handcuff or drug them, and ship them 3 states over? Is this really legal? I doubt it. And talk about TRAUMA. Will anyone be normal after this or will they have lifelong effects from this act alone? Real psychologists, where are you?

    My daughter was forced to spend the first week at Turnabout sleeping out in the cold on the ground in an isolated place. She was totally terrified. Her so-called “counselors” were nothing but local cowboy types hired to keep the kids in line. So much for competence. She said she was never given a pillow but forced to sleep on a board for most of her stay there. Our jails treat prisoners better than this. I call this inhumane. I call what they do abuse and they have caused so much trauma by their “program” that she will probably not even live a normal life. No wonder they do not allow parents any contact for the first month there, and the calls are totally censored so none of the truth slips out.Their “reeducation” program really is more like Korean brainwashing techniques.

    These programs have no oversight and Utah has a largest number of these places (surprise, surprise). It is a tremendous source of revenue at the tune of almost $7,000 a month for some of them. I believe what these kids are saying because my daughter was in two of them (father and stepmother put her in). Turnabout Ranch is a horror story as is MBA and has caused severe trauma in her, she will never be the same-her old self has been replaced by someone I do not even recognize. I urge others to speak out so the truth can be known.

    It is unbelievable in this age of total surveillance, that cameras at least are not required in these places-cameras that are regulated by the State and reviewed. That alone would stop some of the atrocities. Also, since when is it legal to sign a child over to someone like they were a piece of meat. MBA has the parent sign the custody of the child over. I question the legality of this practice. I hope the Internet lights up with testimony after testimony of what really goes on in those places so that the larger public knows the truth.

    I just hope someone cares enough to look into these allegations. These places have not made my daughter a better person but have totally destroyed her ability to trust anyone. Someone needs to wake up and get inside these places. These places are housing thousands of young lives with little or no oversight. That they are growing and flourishing in America 2009 is unreal to me. The idea of following the money might reveal why so little has been done to investigate them.

    “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”. “Speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, defend the rights of the poor and needy”(Bible). (sorry for being long-winded–I am a writer!)

  30. I’m not sure what all to report, I could go on forever. I do want to conceal my identity so I can’t make it obvious who I am. I worked at MBA for many years and have an extensive history in the “industry.”

    first off, I do think the overwhelming majority of staff do care about the kids and want success for them. I also think that too many staff aren’t trained well, are under educated, and that the old CEDU system has many flaws. I got into working with kids to make a difference and I believed I could. The first school I worked at (not MBA or a CEDU school) I was trained to yell at kids. I remember sitting with my supervisor and a student on a version of “self study.” The student had done a “writing assignment” and handed the assignment to my supervisor who promptly crumbled it up at through it at the face of the student and told him to do it again. (By sheer coincidence I ended up working very closely with that child for the next 6 years in various capacities.)

    Every day at that school I saw staff yelling at students and pointing their fingers in their faces. Though these weren’t the counselors, just bad hires as the owner had no care at all for the kids and families and just wanted money. So he hired all sorts of staff without much of an interview process and brought in kids as fast as possible. I quit after a year, disgusted, and went to work for MBA. There was yelling at kids at MBA in the beginning as CEDU had trained the staff running the school. There was a deeper sense of care for the students than at the first school I worked for.

    Eventually the CEDU staff running the school at the time mostly left (though not all of them) and staff were told not to yell at kids. I will say that I did yell at kids and I feel very badly about it. I did try hard to establish positive relationships with kids and I never was too proud to apologize. Eventually I learned to think for myself and I’m proud that I’ve unlearned the poor training that I was initially taught about raising my voice. To anyone I ever raised my voice at I’m very sorry.

    My point is this: I believe that most people who work at these schools do care about kids and want to help. There needs to be a way to weed out the bad seeds who really don’t care; especially owners who don’t truly care. I believe that if staff NEVER raise their voices at students regardless of circumstances (other than things like, “hey stop hitting that other kid” or things like that during student violent moments which don’t really occur much), if staff treat students with the upmost of respect, never humiliate the students, and don’t assign role playing activities… that a student who feels cared for will be able to make much progress at a school of a therapeutic nature. However a couple things have to be acknowledged:

    Some of the teens struggling at these schools have greater issues that will be diagnosed later in adulthood. Many more serious issues such as personality disorder and bi-polar typically aren’t identified in adolescence because the human brain continues to develop until around the age of 25. (Though I have seen bi-polar diagnosed in some teens but it’s almost always changed and treated as something else when the teen gets older.) Sadly behavior of students struggling with these issues looks very similar to the untrained eye as behavior of kids that are maybe just rebelling or are entitled.

    The result is that many staff just assume all kids behaving poorly are just the bad apples or the spoiled brats and all students who are behaving poorly are then confronted about their bad attitudes without an understanding that some are really struggling. This causes such an us versus them aspect of the school amongst the students and staff and causes all to have their experience depleted.

    The schools must do a better job of recognizing which students are truly struggling with issues that won’t mesh well with their program and not just drag these kids through the schools confronting them day after day about their behavior hoping at some point they come around. This is, however, easier said than done. But it can be done: If kids are treated well, feel cared for, and the school recognizes the true issues then the student population will be very positive and make significant progress. I’ve seen it done and I’ve seen it not done.

    I don’t think the answer is to just do away with all these types of schools. There are a lot of struggling teens out there. But somehow these issues have to be addressed and independent, non biased, oversight has to be established. (Might be wishful thinking.)

    I do think the staff at MBA cared overall for their students but I also think the school had some bad practices such as the maid costume (No, I never saw it personally.) Having said that, I think the only major problem that existed in the school that led to so many unhappy kids was the ownership. Aspen was/is a money hungry business that didn’t care at all about the kids or the families. For the first few years after I arrived the kids were a pretty positive group of kids. When Aspen started increasing the profit percentage it took from the school every year it hand cuffed the staff that worked there badly. That caused the majority of problems the kids complained about either directly or indirectly.

    I’m writing this partly in defense of the individuals who worked directly with the kids as I support them as caring people, with few exceptions. I’m also writing this in support of the former students who didn’t enjoy their experience as I do feel some of their complaints are legitimate, though not all. I also want to ask that people come up with some other conclusion than just closing all these schools. There are a lot of kids who get a great deal out of their experience and it is helpful to many. There are a lot of struggling teens out there who do need help. I feel there are ways to improve the quality of care students receive and recognize the issues a student is truly struggling with without creating an attacked or uncared for feeling in the student.

    The only complaint I have about anything anyone else has written is the idea that students who attended MBA died of drug over doses or suicide because they were at MBA. Addiction is an issue for many and certainly a horrible thing to watch someone you love struggle with. Addiction is a chemical issue with the brain and can’t be attributed to where someone went to school, that’s just not fair. Suicide is perhaps the saddest reality in our world.

    I was present when the student who committed suicide did so at MBA: It was horrible. I’m aware of the issues that surrounded that student’s suicide and out of respect to the student’s family and other students who have strong feelings around it I will not reveal any of those circumstances. However I will say that that student was a very well behaved individual who got along with students and staff well. I assure you all that struggling with the school or the staff wasn’t the issue and to suggest otherwise is unfair.

    There are many valid points to the concerns about students experiencing these schools and making such baseless accusations only diminishes how what is valid will be received in the end so you may want to think it through some more. Plus the families and friends of students who have died after attending one of these schools, or the student who died at MBA, deserve some sensitivity and misrepresenting circumstances, even by accident, can cause them grief when they already have enough grief. I just think we all need to be careful about representing what we know versus what we’ve heard.

    Just my disorganized effort at putting forth a tiny bit of thought on the whole matter, I tried to be partial and fair.

  31. I am curious as to how the methods used at these schools given the undeniable emotional trauma inflicted could possibly be justified by a possible, undiagnosed or suspiciously diagnosed psychiatric condition. I would go as far as to say that they are inappropriate with an actual condition present. They are definitely not justified for un-spoiling brats and removing a sense of entitlement as perceived by you or anyone. I don’t doubt that some instructors at these schools have love and respect for the “students” (patients) , but good intentions are not good enough for me, so why should they be for you?

  32. Mount Bachelor Academy has been shut down temporarily due to charges of abuse, lack of actual therapy programs, poorly trained staff and neglect.

    Here’s a couple of links to some articles Liam provided.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/11/state_suspends_license_from_sc.html

    http://www.ktvz.com/Global/story.asp?S=11438297

    The wheels of justice may turn slow, but they do turn.

  33. ie Bill
    Thank you.
    I am just catching up on this. I remember googling CEDO (misspelled) years ago. This subject gets me a little revved up because I know from personal experience how frighteningly ridiculous these programs are. In which states do you think they will find sanctuary next?

  34. http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2009/11/prineville_boarding_school_to.html

    Cedu clone, Mount Bachelor, closes, for good and all.

    I have a little, but only a little, inside information on this. Inasmuch as a good many of us told our stories, it prompted some people from Mount Bachelor to come and tell their stories on the webpage. A reporter picked it up. The rest, well..

    It is tempting to wonder if we should have thrown some sort of insurrection ourselves, to get media attention, way back when. I wonder, is this all it took? A few articles in local papers?

    I’ll think about it – time and tide, is the expression. Or, time and place. The era had much to do with it. Now, in the era of the nanny state, and hyper-regulation of private lives, it’s easy to get an abusive or unethical program shut down. In the 80s and 90s? Not so very easy, was it?

  35. Mount Bachelor Academy in Prineville to close by Dec. 9
    By Amy Hsuan, The Oregonian
    November 09, 2009, 6:16PM

    Mount Bachelor Academy, a Prineville boarding school investigated by the state for allegations of child abuse, will close by December 9.

    The facility will start letting employees go on Wednesday, with a total loss of between 69 and 72 jobs.

    The state Department of Human Services told parents to remove their children from the school last week after a seven-month investigation concluded that students were subject to inappropriate sexual role-play, public humiliation and physical deprivation.

    The state gave the academy 90 days to correct a list of violations, said DHS spokesman Gene Evans, but had not heard anything since.

    The school’s parent company, California-based Aspen Education Group, announced the permanent closure Monday in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act to the state’s Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development.

    In the notice, Mark Dorenfeld, senior vice president for Aspen Education, states that the company is unable to provide 60-days notice as required by the federal act because “the closing is the result of an unforeseeable business circumstance; namely the revocation of the Facility’s operating license.”

    However, the state has only temporarily suspended the school’s license, Evans said. The school could be reinstated if it takes corrective action.

    “We issued them a temporary suspension to operate their therapeutic boarding school,” Evans said on Monday.

    Representatives of Aspen Education did not return phone calls on Monday. The facility will starting letting employees go on Wednesday, with a total loss of between 69 and 72 jobs.

    According to state records, the school enrolled 88 students and employed 77 staff as of March. The private school catered to troubled teens 14 to 17 1/2 years old, drawing students from all over the world. Tuition ran $6,400 a month, and students typically stayed 14 to 16 months.

    Representatives of Aspen Education did not return phone calls on Monday.

    — Amy Hsuan

  36. Fantastic! I hope that everyone involved will find people who love and respect them for who they are. Peace/Love Oregon UR the best!

  37. Does anyone know how we can involve ourselves in the lawsuit. Our voices need to be heard…finaly. For whatever we want/need to say. Please let me know, I want/need to get involved

  38. I was a student at MBA through 2001-2003 as well. Hearing that the school has closed has brought me to really analyze how the “theraputic” techniques used have affected me.

    I too feel that the humiliation exercises are traumatizing. I’m openly gay and was as well when I was a student there. In my Venture Listep Alex Bitz said to me, “when I look at you all I see is gay!” He also compared me to a former student who began transitioning from male to female after she graduated from the emotional growth program. In one of the final lifesteps you go to a foreign country to “apply everything you have learned about yourself and the world.” Part of this included volunteering in a Romanian orphanage. When the entire group I was with spent an afternoon playing with the children, I was driven into town to buy bread and supplies by Alex Bitz. He asked me if I had taken time out to talk to the former student, Claire (Alex while a student in the program), and if she was able “to teach me anything” and insinuated that becoming transgender could possibly be a future issue for me. I was in complete shock.

    I am appalled that I was subjected this kind of close minded opinions at such a young age. I had a love for classical dance and this passion was not encouraged by Alex Bitz because it would define me as gay, and noting else. I was not supported for me being myself. Which is ironic because MBA is suppossed to help you become your “most authentic self.” I was treated as if my sexual orientation and any display of what could be considered as feminine or flamboyant behavior was an issue that needed to be fixed. I do not see how this can at all be considered helpful to a teenager struggling with drug, depression and motivational issues. This, to me, felt like abuse. I am very glad to see that the practices that these types of programs use is finally getting the attention it deserves.

    I do not feel that anything I learned (or was told that I had learned) had a positive effect on my life after the program. I also struggled far worse with drug addiction and other issues after I left the school than anything I had went through prior. While I do not attribute all of this to my MBA experience I definately think that there is something to be said to the humiliating and degrading therapy and behavior reform tatics they use. They are NOT HEALTHY. Much less to an adolescent who is still very impressionable and, at times, incapable of fully understanding that what is happening to them is innapropriate and unacceptable.

    I feel that the closure of the school will help me and a lot of other alumni find closure. I am proud to say that I survived this experience and am living, for the most part, a happy and fully functional life. I have endless respect to any student who has ever gone through a program like this and is in a good place in their life. Because we all know that the transition from that kind of environment and the recovery you have to go through from it’s aftermath is very difficult.

  39. James,

    So sorry to hear you had to go through all that. I would normally be amazed that anyone would have such a fear about gays or lesbians nowadays, as compared to the 70’s or 80’s. I think it would have been funny if when Alex said that all he sees when he looks at you is gay, would be “Good!” And then you just walked away.

    But knowing these programs, that would never have been the end of it. The people working in these programs had deep sexual-related issues, which is why it was endlessly directed at the students. It’s why so many exercises incorporated sexual humiliation, labeling and role play.

    I remember when my sister announced she was a lesbian, my parents told her to move back home and they would get her the counseling she needed. She was 35 at the time. So it would not surprise me if some parents tell these programs that they will pay to have their kids “fixed.”

    I’d also like to see some kind of Drug Use Before and After poll taken. Find out how many went back to drugs after the programs, how soon after and whether it was less, more or the same level of drug usage? Considering these programs all claim to cure such addictions and are mostly based on anti-drug programs of the 60’s, it would be interesting to find out how successful they really are.

  40. Bill? What about you? Did you go back to old habits???? Me? No. Do I drink? Yes, but I waited til I was 21 before I drank again after graduating. Now? Very occasionally. As I get older, the less I even partake in 1 beer or 1 glass of wine because it makes me sleepy. And yes I smoked pot a couple times since graduation….only to find…you know what I truly don’t like the feeling of not being in control of my body.

    But in no way did those things rule my life the way they did pre-Cedu.

  41. Anyone involved in one of these schools was mislead about the history of Synanon the root of this program. When I attended a school not far from this one the only reference ever mentioned was Cedu. Hard to ignore when the entire staff and student body came from there. Perhaps Cedu declined because the majority of the staff left to start Cascade School. My feeling is there was a fallout between staff members and it could have been based on the problems at CEDU – severity – ! The students the program was sucsessful on became staff members and never left eventually becoming part of the school attended or a branch. The staff were students so they do believe in the propheet system and it does follow the cult model. Perhaps the staff are the ones brainwashed hence the zealous nature of sustaining the propheet extreme factors which should have been completely toned down about 90 percent. I had no idea that these schools were all over the country and had morphed into complete evil i.e. straight inc. I do recall students entering Cascade from other abusive programs. The school that scared us was Provo, it was used to intimidate us as we were regularly told that if we failed at Cascade that is where we would be sent a private child prison. This is a refelction on our society like Guantamano Bay how can people turn away form obvious abuse and ignore it. Cascade had some great staff and they did the best to tone down the harsh elements of the program. Everyone knew it was a little crazy but compensated the propheets and over the top raps with the kindness later. This stuff was experimental and teenage upper class kids were the guinea pigs. Straight Inc is so completely shocking. The rehab school system needs to be montiored at all times and watched closely. Addicts to council young teens is a bad idea to say the least. Just like at Guantamano we went along with the program and said what we thought they wanted to hear in order to avoid verbal and mental abuse. This is the same way they handle terrorists and the majority of the information acquired is false. When I refer to the staff as brainwashed I mean no disrespect. We are all brainwashed in various ways in society every day. Advertising uses the same techniques and our culture has peer pressure systems. As we know this could happen to anyone given the right circumstances. I do not like the fact that A.A. and Synanon were the roots of this it is time for complete exposure. CED looks like a real sleazbag and Bill W is a complete mind controlling jerk. Moderation is the key all things in the extreme are bad. Go back to nature and find your balance in life. Remember to have fun and be happy – go do whatever you feel like.

  42. LIAM,

    I am a former student and i was wondering how may i get ahold of you for some info, also to let you know what was going on in my boarding school and how it very much is alike CEDU schools in many ways…
    thank you,
    theraputic boarding school student

  43. I went to this place in 02-03. Its a fucking circus freak show! Theres not one day that has gone by since i was there, where I question myself, and what normal is, and if I am normal, Is there something wrong with me, etc… The way that they communicate there, especially in life steps and groups is absolutely degrading,demeaning, explicit,graphic, and inhumane. I never was molested or abused as a child. I was abused as a teen however and it was by the underqualified staff, and senior staff that didnt know where to draw a line. after MBA I started treating and speaking to women in the same manor that they did in life steps. heres an example of what went on. In one life step I had to geton top of a wood box in the middle of the room and call girls whores, hoes, would tell them to come over and suck my dick, tell them they “werent shit but lips and clit”. I havent had one normal relationship with a girl sense then. I feel bad too, that I also may have damaged some girls phsyche in there because of the stuff they made me do and say. The even shittier part of this was that if you didnt go along with it, than they would make you do physical hard labor, or make the rest of the group suffer while you would watch. I could write a libraries worth of personal accounts from that place. Whats sucks is that after you got out, it was like you were alone in the world and had experienced something so wierd and twisted, that no matter who you told, they would never be able to fully understand. Ive tried telling my friends about it, and it just falls on deaf ears. I really feel bad for my folks, they still owe $17,000 on the place and its ten years later!!! FMBA

  44. They can’t even do the same stuff to prisoners at Guantanamo, that I remember happening. Where is the Media and all their sob stories? I remember when the Columbine incident took place and all I could say about it was, “I guess they locked up the wrong people.” The closest parallels I could find to these schools are written in articles about the Punitive Psychiatry of the USSR.

  45. The thing that makes me sick and still keeps me up at night is that fucking life step room. I’ve tried to move on and forgive but im still suffering.

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