Thursday, January 25, 2018

Seed boarding school suicide - ambitions too costly?

Is is sad to learn that a suicide took place at Seed Boarding School in Washington DC. Even here in Denmark we have worked for more than 4 decade trying to figure out how to prevent certain areas to produce a larger part of the prison population and groups of people with low-income groups from concentrating themselves in urban blocks hard to control by the authorities. In Denmark there are now illegal alternative justice systems and gangs controlling parts of the large cities like they were the police.

In fact the gang war which took a violent turn forcing the United States embassy to warn tourists was only settled by a ceasefire negotiated without the participation of the authorities. Solutions are needed and they are needed right now.

In Denmark they now discuss simply to tear parts of the cities down forcing the poor part of Danish population to parts of Denmark called “The Rotten Banana”. It is parts of Denmark where they now only can afford the maintenance of dirt roads. Parts of Denmark where there are so many ruins that the villages got money from the state to tear buildings down as none are expected to live there anymore.

Some have suggested youth curfews as they have them in other countries. Some state that it was how Iceland fixed it. The problem with curfews in Denmark are that they will not work because the government will not invest the amount of money needed and you cannot mobilize the entire population as they did in Iceland because Denmark is a country where the population travelling in two pace. The difference between rich and poor in Denmark has increased over the last 3 decades. Basically the distance between the politicians and 60 percent of the population is so big that it is almost as they were living on two different planets. Parents only have surplus for their own kids. The time used for work and commuting allows no room for parents to use 2-3 hours every evening patrolling the streets as they do in Iceland.

A youth curfew without massive investment in sports combined with rolling the failed school reform back seems impossible and without those two factors youth curfews are impossible to impose. Iceland is the only country where youth curfews have worked and it was because parents were mobilized on national basis and the government invested massive in sports. Otherwise it would just be felt like Denmark once again was occupied by a foreign power like Denmark was during the second World War.

Then there is the possibility to create boarding schools like Seed. Danish research shows that children who have parents with an academically background are more likely to do something with their high school degree. That is the reason that Denmark now tries to prevent children with poor parents from choosing high school. Instead the government hope that they will be trained to do manual labor or work in shops. According to the government there is no reason to waste 3 years at high school if you do not want to study at universities.

Could you ask parents to let their children live at a boarding school close your home where they will be fed, have fixed bed times and study hard with guidance from well-educated people? That is what they do at the Seed boarding schools. It seems to work.

But there is a limit and I fear that they have bypassed it. What if the child has no motivation and comes from a background where the parents are on welfare or only have part time jobs. Should you then force the child? Should you put the expectation on the child when you know the destiny they were born to live, will not be on the first class?

I say no and I say it based on the research learned over 4 decades. In Denmark we offer student grants and it should make it possible to battle social heritage. Fact is: It doesn’t. Children still grow up for the most part following the social heritage their parents have ending up in the same situation as an adult.

I believe that the option of a boarding school system like Seed should be established in Denmark but NEVER it should be something you force children to attend. It is a question about expecting something from life. If you do not expect something, then you do not get disappointed. If you learn to settle you become happy.

I am sad that the girl saw no other option than death. I do not know whether she was pressured to attend the boarding school nor do I know if she felt unrealistic ambitions on her behalf from her parents. But the risk exist.

So remember: There might be solutions but you do not have to choose them. “Hygge” as we say it in Denmark is what life is about, because we are an entire generation who have learned the hard way that living a life with hard work reaching out for new goals all the time will not secure you early retirement, you can enjoy while your health allow it.

I will pray for the family who have suffered the tragic loss of a daughter.

12-year-old student found dead of apparent suicide at SEED school in D.C. (The Washington Post)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Iowa is closing a loophole. Is it not time for Missouri to do the same?

Midwest Academy used a loophole in state legislation to run a school under conditions which now have resulted in a guilty verdict against the manager of the school. Because the manager was no more than a franchisee, who used and enforced the structure of the franchisor - the money men behind what was in the old days called WWASP. new schools could be created in other states now where Iowa will close the loophole with new laws.

Fact is that it is possible.

If you run a religious boarding school in Missouri, none will look after how the business is set up.

It should not be so. Regardless if you call a facility which house minors a group home, a boarding school, a wildernes therapy program or a boot camp, the state should monitor the business activities by unannounced visits where they interview the children randomly outside the hearing area of the employees. Only then possible child abuse can be prevented.

We have to remember that the child abuse inside such facilities is not limited to bring suffering to the children. Random people outside can be hurt when the children try to run. Random employees who had nothing to do with the abuse can also become the victims. To put it short: Innocent people can be hurt.

If we look at a specific case, we could look at a place in Missouri called LUC Ranch. LUC stands for lives under Construction. A few years ago 2 boys ran from the ranch. They killed a couple down the road so they had something to drive in. A family lost relatives. It was a tragedy. Now some years later it turns out that rapes among the teenagers were not reported. The knowledge was kept within the ranch as a big secret because they wanted customers to remain referring their children to the ranch. It was not the right way to deal with such an issue but it was possible because religious based facilities can operate using a loophole where they are not required to tell anyone.

We do not know how many boys at LUC ranch who was abused. Now the escape attempt which ended with the loss of two innocent lives makes sense. I have to ask: Do you want to be raped? If not to which extend will you go in order to avoid that? Will you take a life? Will you take two?

Of course killing people regardless of what they faced back at the ranch is no excuse. I can say that because I sit thousand of miles from the place and never have been in a situation where I was in danger of being raped. In my mind the two boys who killed the couple must face the punishment the court decide they should suffer due to their crimes. I do not know if a rape victim will see it different. I have never been in that situation so how can I understand what it is like. Still I have to put faith into that the court system will find the right solution.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, there is still work to be done. The loophole which allowed LUC ranch to operate without supervision of any kind must be stopped, just like Iowa is doing now. Because the relaxed legislation has resulted in the loss of lives before.

At Mountain Park Academy a boy was killed by two other boys. This facility which is now closed used extreme corporal punishment at it only kind of therapy in the name of Christ. The two boys were planning to run away and they felt that they had to silence the poor victim so he did not tell the employees about the escape plan. One of the murderers died in prison. The other boy is still locked up.

Supervision and monitoring will ensure that the risk of child abuse inside these facilities will be minimized. It will minimize the risk of further deaths. It will secure that the facilities will not hire employees who have criminal records or had been involved in child abuse cases before.

The state of Missouri needs to act now.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

A prison camp manager is always responsible even if he is only following guidelines

A jury in Iowa found that Benjamin Trane was responsible for executing the curriculum and methods outlined by the now defunct WWASP-organization. WWASP (The World Wide Association Of Specialty Programs and Schools) ran a franchise where people who wanted to run a boarding school which included behaviorial training of both parents and children, could buy not only a complete guide how to do it, but also marketing packages, transport teams who could collect teenagers from their beds at home and transport them to the boarding school in handcuffs and shackles, accounting so parents could set up payment plans, schoolbooks and other needed equipment for schooling and training seminars for parents and the teenagers.

Benjamin Trane took over Midwest Academy from Brian Vaifanua just like when 7-11 managers take over a already existing shop. He continued to run the boarding school based on existing guidelines used at many boarding schools in the WWASP system for many years. He did not attempt to stop running the school after the old guidelines and that got him convicted in court.

You are legally responsible when you run a boarding school basically as a prison camp. When District Judge Mark Kruse read the verdict, there was absolutely no doubt in the judgment from the jury.

Benjamin Trane will receive his sentence sometime in 2018. That sends a strict message to everyone who decides to buy into the entire franchise or only parts of it. Officially WWASP does not exist anymore, but there are schools around the United States where they use a level system where the teenagers have to earn right to better food, right to speak to their parents, right to unstricted communication with their peers and punishment using isolation rooms. There are schools out there who use seminars for parents and the confined teenagers which tricks them into believing that life in general are restricted and life should be lived in a certain way.

So maybe WWASP is not that dead. They might receive money for running a lot of services - just not the entire package labeling a school a WWASP school.

The judgment is a milepoint

It is not the first time authorities have tried to make a bording school manager responsible:
  • The authorities in what is now known as the Czech Republic tried to bring Glenda and Steven Roach to justice. However they managed to escape the country with some help from people from the local American embassy before they could go to court and the police in Brno had to drop the investigation.
  • The authorities in Costa Rica tried to convict Narvin Lichfield after the raid on Academy of the Dundee Ranch. However he was successful in securing jobs to all the potential vitnesses among the employees at other schools abroad and some of the teenagers who could have testified against him were in fact locked up at other boarding schools when they returned to the United States.
  • The authorities in Mexico and Nevada settled with closing Casa by the Sea, the High Impact boot camp and Sky View Christian Academy

Two times before a manager has been convicted on his individual actions:

In the case of the Royal George Academy and Darrington Academy the managers were sentenced due to their own violent behavior. Randall Hinton and Richard Darrington both ended in prison. However their judgment did not include whether the guidelines in their schools in general was abusive.

This time part of the verdict is based on the acceptance of the general guidelines which were a punitive level system and the use of isolation rooms.

That is a vital point in the judgment.

That means that no person - al least in the state of Iowa - can buy into such a franchise and believe that they are above the law. They will be held responsible.

Are all the people in this case responsible for the ordeals of the teenagers then held to justice?


Ken Kay, Karr Farnsworth, the Lichfield brothers and some unknown money men made good money setting up those schools. Parents all over the country still pay off of the mortage, they took in their houses believing that they had to do this in order to save their children. Parents who in many cases lost their children afterwards due to mental issues left untreated or self-medication in order to deal with the burden of the posttraumatic stress discorder as result of their stay at these schools.

The money men continued to live good lives knowning that they got away with it. People like Benjamin Trane were rightfully convicted but they were in fact people who could be sacrificed because the franchise system itself was not convicted.

Of course the line of people who are willing to buy into the full franchise is now short but some people unable to get jobs in other lines of work might be tempted to establish a school. (Benjamin Trane had no training counseling teenagers, so in fact you could pick anyone on the street to become a boarding school manager).

So there is a very good reason for human right organizations to continue to monitor new boarding schools and treatment facilities. It could very well be a facility who is using what is now a banned set of guidelines into how to run a punitive boarding school with a behavioral program for the students.

The monitoring of this line of business will continue and it is only a question of time before the next facility will be brought down.


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