School Law: Torturing and brainwashing “troubled teens” in Oregon

August 31, 2011

School LawPrivate school advocates are quick to tout the schools as a more effective alternative to public schools.

Those individuals probably aren’t referring to schools such as Mount Bachelor Academy, formerly located in the Ochoco National Forest near Prineville, Oregon.

The private, for-profit school billed itself as a “therapeutic boarding school” from when it opened in 1987 until it closed in November 2009 after an investigation by the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The investigation revealed several instances of physical and sexual abuse by school staff, along with several license violations.

Now, nine former students are suing over the abuse they suffered while attending the institution.

The suit, filed in July, is against Mount Bachelor Educational Center, Inc. (MBEC), an Oregon corporation that owned and operated the Academy.

The suit also targets MBEC’s parent company Aspen Education Group, a California corporation, and Aspen parent company CRC Health Group.

The complaint details some especially atrocious abuse that the students suffered at the hands of school staff.

For example, without getting into the gruesome details, one female student was forced to disclose that she had suffered sexual abuse by her father to her entire class.

Staff then proceeded to require the student’s counselors and peers to call her names such as “whore” and “slut,” and told her that her rape by her father was her own fault.

Finally, she was required to act out sexual propositioning and other sexual activities on or with other students and staff.

According to the complaint, this was not isolated behavior by a rogue group of faculty, but instead was a part of a systematic program intended to “straighten out” “troubled teens.”

From reading the complaint, the methods employed by the program greatly resemble (or outright mirror) torture and brainwashing techniques – i.e. sleep and meal deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, denial of restroom use, and psychologically-abusive shouting.

Regardless of the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of such techniques, they are still illegal, and additionally give rise to a civil cause of action.

The real challenge to this lawsuit will be trying to come up with proof enough to demonstrate that the abuse alleged actually occurred.

The defendant corporations are denying, of course, “the charges of mistreatment,” and will no doubt continue to do so in court.

Unfortunately for the defendants, several of the plaintiffs are claiming medical injuries due to some of the more physically-demanding “educational techniques” employed by the school.

If these former students can substantiate these claims with evidence – which is an absolute necessity for these claims to survive in court – the defendants’ denial will be that much weaker.

Also weakening the defendants’ denial is the Oregon DHS report on the abuse which ultimately led to the school’s closure.

While the report doesn’t specifically substantiate any of the plaintiffs’ individual claims, it does serve to validate the claim that abuse was common at the school.

Ultimately, though, what will strengthen the plaintiffs’ case the most are other students’ coming forward to back their claims.

And luckily for the plaintiffs, that already seems to be happening: eight more students have just joined the suit.

While the defendants may still defend their methods as valid, the laws are there for a reason.

Namely, because public policy has recognized that the social costs of psychologically destroying “troubled teens” greatly outweigh any benefits that the practice might yield.