My friend Maia Szalavitz has an amazing story about an allegedly abusive boarding school in Oregon that has found itself in the middle of a Supreme Court battle over state reimbursement for special needs education.
The Court will decide whether parents get reimbursed for special education before the public special ed program has tried and failed to help their kid. It just so happens that the parents who are suing want to send their son to a self-proclaimed therapeutic boarding school that uses bizarre and abusive methods to "treat" kids for a variety of ills ranging from post-rape trauma to ADHD and marijuana use.
The case isn't about the merits of the curriculum, but it has focused national attention on abuse allegations against the Mount Bachelor Academy. Szalavitz interviewed several former Mount Bachelor residents who told consistent stories of sexualized abuse and humiliation in the name of treatment.
Some of the female inmates were sent to the school specifically to treat behavioral problems supposedly linked to rape:
But according to 10 students, two separate parents, and a
current part-time employee interviewed by TIME — some of whom are
involved in the state inquiry — Mount Bachelor Academy regularly uses
intensely humiliating tactics as treatment. For instance, in required
seminars that the school calls Lifesteps, students say staff members of
the residential program have instructed girls, some of whom say they
have been victims of rape or sexual abuse in the past, to dress in
provocative clothing — fishnet stockings, high heels and miniskirts —
and perform lap dances for male students, as therapy.
One 18-year-old former student and victim of rape wept while
recounting what happened to her during a Lifestep seminar. Jane, who
asked not to be identified with 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, such as "Milkshake" by Kelis, played at high volume.
"They told me I was dirty and I had to put mud on myself for being
raped," she said, in reference to a separate Lifestep session. "They
basically blamed me for getting raped." [TIME]
Mount Bachelor promises to cure "promiscuity" and drug use in rape survivors.
Former resident Amber Ozier told Szalavitz that the school forced her to role-play the drowning death of her younger sister in the name of therapy. Mount Bachelor's interventions is designed to stress and humiliate students until they regress to a hyper-suggestible infantile state for easy reprogramming.
One of the heroes of this story is whistle-blower Susan Owren, a part-time driver for the school who reported the school to the state in mid-March after hearing dozens of similar stories of abuse from students. "Every single kid has told me something horrifying," she told TIME.
Owren's complaint sparked an official investigation that is ongoing.