Investigations conducted by the Oregon Department of Human Services at Mt. Bachelor Academy (MBA), a therapeutic boarding school located near Prineville, have resulted in nine substantiated findings of child abuse and neglect against the school's leadership and therapeutic program.
Download DHS reports (11/02/2009):
MBA Background InfoMBA Complaint & Order to Correct
As a result of the abuse investigation and violations of Oregon's licensing standards, the state has ordered Mt. Bachelor Academy to temporarily cease all therapeutic, educational and residential services to children until further notice.
The abuse and neglect findings centered on the program as a whole, as well as the school's Executive Director, and involved five children who attended Mt. Bachelor Academy during 2007-2009. The results of the investigation are being provided to local law enforcement officials.
The investigation was conducted by the Office of Investigation and Training (OIT) at DHS. Investigators with OIT reported that all students at MBA were required to participate in "emotional growth" workshops, called Lifesteps, which included activities that were coercive, intimidating and humiliating -- including sexualized role play and reenactment of past traumatic events, such as prior physical or sexual abuse.
While the initial reports described concerns about Lifesteps, the investigation ultimately revealed serious safety concerns about MBA's curriculum and program as a whole. The experience of the five students was consistent with that of other children enrolled at the school. The report concluded that the experiences of "these five youth are exemplars of the program's treatment of its students as a whole."
As a result of the OIT investigation, DHS Children, Adults and Families Residential Treatment Services and Licensing found violations of state licensing standards for therapeutic boarding schools, and state officials will require MBA to cease providing therapeutic, educational and residential services to children.
The licensing program determined in its investigation that there are conditions present that immediately endanger the health and safety of the children enrolled at MBA. The program found that MBA's methods of educational instruction, emotional and behavioral intervention and daily interaction with students create an immediate threat which places all children at risk of harm.
Further, the investigation revealed that MBA has subjected children to Lifestep workshops as a therapy technique that is harmful and damaging to their health or welfare. In addition, that MBA has not provided the therapeutic treatment necessary for children to overcome or improve with substance abuse issues, mental health issues, eating disorders and other issues, nor provided qualified staff to treat such conditions.
The substantiated incidents of abuse or neglect are shown below:
- Mt. Bachelor Academy Executive Director neglected the care of four children by failing to ensure individualized and therapeutic treatment plans were developed to address past abuse and significant emotional and behavioral issues.
- The Mount Bachelor Academy program abused a child in 2007 by requiring the child to engage in sexualized role play in front of staff and peers.
- The Mount Bachelor program abused a second child in 2009 by requiring the child to make obscene and self-degrading comments out loud, in front of staff and peers. In addition, the Mount Bachelor program neglected the same child during 2008-2009 by failing to provide adequate medical care and supervision.
- The Mount Bachelor Academy program neglected a third child in 2009, by failing to provide adequate supervision during an international trip.
- The Mount Bachelor Academy program abused a fourth child in 2008 by requiring the child to engage in degrading activities such as acting out sexualized role play and physical abuse, and by being subjected to obscene and degrading comments by staff in front of other staff and peers.
- The Mount Bachelor Academy program abused a fifth child during 2009 by requiring and/or permitting staff to use derogatory names, phrases, ridicule and harassment.
- The Mount Bachelor Academy program neglected five children between 2007 and 2009 by failing to provide individualized treatment to meet their diagnosed mental health needs.
- The Mount Bachelor Academy program abused five children between 2007 and 2009 by requiring them to engage in activities that were coercive, intimidating, harassing, and/or humiliating.
The substantiated incidents meet Oregon's legal definition of child abuse because they were inconsistent with recommended and appropriate treatment or care, used derogatory names/phrases, profanity, ridicule, harassment, coercion, and/or intimidation that was likely to endanger the child's health or welfare. In addition, the activities subjected children to a substantial risk of harm to their health or welfare, and the adults failed to supervise or intervene when the child needed assistance or care, in an activity that was likely to endanger their health or welfare.
An expert in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry consulted by DHS as part of the investigation concluded: "In general, coercive, degrading and humiliating treatment is harmful to young people, especially those with psychological vulnerabilities. Young people (male and female) who have been victims of abuse often hold themselves responsible for the abuse, and develop sexualized behavior for reasons they often don't understand. To confront them and humiliate them about these behaviors in an effort to force them to see themselves more clearly and consequently change their behavior can be very destructive. It has the risk of reinforcing self-blame and self-loathing attitudes already present in traumatized individuals. It is essentially retraumatizing."
Today's report also includes a substantiated allegation of child abuse against the Executive Director of MBA as "the individual responsible for delivery of therapeutic care to MBA students." In that role, the Executive Director "administers through staff an ‘emotional growth' curriculum in which all students must participate regardless of their emotional, behavioral or mental health needs, and regardless of their own trauma histories. This curriculum is delivered by staff who are not trained to treat the broad range of issues the children bring, and who routinely degrade and humiliate them." The report concludes that the Executive Director, "knew or should have known what happens to students in [the] program."
Mt. Bachelor Academy is a licensed Therapeutic Boarding School, located in a rural area, 26 miles east of Prineville, Oregon, licensed originally in 1988. The school admits both male and female students who are from age 14 to 17.5 at the time of admission, although some children are admitted pursuant to an exception as young as age 13. The total capacity is 125 students and the average length of stay is 14-16 months. Tuition is $6,400 a month with an additional up front, one time $2,200 enrollment fee. Other service fees are not included. In 2008, Mt. Bachelor was reorganized and became a program of Aspen Education Group. Aspen was recently acquired by CRC Health Group, Inc. In March of 2009, MBA had approximately 77 staff and 88 boarding students.
Last March, the state received reports of child abuse against Mt. Bachelor Academy, initially concerning the Lifesteps program at MBA. OIT is a division of DHS that investigates allegations of abuse by paid staff in various therapeutic or treatment settings, and OIT handled the investigation of the reports of abuse at MBA. There were two investigators primarily assigned to go to Prineville and interview people on campus. In addition, the office used three other investigators to conduct witness interviews of people in- and out-of-state. The investigators conducted interviews involving 65 witnesses, including MBA students and staff, along with licensed therapists familiar with individual students. Investigators consulted with a medical expert certified in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and they reviewed documents and photographed materials used as part of the MBA therapy program.
At the same time, the DHS Licensing program investigated standards for health and safety and looked at the school's compliance with Oregon Administrative Rules related to their license as a therapeutic boarding school. Licensing notified MBA that they were prohibited from conducting their own investigation into the allegations of abuse reported to have occurred; prohibited from destroying or otherwise concealing school or student records; prohibited from disciplining or threatening discipline to students interviewed during the investigation; prohibited from conducting Lifesteps activities until further notice. Parents of students were notified of the investigation.
A "Therapeutic boarding school" is a program that is primarily a school and not a residential care agency (as defined in OAR 413-215-0506). Therapeutic boarding schools are licensed to provide both educational services and care to children for 24 hours a day and hold themselves out as serving children with emotional or behavioral problems by providing therapeutic services or assuring that children receive therapeutic services.
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Oregon DHS shuts Mt. Bachelor Academy at KTVZ.COM news sources
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