"Abuse at Casa by the Sea & High Impact" - C.F., 2001
This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is cafety.youthrights.org and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits go to the author C.F., who posted the original story on cafety.youthrights.org
Abuse at Casa by the Sea and High Impact
I have been active in standing against the WWASP company and it's affiliate facilities since my departure from Casa by the Sea in Mexico Jan 2003. I guess you could call my story different from the experiences of others, but I can assure you that many other kids like me were severely abused and will suffer from the effects of this for the rest of their lives.
On one of their MANY sites (http://www.helpmyteen.com) advocating these facilities to desperate families in times of crisis, they listed several different "teen problems" they claimed to be equipped to handle, more then a few of which I can personally attest that they are NOT.
the list is as follows:
- Drug and Alcohol Use
- Behavioral Problems
- Divorce and Family Conflict Issues
- Adoption Issues
- School Problems
- Poor Peer Choices
- Runaway and Curfew
- Minimal Legal Issues
- Accountability and Responsibility Issues
- Self Esteem and Emotional Issues
As a young child I was diagnosed with both ADD and Bipolar disorder, half of the reason my mother sent me to the program is because as a single mother she was not able to handle the symptoms of the disorder and felt I may be better taken care of in a facility dedicated to treatment and education. She was not aware, however, that Casa By the Sea, a WWASP affliated facility, was simply making these claims as a marketing strategy and not actually following through with proper treatment. These schools simply claim to treat every problem, then lock up all these kids together and push them through the same rigorous system designed to break the will of the student, establish dominence of the system and the staff, and then to mold them into what seems to everyone else to be some kind of cult member or Stepford child. We were often physically abused (restrained: see description below) for things that would never constitute punishment in any other establishment. We were also subject to isolation and abuse in the form of enduring contorted positions and if we were not perfectly still we would be restrained sometimes over and over for days or weeks. The kids in the facility live in constant fear of being sent to this isolation room and the program uses this as a threat to keep student obedient to the system. They also utilize the power of peer pressure through group berating sessions to coerce students to follow the "belief system" the program is based on. The punishment is severe for "not following the rules", which ironically enough are not rules at all. Things as ridiculous as "speaking with out permission", being "off task" for more then 30 seconds and forgetting something, would all be punishable offenses most times, leading to detention time in which you were forced to face a wall and were not allowed to do any school work for the whole 8 hours you were required to stay. These are just examples of how the program was designed, and just imagine how hard it would be for someone with a disorder who's symptoms were difficult to control and lead them to "break rules" that were set up for them to fail? I gained so many of these consequences a week that I would not advance to any level above level 1. Despite the obvious facts that the program was not designed for people with my disorder, they continued to convince my mother otherwise.
Not only was I not medicated or improperly medicated for a year and a half of my 2 year stay but I was also vigorously prosecuted and labeled as a failure to be made an example of. Because of this, I was also sent to an affiliate program of Casa By the Sea called High Impact, a "wilderness" program. At High Impact I experienced the most severe level of abuse I have ever heard of, short of the concentration camps during the holocaust. Survivors, including myself would describe this place as: "a modern day concentration camp where the Nazis are Mormons but they can't kill us because then they wouldn't be able to collect our parent's paychecks"
This is an excerpt from a publication I wrote in 2004: http://www.isaccorp.org/casa/cfiler.pdf
"I was starved, beaten, constantly screamed at, burned and forced to walk in circles everyday. I was required to sit in very painful positions for 8 hours everyday and stare at the ground at all times. Chores were to clean the bathrooms and tent, to draw straight lines in the sand with my toothbrush, and pick up very small pieces of rocks and trash from the sand called “hand-picking”. I endured painfully rigorous exercise, carrying a 40 lb bag of sand on my back 24 hours a day for 60 days (even sit and sleep with it on top of me), sit perfectly still in dog cages all day in the hot sun and many, many, many other forms of abuse. Punishments were given for things like moving your finger or itching yourself or licking your lips. I had very chapped lips and I repeatedly got consequences for licking my lips. When I asked for Chap Stick to heal my cracking and bleeding lips, I was given a piece of wood about the size of a candy bar to keep clenched in my teeth for 2 weeks. My mouth would bleed and blister and I had splinters in my tongue and lips. I remember I was almost drowned when I had a big bucket of soapy water dumped on my head and my face held smashed down in the mud. I thought I was going to die and I would have gladly accepted it if I had"
"Today I suffer permanent back pain from the injuries I received due to the methods of restraint. These methods included dropping the victim with extreme force from a standing position to the ground flat on their stomach and face, their hair pulled back and chin forced flat and grinded into the rocky dirt, their arms pulled behind then crossed and shoved up so far the arms would displace from the sockets and the hands would be touching the ears, the legs would be brought up to the middle of the back and the staff member would either sit on top of the student in this position or apply all body weight to the middle of the back on one knee. I can remember only screaming for mercy telling them I couldn’t breath and my back was breaking. They told me if I couldn’t breath how could I be screaming? This torture didn’t stop for hours."
Its been more then 5 years since I left, but these horrors have followed me, I have been greatly affected in more ways then most people can ever understand. I did not receive a high school education, and by the time I left the facility at 17 I did not have the credits to even graduate 9th grade. I was also unable to attend college. I have long term back injuries and many symptoms of PTSD. I lost years of my life, was unable to have a healthy adolescent experience, and was not able to learn the important life lessons one would experience in their late teen years. I will always be behind in my social skills and will always operate my life out of the fear that was drilled into psyche at that young age.
These facilities use fraudulent marketing strategies to bait and switch desperate parents, they promise to take care of their kids and ask for complete trust and loyalty to their system even to ignore their childrens claims of abuse and unfair treatment as "manipulations". All our contact with our parents are either through letters or monitored phone calls. The staff including the teachers did not provide or even have any certifications nor any work experience or qualifications to be working with minors. The medical staff was incredibly questionable, being as the medical services provided were never up to par. There was no admissions process, my medical records were not even taken into any consideration even though had they done so, any doctor would not have recommended that I be enrolled in this program.
The food as well was rarely nutritious and most girls gained around 60 lbs because we were FORCED to eat all the food on our plate. The education system was a joke giving the student no scholastic interaction (as in lectures, labs, elective classes, homework or projects) with no real leadership from real teachers and the tests and school work was so easy students would fly through school work as fast as 2 years work in 6 months. They did this because it gave the parents a sense of success thinking their kids were "getting an education". The seminars were designed to brainwash both the parents and the kids... turning the kids into robots and gaining the cult like loyalty of the parents so that the facility did not have to do anything to gain their trust.
Shortly before I was released from Casa, my mom was still committed to the program. I was told she was advised to keep me int he program one more year (until i turned 18) and if I chose to leave instead of graduate the program I would only be offered a bus ride to the border and my mother would refuse to speak to me ever again. I was so depressed about this and the notion that
I would be stuck there for one more year that I wrote a letter to my grandmother who was so concerned for my wellbeing that she decided to talk to my case manager. She asked her about her qualifications to be working with children who suffered from bipolar and found out she had no prior experience even working with kids, that her education was in business, and that she didn't even know that I had Bipolar. This was the woman who was in charge of my wellbeing and the women who spoke to my mother about me for almost a year, and she knew nothing about me nor cared that I had special needs. This conversation must have struck a cord because not more then 2 days later my mother was advised to come to Casa and pick me up. That was very unheard of at Casa, anytime a student was pulled it was because a parent realized the program was not working or they might have been spooked by the seminars, however in my case, they claimed I was "Institutionalized".
When I arrived home my mother and I spoke about what had happened at Casa and High Impact and she had no idea half of the things that happened, even though I repeatedly wrote her letters about it. I can only assume those letters were intercepted and not delivered to her. She now tells me all she wanted was for me have a better education and get treatment for my disorders, I did not receive either of those, and in consequence, I live with many more struggles today then I would have had WWASP took on the responsibility to properly treat students or turn them away if they knew their system was not meant for them.
I have already accepted that I will live with this forever, I can only try to save kids in the future by encouraging the public to see the red flags of abuse and fraud with WWASP and any other programs that are developed under the same premise. I can only hope that the families that have been effected by this company will finally be avenged and WWASP brought to justice.