Tuesday, April 23, 2013
WWASPS: focus on Spring Creek Lodge, Montana
Spring Creek Lodge a.k.a. Spring Creek Academy in Montana, part of the gulag that is WWASPS is closed. Even so, in light of the recent publication of the book Coming Back by Mia Fontaine and her mother Claire Fontaine
[reviewed at http://sapphoqreviews.blogspot.com/2013/04/potentially-triggering-wwasps-come-back.html ]
I decided to publish this Focus On. The picture is of "The Hobbit," the smallest of three tiny isolation rooms in one shack at Spring Creek. Some kids were thrown into isolation and kept there for weeks or months. There is absolutely NO excuse for this kind of abuse. The things that happened at Spring Creek and continue to happen at WWASPS facilities and other troubled teen industry facilities today are hideous. Rapes, beat downs, sexual assaults, severe isolation, deaths.
Insert legal words here lest I forget: The things that I write about in this blog post are my opinions which I derived from the various references that I have cited below. It is not my intention to defame WWASPS or any program or business. I don't know any of the folks who started or maintain WWASPS or its' affiliated programs. I have no personal axe to grind with any individuals.
What I do have is rage. My rage derives from, in part, what I found in the many hours that I have spent investigating WWASPS and its' sordid history. While I cannot personally testify to the events that I describe in this post, other people have. I have carefully read everything that I could get my hands on-- pro, con, and in-between. Let's be very clear about this: I believe the survivors. Period.
Am I biased? Yup. I am an American citizen with opinions. It is these opinions that I am expressing in this blog post with what little Freedom of Speech that we Americans have left.
N.B. Spring Creek was also known as Spring Creek Lodge or Spring Creek Lodge Academy. It was located in Saunders County, Montana.
late 1996: Spring Creek opened for business with Cameron Pullan as Director and Chaffin Pullan as Assistant Director. Dan Peart, Robert Litchfield's brother-in-law served as Vice President [of what is unknown to this blogger].
1999- mid 2001: An anonymous survivor of Spring Creek alleges that he witnessed the following during his time there:
- a teen named Chris was being noisy after shutdown [lights out]. He was knocked to the floor and restrained. When other kids tried to interfere-- Chris was complaining of not being able to breathe-- they were also face-down restrained by staff. A group of kids were transported to the Hobbit. They did not receive breakfast or lunch on the following day.
- a teen named Gabe was bear hug restrained by staff. He [Gabe] had asked another student to quit flicking the back of his [Gabe's] ear. Staff slammed Gabe face down on the asphalt. This caused the cracking of several of Gabe's front teeth.
- a twelve year old boy was in the Hobbit and spat all over. Staff informed him that they would use his [the boy's] body to wipe up the spit. After the next spit, they did so.
- a teen by the name of Jeff had cut himself on purpose several times from elbow to wrist. He then used his blood to write the words "Free me" on the wall next to his bunk. Another teen was forced to scrub the blood off of the wall.
- Cameron Pullan told a group of teens that a teen there named Daniel had paranoid schizophrenia. When Daniel became verbally disruptive, a group of teens ["junior staffers" perhaps, level 4 and up kids were required to assist with discipline of lower level kids] were ordered to take him to the Hobbit. This did not go well. They were not trained to do this sort of thing. As a result, Daniel was made to minimally comply through a bit of violent physical contact. The kids did not know what else to do.
- A kid in the Hobbit was let out to use the portable toilet which was [very often] overflowing and filthy. When the kid refused to exit the portable toilet, staff dumped its' contents causing the teen to be covered with feces and urinary waste.
- The Anonymous survivor went on to complain about the "Trail of Lights" and the trust walk which the kids were forced to go through during the seminars. [The "Trail of Lights" and the trust walk were both touted as wonderful in the Fontaine book Coming Back].
2000- 2001: Students at Spring Creek [legal word: allegedly] were told that their parents did not want them, that the parents knew and approved of the abuse that the students allegedly suffered, were routinely denied medical treatment after altercations with other staff or students, were forced to live in The Hobbit for weeks at a time. Three teens and their parents made these allegations during the California lawsuit filed on May 27, 2005. The lawsuit was later thrown out of court for lack of status. [The California attorney was not licensed to practice in Utah, where the WWASPS headquarters was, and is today].
September, 2002: A girl used a vacuum cleaner pipe to shatter the cheekbone of a guard while attempting to carry out her escape plan from Spring Creek.
March, 2003: A male staff member was charged with sexually assaulting two boys being isolated in the Hobbit. The boys were aged fourteen and seventeen. See week of April 12, 2004.
June, 2003: Reports of a teenaged girl beaten by other teens with a shower rod at Spring Creek.
Sometime in 2004: Policy and Procedures Manual for Spring Creek was drafted. Part of it stated that students could earn points towards privileges by engaging in such activities as: carting around a bucket of rocks for an unspecified period of days or weeks, holding a log with other students for an overnight off the ground [if the log touched the ground at all, students were dropped levels], jumping [or being pushed by staff] blindfolded into a pond in the winter [this was allegedly a favorite of Chaffin Pullan], male students dressing in drag.
week of April 12, 2004, exact date unknown: Male staff member who was charged with sexually assaulting two boys being isolated in the Hobbit in March 2003 pleaded guilty to two charges of felony criminal endangerment. He received credit for the eleven days he had served in jail. His sentence was three years of probation, deferred [provided that he stay out of legal trouble for three years, I believe].
August 2004: Parent John France, himself a psychologist, testified that his son [also named] John France was kept in the Hobbit for eight and half months straight. His son was also involved in a staff-executed restraint which resulted in a burn from a heater. The son also was injured by a fall involving some stairs and had to have oral surgery to repair his front teeth from that fall.
October 7 or 8, 2004: Karlye Anne Newman, several days shy of the age of seventeen, hung herself in a bathroom stall using her sweatshirt as a noose. This was her second suicide attempt by hanging and she was [tragically] successful. Her whereabouts were unknown for approximately one hour. She was discovered unconscious. She was taken to a hospital via medicopter but died. Survivor L.C. remembered Karlye Anne Newman as being someone who reached out to L.C. who was then a frightened thirteen year old and new to Spring Creek. Students were not allowed to discuss Karlye Anne Newman under threat of a Category 4 infraction. A CAT 4 resulted in a drop in four levels and increased time to be spent at Spring Creek. Contrary to the allegation that the teens were not allowed to talk about Karlye Anne Newman, Chaffin Pullan maintained to a newspaper journalist that the staff would help teens through the grieving process.
Sometime in 2005: Representative Paul Clark [whose term has since expired] successfully advocated for legislation to create PAARP. P.A.A.R.P. stands for Private Alternative Adolescent Residential (or outdoor) Programs. He was appointed to the PAARP board and then became its' chair. Although tasked with creating regs for licensure of private facilities such as the one that he himself owned at that time, nothing much happened in PAARP.
February 2, 2005: In the early morning hours, Keith Earl Wood, a staffer at Spring Creek fired eight bullets at another man [making his mark seven times] and then allegedly committed suicide with that same gun. [The man that he had shot at survived]. This happened in town, not at Spring Creek. Wood was supposed to be at work, but got involved in a lovers' quarrel with his girlfriend. The two broke up. Wood continued to contact his now ex-girlfriend via cell phone. He then showed up at her apartment and disaster occurred.
May 27, 2005: In a ninety five page lawsuit, several complainants who had attended Spring Creek were told that their parents did not want them, that the parents knew and approved of the abuse that the students allegedly suffered, were routinely denied medical treatment after altercations with other staff or students, and were forced to live in The Hobbit for weeks at a time. Three teens and their parents made these allegations during the California lawsuit filed on May 27, 2005. The lawsuit was later thrown out of court for lack of status. [The California attorney was not licensed to practice in Utah, where the WWASPS headquarters were, and are today]. These things occurred during the years of 2000 and 2001 according to the class action lawsuit which involved a large group of plantiffs who had attended various WWASPS facilities.
September, 2005: Sixteen year old Jordan Hopp-- resident of Florida, son of Scott and Deanne Hopp-- was sent to Spring Creek by his parents.
September 8, 2005: Mickey Manning, Principal of Spring Creek, began serving on the board of PAARP. Capacity was unstated.
September 9, 2005: Adrian Sanders, sixteen, escaped from the Second Chance Transport Service [an escort service used to take unwilling teens to WWASPS facilities] which was conducting him from Spring Creek to Tranquility Bay, a WWASPS facility in Jamaica. Adrian Sanders was being sent there as a punishment for violating unspecified rules at Spring Creek. He fell off of a cliff and was rescued. He arrived at Tranquility Bay the following day.
January, 2006: Fifteen year old Seth Hopp-- resident of Florida, son of Scott and Deanne Hopp, brother to Jordan Hopp-- was sent to Spring Creek by his parents. At that time, his brother Jordan was reportedly doing well at Spring Creek.
March, 2006: Jonathan Herrick filed a lawsuit against Spring Creek. His suit maintained that he was the victim of multiple physical and psychological assaults while he was a student there.
May, 2006: Jordan Hopp was found by staff at Spring Creek with a cigarette lighter. He also had "run plans." His particular "run plans" were not identified. A "run plan" could be something as simple as looking out of a window. [Students were not permitted to look out the windows]. Spring Creek residents were also not allowed to possess written names, phone numbers, and e-mails of others as this was also construed as having a "run plan." Jordan Hopp was informed that he would have to start the program over at Level 1 [after achieving Level 4, out of 6 levels]. He escaped for thirty six hours. He surrendered due to cold weather.
May, 2006: Scott and Deanne Hopp decided to take Jordan out of Spring Creek.
June 5, 2006: approximately 8 p.m.: Jordan Hopp was cornered in a bathroom by five teens from his living unit. He was severely beaten, allegedly with a PVC shower pipe or rod.
June 6, 2006: shortly after midnight: Scott Hopp was notified that Jordan Hopp had been beaten at Spring Creek. Jordan Hopp was hospitalized. The parent Hopps pulled both boys immediately from Spring Creek.
June, 2006: Frustrated by the lack of responsiveness from Spring Creek officials and the sheriff's office, the Hopps posted award money in hopes that someone would come forward as a witness to what exactly transpired during the night of June 5-6, 2006. It was reported that any and all evidence at the scene of Jordan Hopp's beating had been destroyed or was otherwise unavailable.
June 23, 2006: Assistant Director Chaffin Pullan [twin brother of Chase Pullan: both were at Spring Creek from its' inception through its' demise] used the WWASPS public relations firm to announce that Spring Creek would no longer be affiliated with WWASPS, i.e. officially under the WWASPS umbrella. Similar moves have been conducted by various WWASPS facilities in a push to have the schools be owned privately or under limited liability corporations yet retain the WWASPS program structure, seminars, and use of the WWASPS accounting services to cut paychecks. See the timeline located at http://radicalsapphoq.blogspot.com/2012/12/w.html for similar pull-outs]. It was reported that Spring Creek routinely forwarded forty percent of their profits to the WWASPS headquarters in Utah even after the "pull-out."
Summer 2006: PAARP asked the Montana Legislature for two more years in which to consider the thorny question of registration and licensing of private alternative adolescent residential (or outdoors) programs in the State of Montana. Senator Trudi Schmidt was not happy. She introduced SB 288 and began to lobby for its' passage. See February 9, 2007 for more.
October, 2006: The Turley legal team out of Texas included Spring Creek in the lawsuit filed on behalf of some survivors of WWASPS.
October 23, 2006 or November 6, 2006: Karlye Anne Newman's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Spring Creek. Cameron and Chaffin Pullan, the twin brothers who were running Spring Creek at the time of Karlye Anne Newman's suicide, were named in the suit. Mom alleged that Karlye Anne Newman had made statements of suicidal intent but these statements were not acted upon by staff. Instead of treatment, Karlye Anne Newman was placed in isolation several times. Lack of adequate supervision gave her the opportunity to kill herself. She took that opportunity.
November 20, 2006: Mike Chism, identified as Program Director of Spring Creek, declined to comment on the lawsuits. The lawsuits had not been served yet.
February 9, 2007: A public hearing was held on Senator Trudi Schmidt's proposal SB 288. SB 288 would put the registration and licensing of Montana's private troubled teen industry facilities under the oversight of Montana Department of Labor and Industry. A few unnamed facilities objected to the increase of PAARP's board from five to nine. The increase would have included more professionals who were not directly involved with working for the troubled teen industry. [At that time PAARP's five seat board included three troubled teen industry officials and two board members not from the troubled teen industry]. Spring Creek opposed SB 288.
June 21, 2007: Mickey Manning, Principal of Spring Creek, was elected as chairwoman of the board of PAARP.
June, 2008: In a summary judgement, the Pullan brother were found not negligent in the care of Karyle Anne Newman. [To the best of my limited understanding this is what I believe the information on line is correctly interpreted as].
July 9, 2008: Judith Newman, mother of Karlye Newman, filed an amended complaint to her lawsuit. This complaint listed Robert Litchfield and various arms of WWASPS.
October 1, 2008: Deadline given to PAARP with Mickey Manning as its' chairwoman to develop licensure regs for the private facilities which effectively were unanswerable to officials in Montana anyways, being private [and religious, i.e. L.D.S.].
January 14, 2009: Spring Creek closed.
early 2010: Judith Newman settled her claims against three of the organizations in her amended lawsuit, one organization was granted summary judgement [i.e. was found not responsible in the negligence and subsequent death of Karlye Anne Newman].
March 3, 2010: Montana PBS released "Who's Watching the Kids?" That vid can be viewed on-line at http://watch.montanapbs.org/video/1430387622/
Documentary discussed Montana's private unregulated troubled teen industry facilities. Noteworthy is that access to the Spring Creek campus for the purposes of making this docu was denied.
September, 2010: Court denied Judith Newman's motion for summary judgement against Robert Litchfield and WWASPS.
October 27, 2010: At the conclusion of a twelve day trial by jury, neither Robert Lichfield nor WWASPS were found negligent in the death of Karlye Anne Newman.
December 14, 2011: Legal briefs were submitted in Newman vs. Litchfield regarding Newman's demand for a new trial.
March 6, 2012: Judith Newman, mother of Karyle Anne Newman, in Newman vs. Litchfield was granted her motion [in part] for a new trial. In other words, the court rejected part of her motions for a new trial and upheld others. Thus, a new trial was ordered. I was unable to locate the outcome of this trial or even if the new trial had taken place yet as of date.
the future: The future of the troubling troubled teen industry businesses in general and of WWASPS in particular is as yet unknown. Scary, yeah.
radical sapphoq says: In my opinion, parents would do well to seek alternatives other than sending their teen or pre-teen to a troubled teen industry program. Anecdotal evidence on the Internet point to the existence of apologists for the methods used at Spring Creek and other WWASPS-affiliated facilities, the existence of a few folks who deny that anything untoward has ever taken place at a WWASps-affiliated facility, and the existence of survivors and parents of survivors who decry Spring Creek and other WWASPS-affiliated facilities. As for me, I believe the survivors and their parents.
The evidence for the abuses which occurred at the Hobbit was particularly compelling for me. Descriptions of the Hobbit and a photograph demonstrated to me that kids were taken to the Hobbit and left there for weeks or months at a time. The things that survivors allege to have happened at Spring Creek were horrifying. Teens do not become healthy by being subjected to abuse by their care-takers.
WWASPS and its' various umbrellas continue to exist. There are reports that a "new" outdoor program has opened at the Lichfield property in Utah in January 2013, bringing the total of programs that share space there up to three. For as long as WWASPS exists, I will continue to research what is going on with WWASPS. For as long as any troubled teen industry business exists, I will continue to speak out against the abuses that are alleged to take place within the troubling troubled teen industry. I endorse Anonymous for bringing this issue to my attention on Twitter. I support survivors and all who also work to stop the torturing of our teens in the name of "behavioral modification" or "treatment" or "self-discovery." I did not know Karyle Anne Newman. I will endeavor to remember her name for the rest of my life.