This is a staff list for Agape Boarding School in Stockton, MO
(a.k.a. IFB, Roloff Homes)
(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)
We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at Agape Boarding School. For information on your rights and how to take action, visit www.heal-online.org/blowthewhistle.htm. If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Agape Boarding School, you have the right to take action.
If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Agape Boarding School, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you remember the long-term employees and from which years. This will help! Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults.
Please don’t place your loved one in Agape Boarding School and rescue them if they are there now.
|James Clemensen||Pastor/Administrator||Clemensen holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp|
|Frank Burton||Co-Pastor||Burton holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp Reportedly semi-retired.|
|Rich Kaszak||Program Director||Kaszak reportedly no longer works for this program. Kaszak holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp Reportedly no longer works for this program and has moved to Texas.|
|Frank Trainer||Staff Manager||Trainer holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Leo Lenze||Principal (male students only) and PE Instructor||Lenze holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp|
|Brent Jackson||Dean of Students||There is a Brent Jackson that is a licensed professional counselor in Springfield, MO who has been since 2006. It may be a different person. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp|
|Jim Blake||Asst. Principal||
According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Blake is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Blake can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed. Blake reportedly is back working at this program after leaving for a short time to work at Pilgrims Rest of Reconciliation in KY.
|David Bobbitt||Computer Lab/Vocational||According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Bobbitt is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Bobbitt can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed.|
|Julian Outar||Principal (current)||According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Outar is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Outar can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed.|
|Charles Faulkner||Admissions (current)/Teacher||According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Faulkner is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Faulkner can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed.|
|Vern Sorenson/Sorensen||Teacher||According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Sorensen is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Sorensen can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed. Sorenson reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Bradley Price||Teacher||According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Price is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Price can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed. Price reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|John Croy||Teacher||Croy reportedly no longer works for this program. According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Croy is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Croy can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed.|
|Thadeus Kuntz||Teacher||According to the MO Dep't of Education, they cannot verify whether or not Kuntz is a certified educator unless we can provide his social security number. Mr. Kuntz can contact HEAL directly to provide his Educator ID # or Social Security # so we can verify his status, if he is licensed. Kuntz reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Tom Hodgini||Monitor||Hodgini holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp Hodgini no reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Justin Rarrick||Monitor||Rarrick holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp|
|Scott Smith||Admissions||Smith is not a licensed counselor, therapist, nor mental health professional in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp Smith reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Kathy Clemensen||Co-Founder/James' Wife||Clemensen holds no professional licenses in Missouri. Source: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp|
|Robert Graves||Program Director||Graves has reportedly worked for this facility since prior to the move from Othello to MO.|
|James Clidence||Teacher||Clidence reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Riley Olson||Equestrian Teacher|
|Tim Cleveland||Vocational Staff||Cleveland has reportedly worked for this facility since prior to the move from Othello to MO.|
|Andrew Lopez||Cook (current)||Lopez reportedly no longer works for this facility.|
|Julio Sandoval||Orientation Staff/Vocational Staff|
|David Graves||Night Staff||Graves has reportedly worked for this facility since prior to the move from Othello to MO.|
|Donald Stagemyer||Night Staff||Stagemyer has reportedly worked for this facility since prior to the move from Othello to MO.|
|Jon Wilkie||Vocational Staff|
|Ron Sheldon||Vocational Staff||Sheldon is reportedly no longer with this program.|
|Ronald Lobsien||Night Staff|
|Scott Dumar||Medical Staff||Dumar has reportedly worked for this facility since prior to the move from Othello to MO. Dumar and many other staff on this list are former residents/clients of the program. This is one of our warning signs. It is unhealthy for individuals to feel they no longer belong in society and must somehow remain in the program environment. Such staff may be suffering Stockholm Syndrome.|
|Jacob Mayer||Staff||Reported by law firm on May 26th, 2015.|
|James Faulkner||Admissions||Also reportedly works for Exceed Marketing Solutions, LLC.|
|Stephen Clemensen||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program. Grandson of owners Kathy and James Clemensen.|
|Joe Grande||Co-Pastor||Replaced semi-retired Frank Burton.|
|Joseph Arnett||Teacher||Arnett is a former student, turned staff at this facility. This is one of the warning signs of a cult-like program.|
|Josh Rarrick||Night Staff|
|Garrett Kindred||Teacher||Kindred is a former student, turned staff at this facility. This is one of the warning signs of a cult-like program.|
FORMER (& LIKELY CURRENT) PROGRAM AFFILIATIONS:
Affiliated with the People's Baptist Church
The Rebekah Home for Girls (a.k.a. Rebecca Home for Girls, New Beginnings/Lighthouse Ministries in Jay, FL--Started in Texas)
City of Refuge in Oklahoma
Anchor Home for Boys (FL?) (Anchor Academy, Anchor Character Training Center)
Jubilee Home for Women
Bethel Boys Academy (MS) (Now called Gulf Coast Academy and owned by WWASPS--same staff as Bethel.)
Agape Boarding School
Bethel Girls Academy (MS)
Calvary Academy (FL)
Reclamation Ranch (AL)
New Bethany Home
Mountain Park Academy (MO)
Hephzibah House (IN)
Refuge of Grace Academy (MO) and Wings of Faith Academy (MO) (Wings of Faith Academy appears to be the new name of Refuge of Grace Academy) Additional Links and Info:
OTHER CURRENT PROGRAM AFFILIATIONS:
Academy at Ivy Ridge (Academy at Ivy Ridge) in New York
Spring Creek Lodge in Montana
Camas Ranch (for 18 year olds+ young men) in Montana
Carolina Springs Academy in South Carolina
Horizon Academy in Nevada
Darrington Academy (reportedly closed) in Georgia
Midwest Academy in Iowa
Tranquility Bay in Jamaica (reportedly closed)
High Impact in Mexico (reportedly closed)
Casa by the Sea (reportedly closed)
Pillars of Hope in Costa Rica (still operating)
|*(Agape Boarding School, like many other programs in this industry, keeps a "tight lid" on any specific information regarding their staff, qualifications, and practices. Please contact us with the names of any staff of which you have firsthand knowledge or experience. Thank you for your help.)|
|HEAL is in the process of reviewing the enrollment materials and handbooks for this program. We appreciate your patience.|
"Child abuse, child labor, scare tactics, cover ups, staff being expelled for using horse tranquilizers, other things I will not mention. This school has been shut down in Washington and California for child abuse and failure to adhere to state laws and has only been successful in Missouri where they stay far away from most people who could potentially report their failure to adhere to child abuse and labor laws and state regulations, and where the laws on child abuse are nice and lax. I spent 4 horrible years here! I was subject to military style PT's or "Physical Training" by X Marines and Army staff when I was just 14 years old. I have PTSD, spinal problems, and all because of this school and I have doctors that will back that up! I would sue but that is spiteful. Besides I care not about gaining anything from them or hurting them. Just take it from an ex student or talk to any other students that have left there (NOT THE ONES THERE BECAUSE THEY MAKE SURE YOU DON'T SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT THE SCHOOL BY CENSORING YOUR LETTERS AND PHONE CALLS AND LISTENING TO YOU EVERYWHERE!) Before I got to this school I didn't know what drugs were, but after talking with students there I did. This school is a TERRIBLE idea for any parent feeling they need help bringing their son closer to them or God."
|External Link: http://agapeboardingschooltruth.blogspot.com/|
|External Link: http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-should-niu-separate-from-bju|
|External Link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AgapeBoardingSchool/|
Anonymous Survivor Statement: Verified (Signed sworn document
submitted as verification by submitting survivor.)
Agape Boarding School
This took quite some time to draft, and I originally intended to edit it for clarity, grammar, and accidentally repeating myself, but I am just going to send it in as is. My apologies for that. It has been emotionally exhausting enough already, I don’t feel like an English class right now. I am going to include anything that may seem questionable, even if it is “not that bad” or seemed normal at the time, as many of these things that I mentioned to my parents left them wide eyed. I may also nod a hat to a couple things as good such as learning how to stain wood, but it is necessary to understand that no positive effect was worth the abuse. It all was achieved in spite of it, not because of it, and could have been achieved entirely without it. Honestly I am surprised that anything good at all could come of that place and would even go so far as to say it was more blind luck, coincidence, and having to rely on yourself to endure a hardship, and that absolutely nothing good at all came from the actual design of the program. This is because as you will find out as I detail my experience, the program wasn’t about treatment/rehabilitation; it was about nothing but control. Keeping us under control is a lot cheaper than treating us. While I have many emotional and intellectual arguments against the troubled teen industry (bear in mind reader there are thousands of places just like this), I will try to limit this entirely to things I saw directly and maybe a few things I heard directly from the people who experienced them, as was requested by those gathering this information.
When I first arrived I was strip searched in front of other students (3 I think) who also went through my belongings. When I removed my shirt they were appalled at my self-injury scars, and all, including staff, asked a bunch of personal and invasive questions. From here over the next few days I did normal stuff with the student body and felt sad but adjusted okay. My first and second guides did not abuse their power and use it to bully me as I would soon find out is ridiculously common. On the second or third day, they stopped giving me my Prozac 20mg. “med” staff, said that he contacted the pharmaceutical company and they said it was the lowest dose that really does anything and going cold turkey should be fine. This struck me as odd then considering the fact that I had been on 5mg before, and strikes me as odd now because I can’t imagine a customer service rep of a pharm company giving medical advice out over the phone, I can imagine they are instructed specifically not to do so seeing as it is illegal to give such advice unless you are a doctor as far as I know. Usually at the end of pharm commercials I hear them say consult your doctor before stopping your medication when they are saying all the disclaimer stuff. Another thing fishy about that is that if you do some googling you will find some saying coming off of p-20 was not noticeable and some saying it was hell and most everyone saying “wean down just in case” and “talk to your doctor”. I believe he lied, which doesn’t surprise me seeing as how readily they lie to parents about you name it. This was a regular thing, that is to say, someone clearly not qualified to play around with prescription meds doing exactly that. To my knowledge they never doled anything out (other programs have secretly drugged children with anti-psychotics and sedatives), but they always took kids off of anti-depressants immediately and cold turkey. I feel bad for others who were on higher doses of drugs with shorter half-lives than Prozac; that must have truly been hell. Same for kids who had withdrawals from hard drugs coming in. Rehabs and jails have nurses who are qualified to determine if withdrawal symptoms, which for some drugs can be deadly, are dangerous and warrant weaning down. Back to me, a couple of days later I woke up, and had a soul crushing sadness. I was sad coming in, and had gotten a little better over two or three days, but day four was hell, five worse, not sure when I started feeling better. This is actually a side effect of going off of anti-depressants cold turkey and I honestly think it had a lot to do with what I am about to tell you about, the five or six weeks prior to coming in March 11, I had absolutely zero intention of killing myself, and even before that the times I had thought about it, it was never with a full seriousness, intention, and determination. Being sad about being at the school, and possibly the dropping of my meds, made me sad enough to want to kill myself. When I told students on the first day that I was there in part for cutting myself one of them responded, “this place will just make you want to cut yourself more.” I first tried to hurt myself on the dorm. I tried to hang myself with ties off of a top bunk and was noticed and interrupted by other students. A few of them put me on the ground and held me there, one of them a captain holding me by the neck (will go over later about how students are allowed to restrain each other), while staff approached to take over the situation. staff escorted me to the front of the dorm with my arms held behind my back, and whispered to me “if you make a move, I’ll break your arms”. I believed him because my guide and other students had already told me about “restraints”. At the front of the dorm I was put on the floor again and allowed to lay there on my own this time. When the dean of students and other staff arrived he asked what happened, and someone responded that I tried to kill myself. He then asked, did it work, or something like that. The entire student body laughed at me. This is representative of the kind of public humiliation dean of students was fond of. In school (one large room) he would call someone up to the desk in the back (equivalent of going to the principal’s office), and sometimes he would yell and yell at them in front of everyone. I remember many times that the younger kids would begin to cry and he would just continue. If this doesn’t sound that bad consider that when he yelled at me after I got restrained he yelled so violently and threateningly that my balls retreated inside of my body. He was saying things like “You don’t love your mother”. I wish I could remember more of the specific horrible things that were said at times but unfortunately specific phrases are difficult to recall. Anyway, I slept on the floor in the front for supervision (and for the next 2 or 3 weeks as a punishment along with other things, they said it was for supervision but there is no reason they couldn’t just give me a bed in the front right next to staff). Part of close supervision was to be watched by a staff member instead of a student, I continued to feel just as upset but doubted how realistic it was to succeed in suicide as serious as I was at this point. I decided that if I could make a suicidal gesture that would injure me badly enough to necessitate hospitalization (for medical reasons), I could phone my parents to tell them what other students had told me about abuse or even better end up in a psych unit and tell them because I was certain that they would believe me if no one else. This is why I jumped feet first off of a railing over a staircase. When I did this a staff member grabbed me by my suit jacket. I dangled momentarily before another staff grabbed me and pulled me to the floor. I landed on my butt facing away from the staircase. I blacked out briefly, probably simply out of fear and shock, and the next thing I remember was being five or six feet away from where I originally landed, now face down on my stomach. I can only assume he threw me because I sure as hell didn’t walk over there. I then felt him get on top of my back (which is considered a dangerous restraint practice and not allowed in most institutions), at this point I peed myself and felt his hand curl around the back of my head. I then felt my face smash into the floor. The main result of this was a broken nose, and messed up braces. My braces were bad enough that at home I would have had an appointment in the next day or two. If my parents could have seen my face and braces they would have been unspeakably appalled and outraged. I think my braces also cut the inside of my lip pretty badly. While he was doing that or maybe right after he was saying, “is this what you want?” repeatedly. I was saying, “Please don’t slam my head into the floor again, and also “I’m not resisting” repeatedly. He said “stop” twice, to which I responded, “stop what I’m not resisting.” He said to stop talking and it was probably to keep other students from hearing what happened. I was holding my head above the pool of snot and blood, but he made me lay my head in it and he held my head there with his hand. Now other staff were arriving and they moved me into the gym. I think once there, it was the dean of students, pretend nurse, and the other that initiated it. I asked why he slammed my head into the floor repeatedly and they just laughed and made fun of me for “not knowing why I had to be restrained”, even after I clarified that I understood why I was restrained, but not the unwarranted violence. They basically just called me a liar. One was on my legs and switched from hands on my ankles to elbows on my calves several times. He moved his elbow in a circular motion similar to what other students had described to me a restraint was like. I think I was getting it a lot easier than some of the other people, and thank god he didn’t go for the pressure points as so many of my peers will describe in their reports. I asked why and the dean said something stupid about hands getting tired. Obviously a lie. Obvious then and obvious now. Even though I lied there limp and crying intermittently, not fighting and cussing, one still felt the need to hold my arm with enough force to cut off the circulation to it. My pinky felt like it was on fire. When I was let up brother Jackson yelled at me loudly and in my face and I cried more. This was the same time that I mentioned above along with the thing about public humiliation. After he was done I mentioned that my braces were broken. They laughed and said that I can’t go to the ortho because I was new and an orange shirt. When I asked what I was supposed to do about them they simply said, “pray about it”. ]Other things I saw related to restraints were:
· Broken shower door, I wasn’t there for the actual event, but the story was that the dean? Or maybe another, picked a kid up and slammed him into a shower stall, through the door breaking the door. I did see the broken door so obviously something happened to it.
· Once a regular orange shirt caused trouble with his guide. After they hit eachother the staff in the bay said self restraint. He started to get on the ground, but before he could (like a split second after telling him) the staff grabbed him by the collar and slammed him to the ground and started berating him in front of everyone.
· When I hit another student the staff who was standing next to him, grabbed me by the collar and slammed me into a closet, the shelf hit my back and hurt pretty bad for a second but it wasn’t too bad. The main thing I remember about this incident was the fear. As he held me there and yelled at me another staff who frequently participated in restraints came behind him and gave me a death stare until he let me go.
When one student went to the intake
(padded room they used for isolation and restraints with no
witnesses) room at night after cussing at a staff, the next
morning he seemed really off base. I asked what was wrong and
his guide or someone else near him said, “(
· Once on the dorm someone who was known for standing up against push ups that were for ridiculous reasons refused push ups as usual and they must have been tired of it because the staff called another two over and they forced him to the ground, It wasn’t visible to me being so far away but I heard him yelling, “stop your hurting my arm” and brother the night staff was walking by my bed and said, “all of you gentlemen should be looking at the wall!”. This is consistent with what other students told me about who were there when this was a near weekly occurrence, they would always try to force the entire student body to literally look the other way as they physically harmed a student while dragging them to the intake room. It is my suspicion that they never ended this practice as they would have everyone believe but that they got more careful about leaving marks and doing it in front of everyone.
· After I hit a kid in church a staff took me to the intake room and slammed me to the ground as soon as we got in. I calmly walked in and would have lied down if he just told me to. The 18 YO student witness saw this but he probably won’t even remember or care. They always had an 18 year old in the intake room if there was only one staff member. It is supposed to be a neutral 3rd party witness, but any 18 year old had been there long enough to see worse, and was overtaken sufficiently by the mentality of the place for it to seem normal and okay. Most anyone willing to stay after they reach the age they were allowed to voluntarily leave were okay with anything they would do to you down there (maybe not always true, if they thought someone would walk out when they turn 18 the lying snake marketeer would actually tell their parents to tell them that they would be disowned if they didn’t stay to complete their year or graduate, but they just would only pick the guys they knew were okay with their messed up practices). No injuries again this time but it was pretty scary to look up at him knowing that he wouldn’t and couldn’t do anything about it.
· The worse thing I ever saw like this was probably when the dean told a bunch of students he trusted to take a kid into another room. This kid clearly had some sort of severe mental problem. He never did anything bad they were just tired of having to take care of a high maintenance student. He truly didn’t even belong there. You had to tell him every little thing to do (brush your teeth, now tie your shoes, don’t forget your school stuff), but he never deliberately hurt people or broke rules he was just retarded. I heard a commotion and he returned with a black eye and a bloody lip.
· There was another kid, who was also too slow to speak for himself and others whos parents didn’t ever call or visit who had absolutely no contact with the outside world. I don’t like to think of what they did to them behind closed doors, knowing they had no recourse.
To understand why all of this is possible, and why they are able to hide it from parents for so long, you have to understand the mentality of the place. Students went along with what happened because we were always made to feel like we were bad people and we deserved what happened. When I would complain about what happened to me, a few other students said things like, “well are you gonna do it again” and when the push up dude was restrained the staff was saying something like, “weve told you again and again buddy” like it was okay to twist his arm and manipulate his pressure points because “he asked for it”. It was the same as when I was restrained the staff screaming, “is this what you want?!”. Once in a chapel session the staff who was preaching told a story about a guy that broke into a house and got shot by the owner. He sued the owner for excessive force, and he was yelling at us that he was the nitwit that broke into the house and that we are the same way for not taking responsibility for our actions. Regardless of your opinion of that particular situation and defending your home, the point is that he directly implied that if we did something to get into trouble there was no such thing as them taking punishment too far, because anything they did to us would be our fault because we did something to “deserve” it. They would be really inconsistent with how they acted as well, and regardless of whether it was calculated, I believe it contributed to a form of Stockholm syndrome. When I was restrained the staff that did, came and sat down to have breakfast with me a few days later asking me about life back home and acting like nothing happened. It was really confusing and I didn’t want to talk to him but I didn’t have a choice and if I didn’t talk or was rude to him everyone would have viewed me as an asshole and I knew it. When the one slammed me to the ground In the intake room he immediately changed his facial expression and apologized, made a few light hearted jokes and explained that he was upset because I hit someone in front of his family in church, when they were around our parents they would be completely different, like polar opposite to normal. Some of the staff were very callous and detached and they would come over to your family and be extremely nice and call you by your first name (the only time they ever did for the most part) and talk about you like they were your uncle or best friend when normally they wouldn’t give you the time of day when you are sick and asking for medicine or a jacket. They would play softball with us, pool with us, feed us awesome food on holidays, give us sodas when they weren’t supposed to, crack jokes and hangout with us, but that doesn’t make anything any better. People often assume that situations of abuse are constantly hellacious but that’s not usually the case. There are periods of normalcy, sometimes for a long period of time, but you’re always afraid of what happens when they go off the handle. This is the same as what most people with abusive romantic partners or parents say, and the same reason for why when you tell people they are always surprised and don’t believe you saying, “they would never do that I know your dad and he’s a nice good person” or “they would never do that they were good Christian people”. They also always said things about us being manipulators and shamed us in general, but mainly new kids about “manipulating our parents into taking us home”. All of this lead to feelings of guilt like you’re doing something wrong about telling your parents the truth, and you felt guilty about incriminating the person who gives you soda when they aren’t supposed to for helping them clean the kitchen, at times I would have even defended the people saying that it was necessary what they did, but as this wore off I’m left with mental scars anger and regret that I didn’t fight back or at least support those who were brave enough to. When they restrained a lot of the student body was jeering and cheering because they didn’t like him. It was sick. The Sanford prison experiments are another thing that can help someone understand the mentality. In the experiment, after the first group in the mock prison became acclimated to their submissive role of prisoners, when the second group was introduced and offered resistance to the guard’s sadistic ways, they were viewed as trouble makers rather than supported. This is why we were happy when they restrained him, and why we bullied and made fun of runaways when they came back (also because we were jealous), and why we bullied new kids who had starry eyed visions of riots and lawsuits, why 18 year olds never spoke out about what happens in the intake room, why we made a game out of slapping a retarded kid in the face. This prison, like any other prison, turns you into a sadistic monster. There was an unspoken, but frequently implemented rule that students were allowed to tackle or otherwise restrain other students momentarily without getting into trouble. This was a way to condone abusive physical punishment without getting their hands dirty. Most of the time the attacker would do it not because they cared that a rule was being broken, but because they didn’t like the person and wanted an excuse to hurt someone, or just for the fun of hurting someone. Another thing interesting about the Sanford prison experiments was how the guards became sadistic to the prisoners. Perhaps the worst way this mentality affected us was with the buddy guide system. If a guide were so a mind, they could bully you relentlessly by giving you jumping jacks and push-ups for anything, along with constant verbal abuse. If you said anything back you would get push-ups for talking, If you refused, they would take you to staff who would force you to do them without listening to anything you say, If you resist physically you get in trouble, and then given back to your guide only for them to treat you even worse as revenge. It was a way to break you down and show you that any resistance to authority, even when totally justified, is futile. If this doesn’t sound that bad, imagine the worst bully you ever had, now imagine you have to live in the closet and bed next to them, and remain within 3 feet of them at all times, imagine the hopelessness you feel when you tell your parents and teachers and no one does anything about it, now you punch them, get in trouble, and still have to do what they say if you want to have any hope of getting promoted out of their rule. This wasn’t always the case with everyone there but I experienced it for about a month and a half with, and perpetrated the same bullying myself and feel guilty now thinking about it. This was always ignored by staff, and students and staff alike would target the weak, the mentally ill and retarded, very young kids, nerdy/weird, and also anyone who seemed effeminate or openly admitted to being gay when they came in before they realized the horrifying implications of that. This would always make them seem badly behaved and keep them from moving up and getting out of the situation. The bullying of effeminate people and homosexuals was extreme, unlike anything I had ever seen before or since. They advertised to parents that they could “treat” homosexuality and gender Identity “issues” and I guess their method of treating them was to throw them to the sharks and allow us to bully them until out of self-preservation they claimed that they magically became straight. The worst part about that is that they would write letters home telling their parents that they were straight now so that they could come home which gave the parents the impression that the place “worked” and was good. Staff would not only turn a blind eye to it but even sometimes encourage it and participate in it. Preachers would get on stage and openly make hate speech and the whole church would cheer amen. Imagine how this makes a gay or bisexual or transgender person feel.
They basically used us as slave labor. Some of the work crews were genuinely vocational, but even then they still used us to paint their houses and maintain the campus even if we did learn something. The most blatant and offensive time I was exploited for free labor was as a brown shirt, washing the owners Luxury RV rumored to be worth a half a million dollars. The only time that rivals that, was the annual thistle pulling we had to do. This was a job that pretty much required a full 40 hour work week. I think all 100 of us worked 8 hours a day Monday through Thursday and about 6 or 7 hours on Friday to get this done. The temperatures were definitely over 90 and probably above 95. The work was awful, the thistles were so sharp and hard they went straight through my decent leather gloves I had sent from home. They gave out thin canvas gloves to people who didn’t have any. This was definitely a case of being used as slaves because MO has a law that they have to remove the plants from any pasture they keep animals in or pay a fine or lose licensure to keep the animals, and it was such hard and low skilled labor that we didn’t learn anything at all. Most of the mass work we did was hauling rocks. When we would complain and accuse them of making us do work that was pointless and didn’t need to be done, the dean of students would mutter something about how we have a rock problem in MO. It didn’t make any sense. I’m honestly not sure which would be worse, them making us pick and pull rocks from the dirt and carry them long distances for absolutely no reason at all but to break us down , fill time, and make us suffer, or use us as free labor for something that actually needed to be done, so regardless I’m pissed. During the summer we would do this 8 hours a day 3 days a week. As I mentioned earlier, even when we were learning something, it wasn’t in a woodshop classroom type atmosphere with a focus on learning something, the focus was on mowing the lawns or painting the houses owned by the owners, or getting whatever else they needed done and trusted us to do, so obviously there was a conflict of interest. When we accused them directly of slave labor they would mention that we get an elective “woodshop” credit for it, but this credit wasn’t accredited and didn’t have the option of being accredited through lighthouse like our academic classes so it was basically worthless. Even if it was accredited it should be obvious that it wasn’t an even trade.
I think I have mentioned brown town without describing it. Brown was the lowest shirt color, and a punishment color. The punishment was to be suspended from school and have to work/workout all day. This might not sound that bad, but it’s honestly difficult to convey how harsh it was. We would have to stand the vast majority of the day, they would barely let us sit all day. We would work out doing various body weight exercises until every muscle and bone in your body is begging you to stop, but you would keep pushing yourself because they would tell you that that is the only way out of the punishment. You might slack off but you never would refuse because you would be refusing to the same staff members who either hurt you or you heard rumors of them hurting other people. If you slacked off too much they would yell at you so there was really no way to escape the brutal physical strain of constantly standing up and working out for hours on end on top of that. We also ran(literally didn’t ever walk) around the entire huge campus while the staff followed us on four wheelers doing random things like work outs, carrying rocks the size of my stomach, cleaning bathrooms with bare hands, and washing the RV to name a few. Speaking of the time we carried those huge rocks, we did it with bare hands, carried them a huge distance, then stood in a circle and passed them around endlessly. The worst part about these physical punishments is you would never know when they would let you stop, and damn was it hot. These rocks were heavy enough that when I picked mine up to carry it I made sure to use my legs not my back, and then they made us pass them around a circle which required a big side to side motion with feet planted and twisting our backs to accomplish, which is not safe lifting. Orange and brown shirts were required to wear bob barker orange (jailhouse shoes). One thing I noticed about the shoes while I was there was that they are perfect for institutions because they are just fine on any kind of hard flat surface indoors, but the second you step foot outside they start to fall apart, particularly the rubber on the bottom. Even with the rubber on the bottom stepping on a rock can be very painful. The shoes are basically made to fall apart if you escaped a building and got outside, and we were made to constantly run around outside in them. We also had a restricted diet, I don’t think I was hungry most of the time but it sure as hell wasn’t nutritious at all. Toasted oats (unflavored cheerios and a glass of milk) for breakfast, two thin peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and regular dinner. I remember getting so tired of the cereal I stopped eating breakfast. If you do some research on this particular diet you can find other people with similar experiences who speculate that over a long period of time this is a technique of starvation because if you do it long enough you just can’t stomach another peanut butter sandwich. I wasn’t in at the time, but the main staff that ran it, was always talking about making it worse, and after I was let out for the last time, *if my memory serves me correctly* they started doing work outs from 8-10pm (everyone else went to bed at 8) and waking up at 530, 30 minutes before everyone else (I know for a fact there was talk of it, not just student rumors but from the staff). There was also talk about reducing their shower time, not sure if they ever did that but everyone else normally got 5 minutes. I know for a fact from students there for longer than me, that previously that was a part of the brown punishment at other times in the school’s history, to have only 2 or 3 minutes for a shower.
90% of the time if we went outside it was to work. This is another example of false advertising because they showed off the animals, outdoor sports area, and pool to our parents, yet my mom was surprised on a visit when I told her that I barely ever saw the animals. If I was more specific I would have told her I barely ever went outdoors (in the winter, and barely ever went outdoors other than to haul rocks in the summer). The backfield was hardly ever open and I remember hauling rocks and watching staff families ride golf carts to the swimming pools in swim wear. The pool, animals, and sports area were all used by staff and their families more than students. Sometimes you would be indoors for months at a time, especially if it was winter and you were anything lower than a burgundy shirt, which I was most of the time I was there. They would tell you that was my own fault, but I say to that, regardless of whose fault it is its not healthy or right.
On top of using us for free labor and charging our parents an exorbitant tuition to mentally and physically abuse us, they had us do a walk a thon fundraiser writing family members asking them to pledge money for every lap we ran. According to some staff they were a non-profit, but even if they were telling the truth the owners obviously paid themselves a huge salary as evidenced by the big expensive house, RV, and even a vintage car collection. They didn’t force us to ask anyone for money, but they did guilt trip us into asking people by saying that we wouldn’t have the amenities we had if students before us didn’t do the fundraiser. The amenities we barely used.
After leaving agape I read about several places like it that used isolation rooms as a punishment. While this wasn’t the exact practice of agape, I did find out there is a word for what they did do that was very similar, sensory deprivation. In what at the time we called the intake room, students were not only restrained, but after (or often without a restraint) they would have to stay in the padded room until the dean of students let them out. They would be watched by a staff member and an 18 year old student. This would normally only be for a few hours but many people (not me) were forced into this situation for days. The only difference between this and true isolation is that at night around 10 o’ clock you got to come to the dorm after lights out, and sleep on the “blue mat”, which as I mentioned earlier was a thin hard mat barely the width of a body and about 4 feet long. So, basically just sleeping on the floor like a dog. They would wake up at 530 before everyone else and be taken back to the padded room. According to some students, some staff would force you to hold stress positions, such as finger tips to the wall (not leaning just standing and holding your arms up), facing the wall within a couple inches and standing at attention, or laying on the ground in “self-restraint” (one hand holding the other wrist behind your back, feet crossed at the ankles, and head on the side), for completely unreasonable amounts of time. I was in self restraint for brief periods of time a couple different times and I can definitely see how after a while it wears on you, both because you build up energy wanting to move around and more so because it requires effort with your muscles to hold your hands and feet in the position in the same way as holding your arms in front of you, also cramps. Sleeping wasn’t allowed which is weird because supposedly the purpose of the room was to “calm down” (even when you’re totally calmly refusing punishments), if you’re sleeping you would think you are pretty calm, right? Seems clear to me that the goal was to cause boredom and discomfort/stress. According to Charles kennedy sensory deprivation is against the Geneva convention and any isolation over 24 hours is considered excessive and abusive in the state of Alabama. If my parents did the same thing to me at home where I am from they could have gotten charged with child abuse, so how is it okay to ship a kid out of state to have these things done to them?
Some other issues, here I’m just going to mention some weird things that I didn’t realize at the time they would take issue with, but my parents were off put about when finding out, and they should have been told were part of the program.
· I am pretty sure I was housed with sexual predators. I was told by staff that claimed to know why the kids were there, that two (maybe 3?) people by name were there because they couldn’t live at home because they had hurt a sibling. Obviously my parents should have been made aware of this.
· The general way we were treated was dehumanizing and hurtful at times. We weren’t allowed to look at staff families or approach staff areas of the dining hall. This seems reasonable considering the above, but it still hurt and made me feel like an animal. Whenever townspeople or church congregation were there for whatever reason, or just staff families in general were there, we would frequently make jokes like, “please don’t feed the animals” or things like that. It is a reflection of how we truly felt. The most direct time I experienced this, was in brown, when the staff who ran its daughter came to speak to him, and the other staff made us look at the ground, and watched closely at the angles of our eyeballs to make sure we didn’t cut our eyes at his daughter. If they were so scared of us they should have moved to private instead of treating us like crap. We weren’t animals, we had social skills and know better than to stare down women like we wanted to eat them, I would get it if someone was doing this telling them to stop but this was just unnecessary. They treated us like monkeys that couldn’t control ourselves.
· Some kids really did not belong there. Some needed serious mental or assisted living care. I asked a staff once if they have minimum standards of how bad someone had to be to be sent there. He said that they advertised themselves as a therapeutic boarding school so if a parent contacted them obviously there was an issue. There seemed to be maximum standards but no minimums. There were kids there like the aforementioned kid that had to be helped with literally everything, and some others who it was extremely obvious that they didn’t have behavioral problems at all, they were retarded or mentally ill, and were obviously not getting the help they needed, but just like they never ever told a parent their kid was ready to go home, they would never not take a kid because they weren’t able to help them, they didn’t care as long as they had your body in the building and the tuition money flowing in. Yes, they would sometimes kick a kid out, but it was never out of good faith for the benefit of the kid, it was usually because they were big and posed a threat to students and staff or otherwise too much to take care of, never because they couldn’t help them, they couldn’t help any of us unless you think abusing kids is the best way to help them, and recently when I asked former staff member and student and friend of mine if that was an attempt to cut down on them using abuse to control us, he said hell no, it was to avoid lawsuits. Having kids with these types of problems, drug abuse and criminal problems (violence gangs theft etc.), and little 12 13 and 14 year olds who told me they were there for “back talking”, “disrespecting their parents”, and skipping school, all mixed together, and none of them getting the help they needed led to a holding pen effect. The results of this were that no one with serious problems got help and the kids that had less serious issues left wanting to try drugs and auto theft. The place exists to make money, and it takes a lot of money and effort to have qualified professionals to actually help people with their problems. So instead, they just threw us all together, used violence and psychological manipulation to control us, and lied to our parents about the reality. This is why I believe it is the way it is.
· They would restrict contact with our families. Obviously my parents knew about this part but they didn’t realize why. They could call us for 15 minutes every two weeks, but we could never call them ever. This allowed some parents to leave their kids there for years never speaking to them. They claimed to want to help rebuild family relationships, but in reality it made it the perfect place to abandon an unwanted kid and never even be bothered by your phone ringing. I think the main purpose of this was to keep us from telling our parents about the issues. They controlled where and when and brother smith, the lying salesman, in the room always. This made you think he was listening in whether he was or wasn’t, and of course you would think that if you told your parents anything they would talk to him about it and he would lie. Regardless of the reality of this I think it was purposeful to keep us from talking. Have you ever complained to your parents or a principal about a teacher unfairly punishing you and they said, “oh so your calling so and so a liar?”. Well I’ve heard that a lot in my life and I imagine my parents would have at the time not reacted well to me accusing them of abusing us followed immediately by, “brother so and so(marketer) is the biggest liar you will ever speak to” (and he totally is). I tried to tell them on my first phone call quietly, “this place isn’t what you think it is” as my parents had sent me there for mainly cutting myself because it was advertised as therapeutic, to which my mom responded, “I think we have a pretty good idea of what it is”. Well she was damn wrong, and I didn’t have quite the words to convey it, but looking back I would have said that therapeutic is a deliberately misleading word for the program and nothing about it has anything to do with therapy, and is entirely focused on structure, discipline, and compliance. Anyone who sent their kid there for mental health issues did the same thing as the parents you hear about on the news who refuse to treat their kid with chemo for cancer and instead insist on nothing but the power of prayer. Its neglect. Now, its not my parents fault, they were misled, as this staff hyped up the “therapist” they had. It was some extremely old member of the church who could barely hear, had no credentials as a therapist, you talk to him ONCE when you come in, and he tells everyone the same thing (something about letting your old self be dead and jesus Christ take over) even when you try to talk to him about specific issues. I never requested to talk to him as you could, but some of the people who did said it was useless because you go in to talk about some type of issue bothering you and he tells you the same thing every time, and you can barely communicate with him because of him hearing problem. I digress, back to communication, I also tried to tell my parents “my nose was broken during the restraint” in a letter but they didn’t really acknowledge it, and because they read all mail going in and out I couldn’t get any more specific. I wish I had tried harder to explain on my visit when I had more time and less supervision, but that brings me to my next point about communication. Because you can’t, just call whenever you want, it puts time between when they hurt you and when you actually get to talk to them. This lets the Stockholm syndrome kick in and you feel differently about it when you finally do get to talk to them.
· We were also not allowed to speak to each other at all when I arrived, they gradually backed off on the enforcement of the rule over the year I was there, eventually allowing burgundies and higher to talk, but this is significant to mention considering that I found out later my mom was completely un aware that we weren’t allowed to talk. It’s a pretty extreme rule and can cause a loss of vocabulary and is just generally unhealthy. For a rule so extreme and unheard of, she should have been informed. I mentioned it briefly in a visit, and her eyes widened and she said, “your not allowed to talk? Like to people?” and I started explaining, “ya like in the dining hall…” and she cut me off saying oh in the dining hall I knew about that, I should have gone on to make myself clear that we weren’t allowed to talk period, not during chapel, not on the dorm, not in school, not in the shower bay, not during free time not ever. But I didn’t want to sound like a “manipulator”. For most of the time it wasn’t fully enforced but was often enough when I arrived that we (all shirt colors at the time except for the 10 or so captains and 18 year olds and only to each other) would have to make a habit avoid turning our heads to speak and would move our lips like ventriloquists to avoid getting caught. Previously in the schools history it was rigidly enforced. They also greatly discouraged communication between brothers. This is all in stark contrast to a live in family therapy program I was at in, family connection, I mention this as an example of a legitimate and helping program that actually encouraged communication with family and allowed clients to speak to each other, keeping kids for a short period of time, close to home, and voluntarily unless court ordered. Why? Because they didn’t have to worry about us rioting or running away, why? Because they didn’t treat us like animals and abuse us.
· We were not allowed to use the bathroom for the first two hours after we got on to the dorm. If you used it before the bluelight at the front of the room came on you had to wake up 30 minutes early, and stand on a pole, until everyone else woke up. I mention this because it was another thing my mom got wide eyed about when I told her.One staff told me that my parents divorce that was going on during the time I was there was my fault, even adding, “I know they say it wasn’t”. That was even part of the reason for the uncomfortable feelings that made me want to cut myself and here a staff is telling me its my fault. He also said very insensitive things about me cutting myself during my intake and the first couple months I was there. I remember several times that I was being bullied about it directly in front of staff and they never did anything about it. one staff told me to get used to it because it’s the way things are here. The staff never ever did anything about bullying and sometimes participated in it. When I got restrained and I called them out for breaking my nose, they said, “look at what you did to your arms and you’re complaining that your nose is broken?” as if me cutting myself gave them a license to smash my face into the floor. They clearly didn’t know anything about treating self injury problems and I continued to have a problem with it during and after the program and ultimately learned to keep it a secret.
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April 6th, 2017
Last Updated: April 6th, 2017