(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 the Blessed Hope Boys Academy. 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 Blessed Hope Boys Academy, you have the right to take action.
If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Blessed Hope Boys Academy, please contact email@example.com 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.
HEAL is investigating...
|Brother Gary Wiggins||Director/Owner|
|Mrs. Meaghan Wiggins||Staff||Meaghan is Gary's wife.|
|Levi Wiggins||Staff||Levi appears to be a small child. If he is staff at this facility, it should be investigated and prosecuted for child labor violations.|
|Ella Wiggins||Staff||Ella appears to be a small child. If she is staff at this facility, it should be investigated and prosecuted for child labor violations.|
|Elijah Wiggins||Staff||Elijah appears to be a small child. If he is staff at this facility, it should be investigated and prosecuted for child labor violations.|
|Brother Rodney Pinkston||Staff|
|Mrs. Amanda Pinkston||Staff|
|Brother Robert McWhirter||Staff|
|Mrs. Cindy McWhirter||Staff|
|Todd Fietkau Sr.||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Valarie Fietkau||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Earl Fietkau||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Todd Fietkau Jr.||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Margarette Fietkau||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Charles Thulin||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Zack Thulin||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Addie Thulin||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Faith Thulin||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Rachel Thulin||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Thom Bennet||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Wendy Bennet||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Wayne Allen||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Clyde McDaniels||Staff||McDaniels reported that he still works at this facility on February, 2017.|
|Drew Patterson||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|Rustam Zambrowicz||Staff||Reportedly no longer works for this program.|
|*(Blessed Hope Boys Academy, 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.)|
Blessed Hope Boys Academy utilizes the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE)
booklets as its sole educational service. (Source:
http://www.blessedhopeboysacademy.com/about-us.html). ACE, doing
business as Lighthouse Christian Academy and claiming to provide distance or
correspondence learning services for home-schooled youth claims to be "fully
accredited by Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and
Secondary Schools (MSA–CESS) and Accreditation International (Ai)"
https://www.aceministries.com/homeschool/ If you visit
and search for Blessed Hope Boys Academy, Lighthouse Christian Academy, and
Accelerated Christian Education, you will see that it is not listed as an
accredited program nor as a member. Accreditation International provides
a link to "The Alliance" where individuals can search for institutions
accredited by Accreditation International. Source:
http://www.aiaccredits.org/Home.html. We did a search for Blessed
Hope Boys Academy, Lighthouse Christian Academy, and Accelerated Christian
http://worldwideaccreditedschools.org/index.php. Blessed Hope Boys
Academy is not accredited. There were eight listings for Lighthouse
Christian Academy. We found four programs named Lighthouse Christian
Academy in Tennessee, two in Maryland, one in Florida, and one in California.
Lighthouse Christian Academy (the one providing distance learning to Blessed Hope Boys Academy) is located at 130 Maple Drive North Hendersonville, TN 37075 and has a mailing address of P.O. Box 508 Hendersonville, TN 37077-0508. Source: http://www.lcaed.com/?content=contact. Lighthouse Christian Academy (Distance Learning) claims the following:
"Lighthouse Christian Academy (LCA) was awarded full accreditation status as a distance education provider by Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS), National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA), and Accreditation International (Ai). Ai is a recognized member in good standing with the Council on Occupational Education (COE) and the International Council for Education." Source: http://www.lcaed.com/?content=accreditation
As shown above MSA-CESS does not accredit Lighthouse Christian Academy. Source: http://www.msa-cess.org/RelId/606553/ISvars/default/Search_Our_Members.htm. According to the Accreditation International institution search at http://worldwideaccreditedschools.org/index.php, Lighthouse Christian Academy is accredited by AI, NCPSA, and MSA-CESS. But, the MSA-CESS does not show this program as being accredited. Regardless, AI, NCPSA, and MSA-CESS appear to be nothing more than membership organizations which profit off of every enrollment for those enrolling in "distance learning" programs such as ACE/Lighthouse Christian Academy. Source: http://www.aiaccredits.org/AIApplicationForm122909005ab-1.pdf
Regardless, Blessed Hope Boys Academy is operating its program in Alabama. Does Alabama recognize AI, NCPSA, and MSA-CESS as proper accrediting bodies for school credits/education? Faith-based schools and programs are exempt from accreditation, licensing, registration, and approval requirements in Alabama. Source: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/alabama.html. "Students enrolled in a church school before their 16th birthday are exempt from the new (2009) compulsory attendance law and may withdraw at age 16. Code of Alabama 1975 §§16-28-3, 16-28-1, 16-28-7." When applying to colleges in Alabama, do they accept diplomas from exempt schools and programs? NO!
The University of Alabama Admissions Department wrote:
"Good morning Angela, I hope your weekend went well. After checking with our Enrollment Management team, it looks like we would not be able to accept credit from this institution based on the accreditation concerns. If you have any further questions, please let me know, and I will do my best to answer them or get you in touch with someone who can. Have a great day. Hunter Denson The University of Alabama"
The potential for abuse in private religious boarding schools is extraordinarily high. This is especially so in states like Alabama that exempt such schools from any licensing and regulatory requirements. Based on our preliminary investigation we advise against enrollment at this program. We also ask that you watch the following interview with Police Captain Charles Kennedy (Retired) who discusses in detail abuses occurring at another "ACE" school in Alabama and states that ACE is not a properly accredited educational service/programs.
IN PROGRESS INVESTIGATION....
|25 boys removed from private group home in Baldwin County By Grace Tennyson Wednesday, December 7th 2016 S BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WEAR) — More than two dozen boys were removed from a private Christian-based group home in Baldwin County over the weekend. The Alabama Department of Human Resources did not say why the 25 boys were taken from the Blessed Hope Boys Academy, but they do investigate allegations of abuse or neglect. The sheriff's office has a meeting with the department later this week. Source: http://weartv.com/news/local/25-boys-removed-from-group-home|
|DHR removes boys from Baldwin County boarding school By Andrea Ramey Wednesday, December 7th 2016 ELSANOR, Ala. (WPMI) — A private, Christian boarding school for troubled kids may be in trouble itself. DHR confirms 25 boys were removed over the weekend from Blessed Hope Boys Academy and housed at Baldwin County EMA as their out-of-state parents were contacted. DHR will not provide details of what it is investigating, only saying that it investigates allegations of abuse or neglect. Local 15 News spoke with a neighbor who says she is the one who called authorities. "They were terrified when they came to my door," said Tina Boyington. Boyington lives down the road from Blessed Hope Boys Academy. Friday night, she says two 16-year-old boys came to her for help, saying staff was abusive and they couldn't take it anymore." "They said boys over there had been punished by being restrained. There had been one young man hit in the face. There had been one young kid locked in a closet, and if they were punished, sometimes they would take away their food," said Boyington. On the Blessed Hope Boys Academy website, it says a year stay is required. TV, cells phones and internet are not allowed, and the boys are home schooled. "Troubled teens that the families kind of at the end of the rope need some help, that have been in trouble and the parents don't know what to do but put them in a Christ-centered learning environment," said attorney Jeremiah Giles. The director of the facility is Brother Gary Wiggins, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. Wiggins says on the website God called him to this ministry. His attorney says there was no wrong doing, and DHR's action effectively shuts down the school. "I've got clients that feel like they're doing the Lords work but they don't have any work," said Giles. The Baldwin County Sheriff's Office says it will meet with DHR this week. Source: http://local15tv.com/news/local/dhr-removes-boys-from-baldwin-county-boarding-school|
|Religious boarding school raided in Alabama reopens in Missouri Updated 12:19 PM; Posted 5:30 AM In this 2016 photo, Gary Wiggins speaks to a group of students at the Blessed Hope Boys Academy in Seminole, Ala. All students at the school were removed by authorities in December 2016 after two students claimed they were abused there. Wiggins then closed the school and opened a new one in Missouri. (Courtesy of Thomas Cox) By Anna Claire Vollers firstname.lastname@example.org Deputies raided Pastor Gary Wiggins' religious boarding school in rural Alabama after two boys escaped to a neighbor's house and said they were victims of abuse. Wiggins - known as Bro. Gary to those at the school - ran the Blessed Hope Boys Academy in Seminole, Ala. The private school was billed as a place where parents could send troubled teens for hard work and a Christian education. It operated without government regulation or inspection, thanks to an exemption in state law for schools that consider themselves part of a church ministry. Five months after the police raid, Alabama passed a law that would allow the state to inspect schools like his. Wiggins shuttered the Blessed Hope Boys Academy. But he soon reopened in a remote area of Missouri where there are no such regulations, no prying eyes from the state. Red flags Last week, the McDonald County Sheriff's Department in southwest Missouri began getting calls. One of those calls came from Carol Greer of Georgia. She told them she was concerned about the welfare of her 14-year-old great nephew, who she said is a student at Wiggins' school, now called the Joshua Home. On its website, the Joshua Home bills itself as "a home for young men that are struggling in life, whether it be with drugs, alcohol, a rebellious spirit, school, etc." Greer said she began researching Wiggins soon after the boy's mother sent him to the camp and she was not able to get in touch with him. She didn't like what she found. "(Wiggins) has a pattern where he establishes these schools in remote areas, and is hiding under the cloak of the First Amendment for religious activities," she said. "There are no checks and balances." Missouri law is much like Alabama's was before it changed last year. Missouri state law exempts faith-based schools from regulation or inspection by the state department of education. The Department of Social Services and law enforcement can only step in when there are credible allegations of abuse or neglect. When Wiggins operated Blessed Hope, he filed for nonprofit status. Records show the school's revenue grew from $232,524 in 2013 to $289,655 in 2014. The National Center for Charitable Statistics listed the school's 2015 total revenue at $430,159. In December 2016, after the two boys escaped, Baldwin County Sheriff's Department and the Alabama Department of Human Resources removed all 22 boys from the school. They ranged in age from 8 to 17 and all of them were from out of state. Wiggins vehemently denied any abuse had occurred. Charges were never filed. Checking in Deputy Becky Ernest of the McDonald County Sheriff's Department said she was not aware the Joshua Home was operating in the county until Greer called, asking for a wellbeing check on her nephew. Ernest said the department's juvenile office and the local Department of Family Services office had never heard of the school when she called them to ask about it. Ernest went out to the Joshua Home, located in a rural area outside of Pineville, Mo. She eventually located Greer's nephew at the school building, a single-wide trailer down the highway from the student housing building. "Typically, if I go up and knock on somebody's door, if they're an adult they don't have to talk to me," said Ernest. "But a child - they have to produce that child and let me talk to them." She said Wiggins let her talk to the boy alone, and the boy seemed fine. He told her he felt safe. Kicked out of Alabama A month after law enforcement descended on Blessed Hope Boys Academy in Alabama in December 2016, three leaders of another unrelated religious boot camp in nearby Mobile were convicted on multiple counts of aggravated child abuse. Their school had been raided in 2015, when 36 children and teens were removed after officials learned students had been handcuffed to beds, locked in solitary confinement for weeks at a time, and forced to fight each other. In May 2016, the Alabama legislature passed a law that regulates these kinds of private youth facilities, requiring them to perform background checks on staff and banning the use of certain punishments. The law further says schools have to register with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which must inspect the schools at least four times a year to make sure they're following regulations. A spokesperson for Alabama DHR confirmed that no religious residential schools have been licensed since the law went into effect. If any are still operating in Alabama, they're doing so illegally, said Barry Spear, public information manager for DHR. Religious freedom groups protested language in the bill that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation or using sexual orientation change efforts on students. Lawmakers took out those parts of the bill before it passed. In 2017, ABC News' 20/20 program profiled Lucas Greenfield, a former Blessed Hope student who said Wiggins had mistreated him and attempted some forms of conversion therapy on gay students. (Further reading: Former students share harrowing stories of life inside Alabama's worst private school) Wiggins calls himself a born-again Christian, according to the Blessed Hope Boys Academy website in 2017. He said he is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who felt called to open a Christian boarding school for troubled teens. He and his wife, Meghann, ran a boys' school in Missouri before moving to Alabama to open Blessed Hope. On the wall Thomas Cox, a Pennsylvania teenager, said he was one of the two boys who escaped from Blessed Hope in 2016 and led to the school's temporary shutdown. "Being there for two years, your anger kind of builds up," said Cox, who said he was sent to Blessed Hope when he was 15 years old. "It was very cultish. They try to force religious stuff down your throat. If you didn't submit to what they wanted, it was automatic restraint and on the wall." Restraint, he said, was a disciplinary measure involving five people pinning down the student at pressure points, for about 15 minutes at a time. "On the wall" meant standing facing a wall, without talking or moving, for several hours a day with minimal food. "You get 10 demerits and you're on the wall," he said. "I'd end up with 100 demerits for talking, not memorizing Bible verses. That's usually what people were on the wall for." Cox said the students' phone calls were monitored by staff and they were not allowed to take prescribed medication for mental or emotional disorders. He said one of Wiggins' favorite phrases was "You're wicked." The school, according to its website, used the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) Curriculum, a self-instructional, Bible-based program that does not lead to a diploma that is recognized by most colleges and universities. Home in Missouri It's hard to know how many religious camps or schools for troubled teens still operate in Alabama because they were never originally required to report to the state. The same is true in Missouri. But a few of the camps that have been in the news in recent years are located in the same rural, sparsely-populated southwestern corner of Missouri where Wiggins set up the Joshua Home. A lawsuit filed last year alleges that boys at the Lives Under Construction Camp in the southwest Missouri town of Lampe were sexually assaulted in 2009 and 2010. Two teens who ran away from that same camp in 2013 pled guilty to killing an elderly couple. In 2011, a former student at the New Beginnings Girls Academy in La Russell, also in the southwest part of the state, told ABC News she was ridiculed, deprived of adequate food, and subjected to harsh physical punishment. Wiggins did not respond to email requests for comment on his school. Cox said most days he tries not to think about the years he spent at Blessed Hope. He recently got his diploma and has joined the military. He is trying to move on. "There should be laws to protect kids (in places) like that," he said. His advice for students at the new camp was to "Shut up and don't say anything." "If you never, ever say anything except your Bible verses, mind your business, play the game, then you can be all right," he said. "But that's no way to live." Source: https://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2018/05/alabama_religious_school_misso.html|
|Missouri school run by controversial Alabama pastor suddenly vanishes, report states Updated Jun 14, 9:13 PM; Posted Jun 14, 8:37 PM 135 shares By Anna Beahm email@example.com A religious boarding school that moved from Alabama to Missouri after authorities removed boys from the school on abuse allegations suddenly vanishes, reports state. The school, known as the Joshua Home in McDonald County, Missouri, vanished after police began investigating the well being of a child, according to local news reports. Lawmen began investigating after they received several calls requesting police check on the kids. Officials reported things seemed normal and the kids living there "seemed happy." However, residents at the home reported all the doors on the bottom floor of the home -- where the boys stayed -- had the locks on the outside of all the doors. McDonald County Sheriff Mike Hall told a local news organization he hopes this incident will encourage the Missouri legislature to create better regulation for organizations such as this, so this doesn't continue to happen. The religious boarding school group is now said to be in a rural area of central Texas. AL.com journalist Anna Claire Vollers reported the school was known as Blessed Hope Boys Academy while it operated in Seminole, Ala. The school was run by Pastor Gary Wiggins. The school was billed as a place where parents could send troubled teens for "hard work and a Christian education." Former students share harrowing stories of life inside Alabama's worst religious private school "A lot of us didn't make it to freedom." Twenty-two boys between the ages of 8 to 17 were removed from the school in December 2016 after two boys escaped to a neighbor's house and said they were victims of abuse. Wiggins vehemently denied any abuse had occurred. Charges were never filed. The Blessed Hope Boys Academy operated as a license-exempt school, outside of state regulation or oversight, claiming religious exemption under state law because it operates as a church ministry. In May 2017, the Alabama legislature passed a law that regulates these kinds of private youth facilities, requiring them to perform background checks on staff and banning the use of certain punishments. Wiggins shuttered the Blessed Hope Boys Academy. In May, Vollers reported the school was operating under a new name in Missouri -- the Joshua Home. "(Wiggins) has a pattern where he establishes these schools in remote areas, and is hiding under the cloak of the First Amendment for religious activities," Carol Greer of Georgia told Vollers in a previous story. "There are no checks and balances."|
Last Updated:June 15th, 2018