This is a  staff list for Hidden Lake Academy in Dahlonega, GA

(This program is closed/closing)

(a.k.a. Ridge Creek School, Ridge Creek Wilderness, Mountain Brook Academy, Highlands Preparatory School)

(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 Hidden Lake Academy.  For information on your rights and how to take action, visit  If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Hidden Lake Academy, you have the right to take action. 


If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Hidden Lake Academy, please contact 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.


This program is closed/closing and therefore has been moved to the Dead Program's Page.




Additional Information
Kathleen Heasley Registered Owner  
Steve Sorrels Administrator Ridge Creek Wilderness program.
ADVISORS ADVISORS ADVISORS--(Paid?) Referrers who "vouch" for the abusive Hidden Lake Academy**
Jim & Jane Barganier from Alabama  
Mike & Kent Jenkins from Alabama  
Ronald & Daphne Reed from Alabama  
Walter & Beth Wright from Alabama  
Florence & Bob Young from Alabama  
Herman & Jodi Essert from Arizona  
Peter & Emily Buch from Connecticut  
John & Diana Cloud from Florida  
James L.Ferraro (atty) from Florida  
Robert & Dorey Scott from Florida  
Elinor Breman from Georgia  
Lynn & Mike Cottrell from Georgia  
Ronald Gann from Georgia  
Craig & Nancy Mento from Georgia  
Thornton Morris from Georgia  
Janet Page (PhD-referral $?) from Georgia  
Marvin & Janice Shoob from Georgia  
James R. & Nancy Malik from Illinois  
John & Kathy Knotts from Kentucky  
Nathan & Erica Hoffman from Louisiana  
Peter & Bonnie Waters from Louisiana  
Jeff & Heather Fisher from Ohio  
David Ball from North Carolina  
Steve & Linda Block from North Carolina  
Lane & Robin Byrd from North Carolina  
Bob & Pat DeGregorio from South Carolina  
Daniel & Garianne Fuentes from Texas  
Bernard and Mary Ellen Malone from Texas  
Diane Hickert-Hill from Virginia  
Robert & Margaret Rashti from Virginia  
**On the Hidden Lake Academy website dated July 16th, 2009 it gave the above names as people who endorse the program.  It is possible that these people have been misled and defrauded by Hidden Lake Academy.  If you know them, please educate them regarding the abuse at this facility and advise they remove their endorsement and/or affiliation with this fraudulent cult that teaches "the elements of life: earth, water, fire, wind, galaxy" as part of their cult indoctrination.
NO NAMES NO TITLES There are no details about their staff.*
*(Ridge Creek 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.)
Makekaus deny association.
Hidden Lake Academy Survivor Reports & Lawsuit Information
Hidden Lake Academy Lawsuit
Ridge Creek School Inspection Results: 12/10/2009
Ridge Creek School Inspection Results: 03/30/2010
Ridge Creek School Inspection Results: 07/12/2010
Ridge Creek School Inspection Results: 07/21/2010
Ridge Creek School Inspection Results: 09/01/2010
Ridge Creek School Inspection Results: 11/23/2010
Ridge Creek School Inspection Results: 03/10/2011
Georgia Dep't of Juvenile Justice Contracts and Correspondence: Contract, Correspondence 1, and Correspondence 2.
Article: Deputies Respond to Ridge Creek Academy (January 26th, 2011)
Ridge Creek School is Closed/Closing:
Survivor Update: Ridge Creek School appears to be closing and is set to re-open as Highlands Preparatory School in September, 2011.  The address on Highlands Preparatory School's website is the same as the location of Ridge Creek School (formerly Hidden Lake Academy).  This information was confirmed by visiting 
External Link: Ridge Creek School: A Microcosm of Inevitable Failure (March 26th, 2011)
Survivor Update:  Keith Bishop, who hired on as director in February, 2011 is already gone from that position.  It has also been reported that there are new people in the following positions (we are working on accessing the names and histories of those individuals): Special Education Teacher, Assistant Director of Academics, Director of Counseling, Director of Academics, Counselor, and Headmaster.  The high turn over rate and repeat violations at this program more than suggest it is best to be avoided.


I-Team: Ridge Creek School:


I-Team: Ridge Creek School

Updated: Friday, 08 Jul 2011, 5:53 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 08 Jul 2011, 5:41 AM EDT

ATLANTA - Parents and former employees say a school for troubled teens is doing more harm than good. The allegations come in official complaints to the state and lawsuits filed against the owner of Ridge Creek School in Dahlonega.

I-Team reporter Randy Travis says the problems came to a head in January when authorities say students there started a riot. Click the video to view the full report.






HEAL has found multiple problems with Ridge Creek School's (Ridge Creek/Ridge Creek's) enrollment agreement including apparent unconscionable terms and contradictory terms leaving us to believe that Ridge Creek School is running a money-making scam on families in need of assistance.  We will be alternating between "quoted text" from pages of Ridge Creek School's enrollment agreement (as was retrieved from on October 9th, 2010) and HEAL's questions/concerns.  (Included in this review are the Admissions Checklist, Application, Approved Items List, Computer Fees, Grievance Policy, Credit Card Authorization*, Enrollment Agreement, Dental Forms**, Additional Fees, ICPC Form***,  Explanation of ICPC Form***, Medical Payment Form***, Nutrition Form***, Psychiatric Patient Registration Form, Physical Exam Form****, Privacy Practices****, Release of Information Forms****, Transcript Request Form****, and WalMart Pharmacy Agreement.) HEAL will not repeatedly link to the enrollment agreement in full throughout this review, and, we advise readers to scroll back and/or open the enrollment agreement in a new window while reviewing our work for accuracy or if additional contextualization is preferred.  This is an independent review and if you are in need of legal assistance or advice, please consult with an attorney


Application (page 1)


"Student's Social Security No."


"Is student a US citizen?"


"Father's Information"


"Business Name"


"Business Address"


"Bus. Phone"


"Mother's Information"






"Work Ph"


"Person Financially Responsible"


"Work Phone"




"Were you referred to us by an educational consultant?"


"If yes, please list name"


HEAL's Questions/Concerns


Programs do not need your child's social security number as most programs do not request it.  So, it is a mild concern that the program is requesting such information about the child.  It should be explained in full why Ridge Creek School requests this information before anyone shares it with them.


It is a concern that this program accepts international students as such may result in a serious international incident given the track record of the program including lawsuits and current government inspection reports available through our site at (above).


It is a concern that Ridge Creek requests so much professional contact information for everyone closely involved with the child.  Most programs do not ask for such detailed information of each individual with an immediate family connection to the child and the reason for asking for such details should be explained to the satisfaction of the family before the family shares such important information.


Many programs in this industry offer some kind of "kickback" or compensation to referrers.  This leads to unethical placement decisions on the part of those who refer for the money, and most referrers do.  So, parents should inquire as to whether or not the program offers any kind of compensation to referrers.  Parents should realize that programs and their referrers have been known to lie about such arrangements, so, taking them at their word is a risk.


Application (pages 3 & 4)


"Social History"


"Previous Wilderness"




"Aggressive Behavior (Verbal)"


"Arrest History"


"Defensive Behaviors"






"Drug Use/Abuse"


"Family Conflict"




"Learning Disabilities"


"Sexual Acting Out"


"Sexual Harassment/Abuse (Perpetrator)"


"Sexual Harassment/Abuse (Victim)"


"Suicidal Threats"


"Suicide Attempts"






"Physical or sexual abuse incidents reported to authorities.  Explain legal action taken and final disposition."


HEAL's Questions/Concerns


HEAL hopes parents realize that teens who have had legal trouble are placed with children with minor difficulties like learning challenges, depression, and grief.  The program operates with the same level of suspicion and disregard of all children and treats them as if all are as "bad" as those who have a history of arrest and/or criminal activity.  Often children with minor challenges become adversely influenced by those who are more criminally inclined.  And, this alone suggests that Ridge Creek is not responsible in how it operates its program(s).


Why does Ridge Creek need to know if physical and sexual abuse was reported to authorities and how it was resolved?  Parents should inquire as to Ridge Creek/Hidden Lake's history in this regard, including lawsuits filed against the program.  It is possible Ridge Creek asks this to see if parents are likely to sue or press charges in the event of abuse.  And/or looking for evidence to use to show a history of "false accusations" in the event the prosecutors failed to prosecute or jury failed to convict your child's abuser.  It is common knowledge that perpetrators "get off" or accept "plea deals" and are never actually convicted of the crime with which they were charged and of which they were accused.  It is also common knowledge that innocent people are convicted of crimes they didn't commit.  So, the system is imperfect and it is difficult to understand why the program needs an explanation of all the legal issues involved with any reports of abuse.  This is excessive and should be explained.


Approved Items List (page 1)


"Students may only have books that are primarily religious text (Koran, Torah, and The Bible)." 

HEAL's Questions/Concerns


It is a serious concern that a child's reading materials are limited to religious texts and do not include standard educational or literary materials.  Parents should really consider if they want their teenagers education so limited and what that will do to the well-roundedness of the young adult when applying to colleges and universities.


Computer Fees (page 1)


"Have intranet e-mail access to teachers and counselors, including the ability to turn in completed homework electronically."


"Be able to send internet e-mail to up to four family members."


"Your cost will be a one-time fee of $600.00."


"Fees are non-refundable." 

HEAL's Questions/Concerns


$600.00 is an extraordinary fee for something that also provides convenience to the program.  That fee more than covers the costs of a basic notebook computer and internet service fees.  While it is an optional fee, it is a concern that the fee is non-refundable as the excessive amount implies a "deposit" to protect their investment in the computer equipment and cover against damages. 


Grievance Policy (page 1)


"Conflict Resolution Policy"


"While a student is enrolled at Ridge Creek, parents, guardians, or referral sources that have concerns regarding the program's treatment of a student should first make those concerns known to the class counselor assigned to work with a student.  The class counselor will, in turn, make the issue(s) known to the Team Leader, and Directors who will insure that all allegations and/or concerns are investigated and resolved appropriately."


"Once a student is no longer in the Ridge Creek program, parents, guardians, or referral sources should contact either the Director of Admissions or the Director of Counseling with any concerns regarding the program's treatment of a student."


"In addition to the above procedures, parents, guardians, or referral sources may contact the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Office of Regulatory Services Division.  Ridge Creek is licensed by this agency as a Therapeutic Camp, and will fully cooperate with any and all inquiries or investigations made by independently or on behalf of student's representatives."


HEAL's Questions/Concerns


*Credit Card Authorization Form and some other forms  will not be addressed in the review, but, HEAL is concerned about families entrusting their credit card information to programs such as Ridge Creek School.  HEAL has reviewed all of the forms linked above and as many repeat issues raised on other forms, we have chosen not to repeat it. 

The major concern here is that Ridge Creek does not specify a grievance procedure for children in the program.  This suggests such a procedure does not exist and raises serious concerns regarding the safety of children at Ridge Creek.


It is a major concern that the majority of the complaint process is handled in-house.  This will delay investigation and provide ample time to cover-up abuses that may have occurred.  And, it hampers the ability of the proper authorities to investigate properly when serious allegations come to light. 


The Georgia Department of Human Resources no longer exists.  It has been replaced by the Georgia Department of Human Services.  There is no Office of Regulatory Services Division listed on the Department of Human Services website.  HEAL assumes that the current office in charge of "regulating" facilities such as Ridge Creek School is the Residential Child Care Office.  We found three listings for Ridge Creek, which include Ridge Creek, Inc. (Child Caring Institution), Ridge Creek, Inc.-Mountain Brook Academy (Child Caring Institution), and another for Ridge Creek, Inc. (Outdoor Program).  For Ridge Creek, Inc. (Institution), the state of Georgia has no information on whether or not Ridge Creek is accredited and does not show any information regarding the administration of this program.  However, the hyperlink above includes some of the inspection reports made by authorities.  Many of these reports are also available and linked through our site at  In January, 2010, the state of Georgia found violations when investigating Ridge Creek, Inc. - Mountain Brook Academy.  Again, all three programs listed share the same address and the state does not know how many children are even in the programs.  Check the hyperlinks for more information.  Ridge Creek, Inc. (Outdoor Program) shows that the administrator is Steve Sorrels.  The linked government site also includes inspection reports for the "wilderness" program and claims a current enrollment in the wilderness program as 64 children as of December 4th, 2010.  It appears that it may be possible that the "wilderness" program is the only program in "good standing" with the state of Georgia that is offered through the services of Ridge Creek, Inc.  And, as the other programs operating at the same location have been in repeat trouble with families and authorities, we advise against placing any child in this program or affiliate programs.


Enrollment Agreement (page 1)


"In addition, I hereby authorize and consent to any X-ray examination, anesthetic, inoculation, vaccination, medical or surgical diagnosis, treatment and hospital care to be rendered to my student while enrolled at Ridge Creek, under general supervision and upon the advice of a physician licensed under the provisions of the Medical Practice Act.  I also hereby authorize any insurance benefits to be paid directly to any hospital or doctor providing care, and I recognize my responsibility to pay for all non-covered services."


"I hereby authorize and consent to any X-ray, examination, treatment or care to be rendered to the above named student by a consulting dental care provider while the student is enrolled at Ridge Creek who is licensed under the laws of the State of Georgia."


HEAL's Questions/Concerns


**HEAL will not be including a review of the "Dental Forms", but, included a reading of the forms in our overall process for this review.  The above portions of the enrollment agreement are reasonable if the program covers costs related to injuries caused by intentional or negligent conduct of Ridge Creek and its staff.  However, the release of liability and imposed familial assumption of risk clearly show that the family will be held solely responsible even for harms caused by the program or its methods.  This is a serious concern.


Enrollment Agreement (page 2)


"Ridge Creek sometimes uses photos of our students doing activities such as climbing and rappelling for promotional materials.  We also sometimes use written or oral statements made by students concerning the benefits of the Ridge Creek program.  Your student's name will not be used.  If you would like to give us permission to use your students photograph and other media, please sign the agreement below."


"If you fail to provide the existing evaluation, then within thirty days or your student's arrival at Ridge Creek they will complete a independent psychological evaluation at a cost to the family as detailed on expenses outside of tuition."


"I hereby give my consent for Ridge Creek to contract with a psychologist for the purpose of evaluating my student's appropriateness for the Ridge Creek program."


"The undersigned, being the legal Custodian and ________ Guardian of (please print full name of student) (hereinafter referred to as the "Student"), a student who has been enrolled or will be enrolled in Ridge Creek (hereinafter referred to as the "Program"), and the undersigned Student, have been informed that the Program is a non-lockup, non-restraint facility.  However, when absolutely necessary, we are trained and certified to perform TACT-2 Therapeutic holds to prevent a student from causing physical harm to themselves or others."


"The undersigned have been informed that the Program is not and will not be the legal custodian and/or guardian of the Student and that the Program is not responsible for actions taken by the Student either while on or off the Program property."


"However, if local authorities are called and the school is charged a fee the parent will be billed and the Program will take no action to secure the return of the Student to the Program.  The undersigned Guardian or Custodian must take action to return the student to the Program."


"The undersigned hereby release, acquit and forever discharge the Program, its owners, agents, successors, assigns, representatives, related entities, subsidiaries, members, officers, employers, attorneys, partners and any and all persons acting by, through, under or in concert with any of them, from any and all charges, complaints, claims, liabilities, liens, obligations, promises, agreements, controversies, damages, actions, causes of action suits, rights, demands, costs, losses, debts, and expenses (including attorney's fees and costs actually incurred) of any nature whatsoever, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, arising out of the Student running away from Program property or running way while off Program property.  This release is meant to be a general release of any and all claims or potential claims against the Program by the undersigned and should be so construed." (ends on page 3) 

HEAL's Questions/Concerns


It is contradictory and a serious concern that Ridge Creek claims to not use restraint and then explains the types of instances in which restraint is used at the program. 


Ridge Creek refuses to take any responsibility for the welfare of children while enrolled in the program.  This is a serious concern.


HEAL approves of the condition that parents should retrieve their children and find out why they ran away before deciding and/or returning the child to Ridge Creek.


The release and waiver portion suggests that it applies only to injuries sustained by a client who has run away from the program.  However, this idea is contradicted by the statement that it is a general release and protects the program from all possible claims in tort and contract.  This is a serious concern and given the history of this program, one that should encourage parents against enrolling their children at this program.


Enrollment Agreement (page 3)


"I understand that for the safety of all students enrolled at Ridge Creek, all students are strip searched on the day of their arrival and upon return from leave in a dignified manner to ensure that no student brings any contraband or weapons into the program." 

HEAL's Questions/Concerns


Here, Ridge Creek admits to violating the civil rights of children in the program.  Any admission by a program that they violate any law or right of the child is cause for serious concern and suspicion regarding other practices in place at the program.


Enrollment Agreement (page 4)


"These professionals may represent the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Office of Regulatory Services, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, current or potential therapeutic referral sources, and/or current or potential educational referral sources."


"Counselors screen written communication between parents and students to ensure communication is appropriate and not detrimental to the objective of the program.  Visitation in encouraged and outlined in the parent handbook and arranged with your student's counselor and school communicator."


"The undersigned does hereby voluntarily and knowingly assume any and all such risks."


HEAL's Questions/Concerns


The Georgia Department of Human Resources, Office of Regulatory Services no longer exists.  See Grievance Policy (page 1) review above for more information.  The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has been under fire by Congress for repeated failure to enforce patient's rights and patient's safety standards.  In searching the Joint Commission's accredited facilities list, there is no listing for Ridge Creek, Inc.  So, it appears that Ridge Creek is suggesting they are accredited by the Joint Commission, when, in reality they are not so accredited.  This implies the employ of deceptive marketing practices and is a serious concern.


It is a warning sign of an abusive program when a child's mail is monitored.  It is also a civil rights violation to censor/monitor communications in this manner.  This was decided in the case of Milonas and Rice v. Provo Canyon School.  For more warning signs and questions you should ask any program you consider for your family, visit


HEAL included the last segment to show that the family "assumes all risks", known and unknown, associated with the program and the program denies all liability for any harm it may cause.  This is a serious concern and highly suggests unethical business practices.


Additional Fees (page 1)


"Transportation Fees"


"$30.00 per person-Medical Transportation inside Dahlonega"


"$100.00 per person-Medical Transportation outside Dahlonega"


"$50.00 each way-Seasonal Break Transportation (includes $7.00 travel money per person)"


"Prescription Fees"


"If the families' credit card does not clear for the prescription co-pay & RCI covers the cost, Parents will be charged an additional $25.00"


"Uniform & Clothing/Computer/SASSI & EDI Testing/Fees: $2,950.00 (Due at Enrollment)"


"Laundry Fee $40.00 per month"


"Testing Fees"


"$3,000.00 Initial Full Battery of Psychological Testing"


"$1500.00 Initial Personality Test"


"$1500.00 Initial IQ/Achievement Testing"


"$50.00 Surcharge Academic Testing"


"Miscellaneous Fees"


"$20.00 Haircut"


"50% of shipping"


"$10.00 per drug test at RCI"


"Mass spec drug test: $25.00 per drug tested for"


"Academic Fees"


"Equestrian Program: $300.00"


"Psychiatric Consultation Fees - As determined by your contracted Psychiatrist."


"The above prices are subject to change."


HEAL's Questions/Concerns


***HEAL will not be including the ICPC Form, Explanation of the ICPC Form, Medical Payment Form, nor Nutrition Form in our review.  However, we did read through those materials prior to writing this review.  We found the information either to be generic or repetitive in regards to areas already covered in the review.


HEAL can find no information suggesting that Ridge Creek School is licensed as a school or charter school in Georgia.  This is a serious concern as it raises questions regarding the validity of earned credits and diplomas at this program.  Readers may have noticed grammatical and spelling errors in the text attributed to Ridge Creek School.  We present the quotes without correcting them.  So, it is a concern that people with poor English skills in their own documents would claim to be running a "school".  This also likely explains why there are additional academic fees.  Tuition generally implies the coverage of academic fees/expenses.  So, it is unclear what exactly parents are paying tuition for when legitimate therapy and academic services are "extras".  This sounds like a scam.


Psychiatric Patient Registration Form (page 1)


"I understand that Dr. Johnson is not an employee of Ridge Creek School and will bill me separately for his professional services."


"The Fees as detailed by Dr. Johnson are:"


"Initial Evaluation $250, 15-20 min follow-up $125"


"Phone contact < 10 minutes FREE, >10 minutes $25, >20 minutes $50"


"Email responses/ (first 1 free) $15, Medical Records request $30"


"I hereby consent to treatment by psychiatrist Martin Johnson, MD for mental health services and/or related medical services."


HEAL's Questions/Concerns


****HEAL will not be including in our review the Physical Exam Form, Privacy Practices Form, Release of Information Forms, nor Transcript Request Forms.  The reasons for this include that similar issues have already been covered in this review.  For instance, Ridge Creek School is not a medical facility, so, it is unclear why they need or request detailed medical records on your child that go beyond the normal vaccination evidence requested by most schools.  The program asks for permission from the parents and violates children's privacy and rights to their own likeness/image/words thereby violating the privacy rights of the minor and parents cannot waive their children's rights, only their own.  Such has already been covered and, since Ridge Creek is not a school nor a medical facility, it is a concern that it requests and holds confidential and sensitive information of this nature on you or your child.  Regardless, this suffices for an explanation regarding the forms mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.


HEAL includes the above to highlight the additional charges and contractor for mental health services, namely, Martin Johnson.  Parents should investigate Dr. Martin Johnson of Georgia do see if he is in good standing and if there have been any complaints regarding his services prior to agreeing to his treating their child.  This type of research should be done before choosing any therapist or physician, especially one that will be drugging your child.


WalMart Pharmacy Agreement (page 1)


"Wal-Mart Pharmacy" 

HEAL's Questions/Concerns


HEAL only provides the above to show that Ridge Creek School uses Wal-Mart Pharmacy.  Wal-Mart donates money to the School of Life Foundation which donates books and resources to Eagle Ranch Academy, a confirmedly abusive program in Utah.  This is not a concern, but, a point of interest to show how even large corporations can be taken in by scammers.


HEAL recommends no one subject any child to Ridge Creek, Inc. programs and that families remove children who are there now.



Last Updated: November 7th, 2011

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