HEAL SPECIAL REPORT:
ACADEMY AT SWIFT
ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT REVIEW
HEAL has found
multiple problems with Academy at Swift River's enrollment
agreement including apparent unconscionable terms and/or
contradictory terms leaving us to believe that Academy at Swift
River is running a money-making scam on families in need of
assistance. We will be alternating between "quoted text" from pages of
Academy at Swift River's
enrollment agreement (as was
downloaded from swiftriver.com on October 17th, 2010) and HEAL's
questions/concerns. 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.
"Pro-rated Daily Tuition for Current
Deposit: (if applicable)...........................$13,120"
Psychiatric Services: (if applicable).......$1,500"
"I understand and
agree to the above schedule of tuition and fees. I
understand that billing will be mailed on the 15th of each month
and is due the 1st of each month. Students who enroll on
days other than the first of the month will be billed at a rate
of $216 per day for each day remaining in the month, not to
exceed $6,560. There is a one-time enrollment fee of
$2,500. Therefore, the first full month you will be billed
$6,560. The current tuition fee is subject to an annual
increase effective January 1st of each year...Sponsor
acknowledges that an additional deposit of $13,120 is due upon
enrollment for all entering seniors and students reaching their
18th birthday during their program. This deposit shall be
forfeited if the student is withdrawn before program completion
without the Director's consent."
that accounts falling 15 days in arrears will acquire a $250
late fee penalty; accounts falling 30 days in arrears may result
in the dismissal of the student with the $6,560 Alumni fee being
non-refundable. All collection costs and attorney fees are
incurred by debtor if not paid as agreed."
that if the student leaves the program early without the
agreement of The Academy, the Alumni Program fee will not be
refunded. If a student upon graduation is continuing on
into another therapeutic program, and The Academy at Swift River
determines that the Alumni Program would not be appropriate, the
Alumni Fee will be returned."
"These trips may
require additional funding which will be withdrawn from the
Students Account. If such trips incur a cost of over $25,
parents will be notified."
"Should the need
arise, transportation to special testing off-campus or out of
the area that requires supervision of staff personnel, will be
billed at $100 per day plus lodging. This is done only at
the request of the parent...Insurance information must be
provided upon the day of enrollment. If insurance
information is not provided, a $2,000 medical emergency deposit
will be required."
HEAL is concerned
that this program is so costly for what is provided. If a
in the program for at least one year (12-months), the total cost
of the program at a minimum (excluding medical, dental, vision,
shipping, and psychological/psychiatric services) is $81,520.
If your teen will be turning 18 while enrolled at Academy at
Swift River, the minimum cost will be $94,640. This is
nearly double the cost of a year of tuition at Harvard University
including room and board. "Harvard
University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8
percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual
cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to
$50,724." (Source: boston.com, March 19th, 2010) Why
are families paying more than a year's tuition at Harvard for
their children to attend a behavior modification program? This is
a serious concern.
The late penalty
appears to be a penalty fee and an unreasonable additional cost.
This may be an unconscionable term.
The minimum stay
is 12 months and this is discussed below.
"This agreement ("Agreement") is entered into by and between the
Academy of Swift River, a Delaware limited liability company
(hereinafter "Swift River"), operating the Academy at Swift
River Program, a licensed program which is described in the
program materials that Sponsor has received previously (the
"Academy at Swift River") and parent(s) and or guardian(s) of
the Student (hereinafter the "Sponsor" or "Sponsors")."
"In entering into
and performing under this Agreement, Swift River is relying on
all representations and promises of the Sponsor contained or
expressed in this Agreement and all other documents and
information sheets received from Sponsor to Swift River, and
Sponsor expressly warrants the truth and accuracy of the same."
Student is accepted into the Program, the term of this Agreement
shall be a minimum of 12 months beginning with the Student's
arrival in Cummington, Massachusetts, now anticipated on (the
"Arrival Date")...On the Arrival Date, Sponsor shall transfer by
a Power of Attorney in the form received and executed by
Sponsor, temporary custody of the Student to Swift River for the
duration of the Agreement, unless either party terminates this
Agreement prior thereto by giving written notice to the other
party pursuant to Section 10 herein or until the Student attains
the age of eighteen (18), and in the latter case, unless the
Student (a) has otherwise been placed in the custody of Swift
River by a court of proper jurisdiction or (b) voluntarily
consents in writing to remain in the Program."
"The Student is
accepted with the expectation that the Student will complete the
entire Program. The Program Fee is $6,560 per month,
defined as monthly tuition plus therapy and professional fees."
(quote ends on page 4)
HEAL searched the
Secretary of State web database to find out if Academy of Swift
River and/or Academy at Swift River is licensed as an LLC in
Massachusetts. There is
that this program is licensed as an LLC in
Massachusetts. Academy at Swift River
is not licensed as a private school in Massachusetts.
Academy at Swift River is
not licensed as an alternative education program in
Massachusetts. It is
not licensed as a collaborative program. It is
not an approved special education school. It is
not an approved special education program in Massachusetts.
On November 10th, 2010, HEAL e-mailed Donna Johnson of the
Massachusetts Division of Primary Care and Health Access, which
regulates programs that fall in the category of Adolescents and
Youth Development programs, to inquire about the licensing
standards and to find out if Academy of/at Swift River is
actually licensed as they claim given that we have found no
evidence that they are licensed in our research.
As we review this
contract, readers will notice that the Sponsors/Family are
solely responsible for everything, including any harm caused by
the program negligently or intentionally. The entire
contract includes multiple unconscionable and/or illegal terms
and appears to be an illusory agreement providing no real
service or guarantee of legitimate service for the extraordinary
fees/costs applied by the program. This is a serious
HEAL has included
the third segment to show that the minimum stay is 12-months, as
was stated in the above portions of the review. In
addition, it is a concern that this program receives public
funds by accepting adjudicated youth and that it may subject
children with minor issues to the company of youths who have
exhibited criminal behavior.
Even though this
program appears to offer no legitimate services, the costs are
extraordinary. This appears to be a rip-off.
provide a valid credit card number with a credit capacity equal
to two month's tuition at the time of admission. In the
event that a subsequent tuition payment is not paid when due,
Sponsor authorizes the program to charge the past due amount,
including late fees, to the credit card number provided by the
Sponsor at the time of enrollment."
received by the 20th of the month of service are subject to a
$250 late fee and may result in discharge of the student from
the program. With the exception of the discharge summary,
transcripts and other transition information, such as student
records, will not be released after a student discharges until
all tuition and fees are paid in full."
Parents may wish to
seriously consider whether or not they want this program to have
permission to charge their credit card whenever it deems it
necessary to cover costs that likely ought to be included in the
It is a concern
that a child's life can be held hostage due to a parent's
failure to pay. Information required for the child to
continue with education or other services should not be held
hostage. This is not in the best interest of the child and
shows a profit-motive for Academy at Swift River's business
"Students receiving school district assistance must provide the
program with written pre-approval from the district before
enrollment. Sponsor is responsible for payment of all
tuition and fees not paid by the district."
Fee. Sponsor agrees to pay $300 for a Student Account Fund
("SAF") for the Student. The fund will be used by Swift
River to pay expenses for Student...SAF covers personal expenses
such as medications, clothing, personal care, optional special
event costs, school supplies and food items. Sponsor will
receive an itemized monthly statement of all SAF expenditures
and will be responsible for replenishing the SAF to retain a
$300 balance. If Student enters Swift River taking
psychotropic medications, a $1,500 Retainer Fee is required for
portion of the SAF shall be refunded to Sponsor upon Student's
discharge from the Program. A cancellation received less
than seven (7) days prior to the arrival date will result in a
50% refund. If deemed appropriate by Swift River, the
amount retained by Swift River may be used as credit against any
future enrollment of the Student."
"If Sponsor or
legally authorized third party withdraws Student before
expiration of the period of enrollment, or if Student upon
reaching the age of eighteen (18) years old withdraws without
the recommendation of the Program Director, Sponsor understands
and agrees that Sponsor shall immediately (1) pay all
outstanding account balances and tuition through the end of the
month in which the Student is withdrawn and (2) forfeit the last
month's pre-paid tuition."
The Academy at Swift
River claims to accept Individual Education Plan (IEP)
placements which are paid for by public funds through school
districts. This is an additional concern given the fact
that the Academy at Swift River is not licensed as a school or
educational program in Massachusetts.
It is a concern that
food, school supplies, and other necessities are additional
expenses. This makes Academy at Swift River even less
worthy of the extraordinary tuition mentioned above. This
is a serious concern.
It is a concern
that families forfeit so much money, including at least 50% of
the Student Account Fund if they choose against enrollment prior
to their child's arrival. This appears to be another
hidden penalty and suggests an unconscionable term.
It is fair to
provide a liquidated damages clause if the contract is
legitimate and not illusory, as this one appears to be.
So, it is unreasonable for the program to hold on to such fees
when their own promises are illusory and the contract is
arguably void or voidable. (Again, this is not legal
advice. If you need legal advice,
"In addition to the Program Fee, Sponsor agrees to pay for the
following expenses of the Student: transportation from the
Student's current residence to Cummington, Massachusetts, and
return transportation to the Student's current residence; food
and lodging expenses for any holding period before commencement
of the Program and/or after completion of the Program; all
medical, dental, hospital, and related expenses incurred by or
for the Student and all required personal items specified in the
student clothing list. Sponsors are also responsible for
any additional Escort fees required for transporting Student to
and/or from the Program to another location or program including
trips to visit other prospective post-graduation schools or
programs. Sponsors are responsible for the cost of any
psychiatric evaluations performed by a psychiatrists as noted
elsewhere in this agreement."
to accept full responsibility for (1) the repair or replacement
of any property damaged, defaced, or destroyed by the Student,
whether owned, leased or controlled by Swift River or any third
party, and (2) any personal injury to any Swift River personnel,
other students or third parties caused, in whole or in part, by
the Student; and to promptly reimburse Swift River for any costs
and expenses, including legal fees, it may incur in connection
"In the event the
Student runs away from the Program, Swift River will make every
reasonable effort to find the Student and return the Student to
the Program or to the Sponsor. An accounting of the
expenses incurred by Swift River in finding and returning the
Student will be made to the Sponsor who agrees to accept full
responsibility for any and all such costs and expenses, and to
pay the same within seven (7) days of the Sponsor's receipt of
"Swift River is
not liable for any loss of or damage to any of the Student's
property. The Student is fully responsible for the same at
and consents to Swift River's subcontracting certain services to
be rendered under this Agreement by persons or entities deemed
by Swift River to be properly qualified to provide said
services, at no additional cost to Sponsor unless otherwise
agreed to by both parties. Swift River is not responsible
for the services provided by such third-party contractors and is
hereby released from any liability arising from such services.
All clinicians furnishing services to the Student, including any
psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health professionals, or
internists or the like, are independent contractors with the
client and are not employees of Swift River. The Student
is under the care and supervision of his/her attending clinician
and it is the responsibility of the Student's clinician to
obtain the Sponsor's informed consent when required, for
medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatment, special diagnostic
or therapeutic procedures, or other services rendered the
Student under the general and special instructions of the
"If the Student's
condition is such as to need the service of a special duty
nurse, it is agreed that such must be arranged separately by the
Sponsors. Swift River shall in no way be responsible for
failure to provide the same and is hereby released from any and
all liability arising from the fact that Student is not provided
with such additional care." (quote ends on page 7)
This agreement puts families in an awkward
position and increases the risk to children by creating a
circumstance in which parents would be less likely to make the
wise choice of early termination of the agreement. The
best decision being not to enroll a child in the first place.
It is a concern
that the "therapeutic" services of the program are optional and
appear to come at an additional cost. This too is
contradicted. In the first segment above, Swift River states that
Sponsor will be charged additional fees for psychiatric and
psychological testing and services. But, in the 5th
segment, Swift River says it will cover costs of those services included
in the agreement. This is confusing language and
The third segment
is reasonable, or would be reasonable, if Swift River's program did
not intentionally provoke or cause violent or extreme outbursts
by the very nature of their methods. It is reasonable
for Swift River to demand parents accept liability for their child's
actions resulting in damage to people or property. But,
only with that caveat that Swift River is providing a nurturing
environment and not provoking angry outbursts through
humiliation or physical assault of the children. Since it
has been reported that such outbursts are intentionally provoked
by Swift River staff at times, this clause may raise concern for
families. Swift River should insure against such incidents through
good business practice and proper insurance that would be
required of any licensed childcare program or facility. It
is wrong to solely place liability with the parents who are
entrusting the supervision and care of their child to the
program. And, families should require an investigation
into any incidents of this nature to insure that they are not
being stuck with a bill that is not their own or their child's.
Even though Swift
River demands full power of attorney and custody of your child, they
do not accept any responsibility in the event your child escapes
the program. Programs like Anasazi Foundation at least
assume 50% of the financial responsibility in such events.
is troublesome too and this is not an endorsement, just a
comparison of fact. Anasazi's practices in regards to such
responsibility seems more appropriate or fair given the
circumstances. And, Swift River's practices seem weighted
primarily on financial gain with no risk for Swift River and likely
nothing but debt and heartache for families.
Swift River is free to
steal from your child as a result of the clause freeing them of
liability for lost or damaged property. Theft of personal
property at programs is fairly common. Theft of personal
property at elderly-care facilities are equally as common.
It is always a good idea to keep any items of pecuniary or
sentimental value safe at home, this includes your children.
demands control of what "independent contractors" will be
utilized and granted the fees charged for their services.
However, Swift River does not take responsibility for the care provided
by the contractors they deem "properly qualified". And,
since they are asking you trust their judgment in regards to
choosing said independent contractors, they would arguably be
liable for faults found with their judgment in the event harm or
other violations occur. But, they demand you hold them
harmless if there is a problem with the subcontractor.
And, they put full responsibility on the outside or
"subcontracted" clinician for the supervision and care of your
child which rights/responsibilities you transferred to Swift
with the Power of Attorney, and, they likely give permission in
your stead with your permission protecting everyone else from
any liability for any and all harms done to your child while in
Swift River's program. This seems to be an unconscionable
contract with many unconscionable terms.
"Sponsor acknowledges serious hazards and dangers, known and
unknown, inherent in the Program, including but not limited to
ranch, agricultural and vocational activities, emotional and
physical injuries, illness or death that may arise from downhill
skiing, cross-country skiing, strenuous hiking, climbing and
camping in a natural environment, exposure to the elements,
plants and animals, running away from the Program, "acts of God"
(nature), the ropes course, kayaking, rafting, water sports,
stress, involvement with other students, self-inflicted
injuries, and transportation to and from the Program's field
location(s). Sponsor understands that in participating in
the Programs Student will be in locations and using facilities
where many hazards exist and is aware of and appreciates the
risks which may result. Sponsor understands that accidents
occur during such activities due to the negligence of others
which may result in death or serious injury. Sponsor and
Student are voluntarily participating in the Programs with
knowledge of the dangers involved and agree to accept any and
of being permitted to participate in the Programs, Sponsor
agrees to not sue, to assume all risks and to release, hold
harmless and indemnify Swift River and any and all of its
predecessors, successors, officers, directors, trustees,
insurers, employees, managers, agents, volunteers, community
organizations, administrators, heirs, attorneys, executors,
assigns and/or related or affiliated business entities
including, but not limited to, Aspen Education Group, Inc.
(Collectively all of the above persons and entities shall be
referred to as the "Released Parties" hereafter) who, through
negligence, carelessness or any other cause, might otherwise be
liable to Sponsor or Student under theories of contract or tort
by this Waiver and Release to release, in advance, and to waive
his or her rights and discharge each and every one of the
Released Parties, from any and all claims for damages for death,
personal injury or property damage which Sponsor may have, or
which may hereafter accrue as a result of Student's
participation in any aspect of the Programs, even though that
liability may arise from negligence or carelessness on the part
of the persons or entities being released, from dangerous or
defective property or equipment owned, maintained or controlled
by them or because of their possible liability without fault.
Additionally, Sponsor covenants not to sue any of the Released
Parties based upon their breach of any duty owed to Sponsor or
Student as a result of their participation in any aspect of the
Programs. Sponsor understands and agrees that this Waiver
and Release is binding on his or her heirs, assigns and legal
representatives and that the Released Parties shall be exempt
from liability to Sponsor, his or her heirs, assigns and legal
acknowledges that Sponsor, and Sponsor alone, is solely
responsible for Student's personal health and safety, and the
personal property Student brings with him or her. Sponsor
acknowledges that the medical insurance information Sponsor has
provided on the Medical Form is current and complete and that
Sponsor is solely responsible for procuring and maintaining all
medical insurance Sponsor deems necessary and that the Released
Parties have recommended that Sponsor procure and/or maintain
medical insurance. Sponsor accepts full responsibility for
any costs incurred for medical treatment due to failure to
procure or maintain insurance or providing outdated or falsified
insurance information. Sponsor understands that it is
ultimately Sponsor's responsibility to provide payment to any
hospital/emergency response technicians/emergency transport
company that may provide services to Student as a result of
injury/illness during the Programs." (quote ends on page 8)
The above also states
that risks of emotional (i.e. psychological) and physical harm
are inherent to the program. This may be true of physical
harm given that exploring wilderness with limited
supplies and/or improper supplies for warmth/hydration/etc. is likely to
result in physical harm and is a semi-reasonable assumed risk
when adventuring in such conditions. However,
psychological and emotional harm should not be an inherent risk
and stating that it is reveals the harmful nature of the Aspen
Stating that the
child is voluntarily participating in the program is an open lie
and contradicted by the sections on running away/recapture and restraint covered
the review of pages 5 and 18; and below on page 20. Again, we remind parents that they
have the right to sign away their own rights, but, not the
rights of their minor children. This is discussed further
stated is that the parents waive their rights to pursue legal
action even in the event of serious injury or death. These
appear to be unconscionable terms given the inherent harm in
participating in the program.
HEAL thinks it is
important for families to understand the indemnity clauses
placing them in the position to take full responsibility in the
event of serious injury or death of their child in the program.
Many families have lost their children in programs similar to
Academy at Swift River and some of these deaths occurred in Aspen programs.
At least two children died at Aspen's SageWalk program in Oregon
before it "voluntarily" suspended operations as the death(s) are
investigated by authorities. These risks are very real and
parents should think if the worst happens and Swift River's methods are
responsible, how they will feel with nowhere to turn for
justice. Be careful and always seriously consider what you
are agreeing to in signing any contract. Again, this is
not legal advice. If you would like legal help, please
"Sponsor agrees that this Release extends to all claims of every
nature and kind whatsoever, and hereby expressly waives all
rights under California Civil Code section 1542 which provides
as follows: "A general release does not extend to claims which
the creditor does not know or suspect to exist in his favor at
the time of executing the release, which if known by him must
have materially affected his settlement with the debtor.""
to indemnify the Released Parties from any and all actions,
causes of action, claims, demands, damages, costs (including
attorneys' fees), expenses, liabilities and charges, known and
unknown (the "Liabilities") arising out of or in connection with
claims and/or actions relating to or brought by or on behalf of
Student, including without limitation, claims related to or
arising out of the Minor's participation in the Program."
"All costs and
expenses incurred for these services shall be the sole
responsibility of the Sponsor. Sponsor also authorizes
Swift River to arrange for a physical examination (including a
drug screen urine/blood test, at Swift River's option) and any
psychological assessments of the Student deemed necessary by
Swift River. Sponsor authorizes any and all medical
doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, therapists,
hospitals, clinics and treatment center that have treated or
counseld the Student, and whose names Sponsor shall provide to
Swift River, to release all information regarding the Student's
medical and/or psychological history, diagnoses and treatments
to Swift River upon request. Swift River shall handle all
such protected health information (also "PHI") pursuant to the
guidelines in the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability
Act ("HIPAA") of 1996."
authorizes Swift River personnel to search the person and
personal effects of the Student at any time. In connection
with such search, Swift River may, in its discretion, require
Student to remove some of his or her clothing and may search
Student's entire person. Swift River is further authorized
to confiscate any and all items deemed by Swift River to be
contraband or counterproductive to the Student's successful
completion of the Program. The disposition of all items
confiscated by Swift River shall be left to the sole discretion
of Swift River." (quote ends on page 9)
much of this section to show that the total amount for the
minimum stay in the program is $81,520 and as some, if not
most, insurance carriers won't cover Academy at Swift River,
this is a pretty steep price to pay. This is especially so
where there is no clear purpose of the Academy at Swift River program.
University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8
percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual
cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to
$50,724." (Source: boston.com, March 19th, 2010) Think
about it, this program is charging almost double the annual cost
of Harvard University (including room and board) and doesn't
even provide advanced placement classes. The cost of
$81,520.00 is the minimum cost and does not cover the additional
psychological assessment or care fees associated with the
program. It does not cover anything but the base-price for
the minimum stay of 12 months. So, families
are looking at double the tuition of Harvard for one year of a
lot of nothing from Academy at Swift River. Also, Swift
subcontracts all arguably "legitimate" therapeutic work to
third-parties and charges families extra for those "services".
So, families are paying nearly twice the annual cost of Harvard
tuition to send their children to a program in Massachusetts which
provides at best a below standard secondary education, no
legitimate therapy, and out of the deal Swift River gets free labor
for their agricultural endeavors or those of their friends in
agri-business. It sounds like a scam and one that could
leave families psychologically and financially devastated. This
will be developed throughout this review.
probable cause is a violation of the civil rights of the child.
Assuming every child, with or without a history of drug use, is
in need of a strip-search is unreasonable. Searching
children at "any time" suggests such searches are used as a form
of humiliation as opposed to being done for any legitimate
purpose. And, this is a serious concern.
"Sponsor hereby authorizes Swift River personnel to intervene,
control and detain the Student when deemed necessary by Swift
River, for purposes of their safety and wellbeing. Such
interventions may be warranted with runs away attempts and
behaviors that jeopardizes the student's own safety or the
safety of others. In the event of a runaway, all
appropriate law enforcement agencies of any federal, state,
county or municipal entity are hereby directed to detain and
retain custody of the Student until Sponsor or any personnel of
Swift River arrive, at which time Swift River personnel may
re-obtain custody of the Student or authorize continued custody
by the law enforcement agency until travel is arranged for the
Student's return home."
authorizes Swift River to use data from the Student's records,
tests, and assessments for purposes of ongoing research,
provided that the Student's name and identity will be kept
confidential and not used in any published materials."
reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time due
to: (i) failure of Sponsor to pay any amounts due under
paragraph 4; (ii) illegal, uncontrollable, or dangerous behavior
by the Student; (iii) discovery of any unprompted, undisclosed,
or previously unknown physical, medical, mental, or emotional
problem(s) of the Student; or (iv) for any other reason if Swift
River deems it necessary for the protection of the Student, any
other student(s) or the integrity of Swift River's Program.
In the event that Swift River elects to terminate the Student
pursuant to the terms of this paragraph, Sponsor understands and
agrees that Sponsor shall immediately (1) pay all outstanding
account balances and tuition through the end of the month in
which the Student is withdrawn and (2) forfeit the last month's
to attend any seminars for parents and guardians of the students
conducted by Swift River during the Program, and to give
Sponsor's full cooperation to Swift River personnel throughout
the Program, in order to maximize benefits of the Program for
the Student and the Sponsor. Sponsor also agrees to read
any educational materials and watch any video programs sent to
Sponsor by Swift River, and to fill out and return to Swift
River any interactive educational materials, while the Student
is in the Program."
"If an escort is
required to bring the Student to another location or Program,
Sponsor agrees that any escort or escort service used by
Sponsor, whether or not Sponsor is referred to the escort by
Swift River, is in all respects an independent contractor
contracting directly with Sponsor. Sponsor agrees that
Swift River bears no responsibility of any kind for any such
escort service or the negligence or failure thereof."
In this contract,
Aspen Education Group has changed the word "restrain" to
"intervene". However, the "intervention" is likely meant
to indicate the use of physical restraint. Using restraint
to detain and control the child while in the program also shows
that the program is not "voluntary" for the child and that the
child is forced to participate in the program through physical
force. Congress is working on legislation (HR 4247, the
"Keeping All Students Safe Act of 2010") to stop these misuses
of restraint in programs and schools that often result in
serious injury and death.
references the use of your child and/or your child's data in
"ongoing research". What is this research and will you be
made privy to all studies in which your or your child's private
information will be used? If not, why not? Informed
consent to participate in any research includes knowing the
purpose of the research and the projected risks involved in
participating. This suggests possible violations of
the Nuremberg Code (International Human Rights Laws).
And, of course,
if for some reason Swift River terminates the agreement and/or you decide it was a bad decision (with which
HEAL would heartily agree) to place your child in Swift River and remove
him/her from the program, you lose most, if not all the money you paid to
Swift River. Now, if Swift River isn't, which they don't appear to be,
open about the "environment" they create for the children which
reportedly includes both physical abuse and humiliating verbal
attacks, then you should be due a refund. The comparison
between the claims made in promotional materials and the "agreed
to terms" of the contract may mean the difference between
proving fraudulent inducement (i.e. misleading advertising
and/or oral assurances of the programs safety/success rate) and
assumption of risk (i.e. the terms of the enrollment agreement).
If you pulled your child from the program and believe you are
due a refund, you should
consult an attorney.
HEAL recommends that
parents ask what Swift River means by "full cooperation". If you
witness abuse and try to prevent said abuse in opposition to the
protocol of Swift River's program, will you be in violation of the "full
cooperation" clause? This is likely how Swift River sees it.
And, anyone who demands full cooperation and/or unquestioned
authority over others is not acting in the best interest of that
individual or family.
HEAL believes we
have adequately covered our concerns with the denial of
responsibility Swift River exhibits in regards to services
recommended or subcontracted by the program, purportedly for the
"Sponsor warrants that the Student is a minor, both by age and
as a matter of law or that the Student does not qualify under
the law as an "emancipated minor" and that the laws of the
Student's state of residence permit Sponsor to place the Student
in the Program without the Student's consent."
"In the event
that either party is found in default or material breach of any
specific promise, term or condition expressly set forth in this
Agreement by an arbitrator(s) or a court of competent
jurisdiction, said party shall be liable to pay all reasonable
attorneys' fee, court costs and other related collection costs
and expenses incurred by the other party in enforcing its
contractual rights hereunder in said arbitration and/or court
proceeding(s). In addition, Sponsor agrees to compensate
Swift River for all reasonable attorneys' fees and costs
incurred by Swift River in connection with those matters
concerning which Sponsor has agreed to pay or indemnify Swift
In the first segment above,
Swift River again reiterates how the program is not voluntary for the
child. So, this directly contradicts page 7 that states
the child has "voluntarily" agreed to participate in the
program. This is clearly not the case.
The second segment
above seems more a tool of intimidation to frighten you from
pursuing legal action by having you agree to pay for Aspen's
attorneys' fees regardless of the legitimacy of your claims.
This seems unconscionable.
"This Agreement, and
all matters relating hereto, including any matter of dispute
arising between the parties out of this Agreement, tort or
otherwise, shall be interpreted, governed, and enforced
according to the laws of the State of California; and the
Parties consent and submit to the exclusive jurisdiction and
venue of the California Courts in Los Angeles County,
California, and any qualified (American Arbitration
Association-approved) arbitration service in the State of
California, County of Los Angeles, to enforce this Agreement.
The parties acknowledge that this agreement constitutes a
business transaction within the State of California."
acknowledges that Sponsor has read this Agreement and that
Sponsor understands and consents to all of its provisions; that
this Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the
parties hereto with respect to the subject matter hereof; and
that all other prior agreements, promises, expectations and
conditions, oral or written, between the parties are
incorporated herein. Other than the express commitments
set forth in this Agreement and the Program description, Swift
River gives no warranties of any kind, express or implied, to
either the Sponsor or the Student concerning the Program; and
Sponsor acknowledges that Sponsor is not relying on any
warranties or representations of any kind other than the express
commitments of Swift River set forth herein."
authorize the release of the Student's information via E-mail,
Internet technology, voice mail or US mail. While every
effort will be made to maintain confidentiality, Swift River
accepts no responsibility for the mistransmission that could
result in information becoming available to someone other than
the intended receiver. Swift River shall handle all such
protected health information (also "PHI") pursuant to the
guidelines in the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability
Act ("HIPAA") of 1996."
parent(s) and/or guardian(s), hereby authorizes Swift River
and/or its affiliates to use or disclose PHI of the Student for
purposes of preparing and distributing promotional media and
marketing materials that are consistent with furthering the
goals of Swift River and/or any of its programs. The
information that may be used or disclosed pursuant to this
authorization can include, but is not limited to, the following
items (to the extent such items would otherwise fall within
PHI):...a) Photographs of the Student, whether moving or stills;
b) Voice of the Student; c) Name of the Student; or d) Any other
information, likeness or appearance that may identify the
requested uses and disclosures of PHI shall be limited to the
personnel of Swift River, its successors or assigns, or any
agent(s) or subcontactor(s) of each of the foregoing, that are
involved in public relations and/or marketing. All other
ues and disclosures of PHI, other than for purposes of public
relations and/or marketing, shall be consistent with the
permitted uses and disclosures set forth under HIPAA.
Pursuant to the authorization obtained herein, Swift River, its
successors and assigns, or any agent(s) or subcontractor(s) of
each of the foregoing, may use or disclose PHI to any
individual, entity or agency associated with transmitting
information to the general public for purposes of public
relations and/or marketing."
the termination of this Agreement, this authorization shall
remain effective for an indefinite duration, unless revoked by
the Student (if permissible under applicable law, for example,
in the case where the Student reaches the age of majority),
his/her parent(s) and/or guardian(s). This authorization
may be revoked at any time by the appropriate party in a written
instrument sent vial First Class US Mail to Ruth Moore, HIPAA
Officer at Swift River, or in an acceptable form via electronic
media if agreed upon between the Parties. Any revocation
of this authorization shall be effective upon receipt of the
revocation by Swift River. Further, a revocation shall
apply only to requested uses and disclosures from the effective
date of the revocation, and shall not apply to any and all
requested uses and disclosures made at a time when a valid
authorization was in place. Notwithstanding the foregoing,
any PHI disclosed pursuant to a valid authorization may be
subject to re-disclosure by the recipient and may no longer be
protected under HIPAA."
All disputes are to be
resolved in California according to this page of the Agreement.
Throughout this contract we have seen numerous contradictory and
unconscionable terms. This appears to be an illusory
contract offering absolutely no legitimate service to families
while charging extraordinary fees to those families. The
families take all the risks, absolve Swift River of its own
wrongdoing, and Swift River reaps all the rewards. This appears
to be nothing more than a scam on families in crisis or whom
have been convinced by Swift River and/or its co-conspirators (i.e.
educational consultants) that it is necessary.
We included the second
segment above to highlight that the contract is the entire
agreement. Swift River has agreed to do nothing but keep a child
confined until their eighteenth birthday or until the program
decides they are ready to "graduate" the program.
guarantees nothing and offers no warranties or other
consideration for the extraordinary fees they charge. It
is truly outrageous.
Also, we again
see that Swift River will not be liable for your private/protected
health information being disclosed to unintended parties.
This again suggests that they are not regulated by HIPAA as
Swift River suggests in other areas of the contract. This
suggests deceptive practices.
It is a serious
concern that Swift River requires you to sign over permission to
use your child's likeness, voice, name, and other protected
health information (PHI) for their promotional and marketing
purposes. Certainly marketing videos and other promotional
materials are regularly disclosed on the internet and through
other public mediums and this is a violation of your child's
privacy. We remind parents that parents have the right to
waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor
www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for additional
"POWER OF ATTORNEY"
"We hereby execute this Power of Attorney for the
purpose of providing legal authorization to assist my/our child
as deemed necessary for emergencies and educational services in
connection with the Academy at Swift River."
or qualifying the general Power of Attorney granted and
delegated by Sponsor to Academy at Swift River in the paragraph above, Sponsor
specifically grants to Academy at Swift River the following powers:"
"To provide or
obtain all medical, dental, psychiatric treatment and hospital
care, and to authorize a physician to perform any and all
procedures that may appear to be medically necessary..."
"To guide and
discipline the Student as deemed necessary and reasonable by
Academy at Swift River (but not to include physical punishment)."
restrain the Student should he/she become a danger to
himself/herself or to anyone else, as deemed necessary by
Academy at Swift River."
"To allow the
Student to participate in all activities that may risk physical
injury or illness..."
"To search the
person and personal effects of the Student at any time as deemed
necessary and in its discretion deems appropriate, and seize
and confiscate any items deemed by Academy at Swift River to be contraband or
counterproductive to the Student's successful completion of the
Program. The search of the Student's person may require
Student to change all of his or her clothing in the presence of
a staff member, in which contraband could be hidden."
"To restrict the
Student's access to telephone calls, visitors, and delivered
Many programs in the
industry require a limited power of attorney. And, we
remind parents that they can sign away their own rights, but,
not the rights of their minor children. This likely
includes the right to be protected against unreasonable searches
and seizures. For more information, see
www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm. This is for
information purposes only. If you need legal advice,
In addition, in other
areas of the contract (discussed above), Swift River limits all
liability for harms up to and including death and places all
risk on the side of the family. It is a concern and seems
unconscionable that a program would demand such authority over a
child while taking no responsibility for the care of that child.
What are parents really getting out of this lopsided bargain?
It is reasonable
for the program to request the power to obtain medical care in
the event it is required. There is nothing wrong with that
portion of the agreement. However, the following
statements are contradictory.
The use of
physical restraint is a form of physical punishment as is using
pressure points and other torture techniques to enforce
compliance with scheduled hikes and activities in the program.
The program will argue that they have to get the kids from one
destination to another for their own "safety" and that using
restraint and other physical abuse is necessary for the "safety"
of all the children in the program. This is not the intent
of laws preventing or limiting the use of physical restraint.
An immediate threat of imminent bodily harm created by an
individual warrants restraint. Any "threat" that involves
a slow-down in the hike or delay in reaching destinations should
be managed in a way that does not violate the rights of the
child or the intent of laws regulating the use of restraint.
The claim that they don't use physical punishment and that they
do use restraint beyond the limits claimed in this section of
the document suggests misleading and/or deceptive practices.
It is a serious
concern that the child's contact with the outside world is
severely limited by the program. What restrictions are
placed on a child's communication with their family? Do
they have access to a phone in the event of an emergency or even
simply the need to talk to "Mom or Dad"?
court decisions have shown that censoring/monitoring a child's
mail is a violation of their rights. These are all
(Pages 16-18, 22, )
"I hereby authorize
and consent to any X-ray examination, inoculation, vaccination,
medical or surgical diagnosis, treatment and hospital care to be
rendered to the above named minor, under general supervision and
upon the advice of a physician licensed under the provisions of
the Medical Practice Act. I hereby consent to X-ray
examination, anesthetic, dental or surgical treatment and
hospital care to be rendered to said minor by a dentist under
the provisions of the Dental Practice Act."
cost for this vaccine is $14.00 but may vary from year to year."
entering the Academy at Swift River are required to have the
following physical exam completed and signed PRIOR to
enrollment. The students will be involved in numerous work
projects, hiking, physical fitness, and other activities.
It is important that by signing the physical exam you
acknowledge that the named student is in sufficient physical
shape to perform all of these activities."
LABORATORY TEST AND IMMUNIZATIONS (Please attach results)"
Screen (A & B)"
"The total cost
for all 3 injections is $414.00"
at Swift River requires you sign over authority to make medical
decisions to the program and includes decision-making in regards
to recommended vaccinations. Many of the vaccines
recommended and/or required come at an additional cost to the
Depending on the type of flu vaccine given, any number of
horrible side effects are possible and often it is best to let
the immune system become stronger by fighting the actual
infection and creating future adaptable antibodies naturally as
opposed to taking a shot that may or may not guard against the
particular infection to which the child/individual is exposed.
This is a mild concern.
Vaccination has resulted in some "cases
of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)". GBS is a serious
illness that effects the nervous system.
is no known cure for GBS. This is a serious concern.
Why is it
necessary for a child to receive a pelvic and breast exam, STD
testing, and other such tests in order to attend the program?
It seems excessive and unnecessarily intrusive. It may
also create a trauma for a child who is not sexually active and
feels such requirements or impositions of tests to be an
accusation or shame-making. This is a concern.
There is a lot of
conflicting information regarding Gardasil, the HPV Vaccine.
Side effects have included death and paralysis according to the
above reports. These are serious side effects and this is
a serious concern.
booster is always a good idea in the event of an injury.
There is nothing wrong with including a request for permission
to administer a tetanus booster in the event it is needed.
We are including
the Aspen Ranch Program Details description below since Academy
at Swift River chose not to include the program description in
the materials provided to HEAL/the public for review. We
have also included our review of those details and believe the
Aspen Ranch details are likely the same or similar to those of
its sister program, Academy at Swift River. Both Aspen
Ranch and Academy at Swift River are Aspen Education Group
(Pages 27 & 28)
"Aspen Ranch Program
"In order to
maintain a safe environment for students and staff, we will
conduct a thorough intake which includes a strip search and
search of all belongings upon admission and upon return of all
off-campus visits with parents."
"Your child will
be provided most of the items he or she will need at Aspen
members can write letters later in the child's treatment as he
or she moves through the level system. Students can only
receive letters from friends in the final stages of treatment
and only with parental approval."
first eight weeks in the program are a time of orientation and
emotional adjustment for the student and family. Our
experience has indicated that it is more productive when family
and student have made this adjustment separately.
Therefore, parent visits can be set up with the therapist after
the eighth week in treatment."
"The student will
be present for at least one family session via teleconference
each month after the blackout period."
"The minimum time
that a student can complete the program is nine months.
For most students, completion of the program will take longer
than nine months."
"A minimum of (2)
parent education workshops and Family Enrichment is required."
"We retain the
services of a psychiatrist who visits the Ranch once a
month...We also retain the services of an Family Nurse
Practitioner who visits the Ranch once a week."
attain Rider or Wrangler are eligible for off campus trips that
may include hikes, visits to National Parks, snowboarding, river
rafting and trail rides. These are privileges that
students must earn. Typically, students are not able to
earn this level and these privileges until they've been in
treatment for at least 6 months."
"Aspen Ranch is a
Residential Treatment Center...For a child to be successful in
all aspects of the program, the parent's attitude needs to
embrace all aspects of the program."
"Aspen Ranch is
accredited through the Northwest Association of Accredited
Schools...Aspen Ranch offers a college preparatory track, but
does not offer Advanced Placement options...Students may take a
foreign language through a correspondence course available
through Brigham Young University. Parents are responsible
for the extra fee that this incurs."
understand that academic progress waxes and wanes relative to
complete the program in order to receive transitional services.
If you elect to terminate your child's care prior to his/her
completion of the program, you forfeit the $7,982.50 pre-paid
fee for transitional services."
covers room and board, supervision, therapeutic care and
academics. In addition, parents will pay for miscellaneous
expenses including: escort fees, clothing & hygiene products,
minor school supplies, birthday cakes, activities and SAT/ACT
HEAL has amply covered
the issues regarding the strip searches conducted by Aspen.
We include it again above as a reminder that body cavity
searches are included and conducted on all children in the
program regardless of the child's needs or history. This
is a serious concern and an apparent violation of the child's
What necessities are
not provided by Aspen? Why are children deprived of any
item they need while being under the control of Aspen?
Deprivation of needs would suggest blatant child neglect.
Neglect is a serious child abuse issue. These and other
abuses are described in detail on HEAL's Teen Rights' page at
It is one of
HEAL's primary warning signs of an abusive program that they
deny or severely limit contact with the outside world.
Denying children the right to speak with parents by phone, and
vice versa, during the first few months of "treatment" is a sign
of an abusive program. See
www.heal-online.org/warn.htm for more warning signs and
questions you should ask any program you consider.
How long is the
blackout period? Does it ever last more than two months?
What is the longest period a child has been denied contact with
the outside world (including parents) while in the program?
What is the
average length of stay in the program? How many years of
"Harvard tuition" will be sucked up by Aspen's scam? How
many vacations or homes will be forfeited as a result of the
extraordinary costs of this program?
Are the seminars
included in the cost of the program? Are the seminars and
other parenting materials to be purchased separately by the
For what purpose
does Aspen retain the services of a psychiatrist? Why does
the psychiatrist only visit once per month? Is the
psychiatrist's sole purpose to prescribe psychoactive drugs to
children? Is the sole purpose or primary purpose of the
nurse's weekly visit to monitor the effects of psychoactive
drugs on children? Are any legitimate professional
therapies provided by Aspen? They do not appear to be.
Are children held
within the confines of Aspen Ranch on location for 6-months or
more without any interaction with the outside world? If
so, this seems like a blatant violation of the child's civil
www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for more information.
Again, we have
Aspen demanding parents support the program without question.
This is a serious concern as many reported practices of Aspen
appear to violate the rights of children. These include
practices that may be considered child abuse by authorities.
This is a serious concern.
on issues with accreditation agencies, see
www.heal-online.org/accreditation.htm. It is HEAL's
understanding that the NAAS allows self-evaluations as the
primary basis for accreditation. This is in no way
effective oversight. Also, a foreign language taught by
correspondence course is not going to benefit the child in
understanding the language or culture of the language's origin.
This is a serious concern. Also, since most colleges
require foreign language as a pre-requisite for acceptance, this
may hamper a child's future. Why does Aspen charge extra
for providing a lame correspondence course? Greed?!
denied access to an educational curriculum/academic services at
any point of the program? What does Aspen mean by "academic
progress waxes and wanes relative to therapeutic progress"?
In many programs, the right to an education is deprived during
certain phases of the program. This is a serious concern.
What does Aspen mean by "therapeutic"?
Why are parents
expected to pay for minor school supplies, activities, and
academic testing? Shouldn't these costs be included in the
steep tuition cost (more expensive than Harvard University)?
notice that the program description does not describe the
program, the level system used, the definitions imposed by the
program in regards to privileges/disciplinary actions/etc., or
any detail that would suggest the program is providing a
legitimate service. Since this is the only description
included of the program, the overall contract appears to be
illusory, void/voidable, unenforceable, and amounting to nothing
more than a scam that defrauds families and injures children,
emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically. Aspen
Education Group should be immediately shut down by regulators
and/or the Department of Justice and penalties should be imposed
and victims should be provided with refunds and/or compensation
for any and all injuries.
For more on the
Aspen Ranch review, visit:
At this time, HEAL
heartily recommends parents do not subject their children to
Academy at Swift River and that parents rescue any children
currently enrolled in the program.