This is a  staff list for Academy at Swift River in Cummington, MA

(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)

(This program is closed.)


We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at Academy at Swift River.  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 Academy at Swift River, you have the right to take action. 


If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Academy at Swift River, 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.




Additional Information
Dr. Frank Bartolomeo Executive Director

(replaced in May, 2010 by John Marquis below)

There is no further staff information.  But, like many cult-based programs, they use large group awareness training (see Dr.Margaret Thaler Singer's work "Cults in Our Midst" and other articles on large group awareness training cults).  This program is confirmedly abusive and part of the fraudulent Aspen Education Group of programs.

Multi-Family Group Seminars

Multi-Family Group Seminars will cover a variety of topics. The seminars provide information to families about the program their family member is experiencing. The seminars teach basic information about stages of change, family dynamics, information about the brain, and basic sociometry including the social atom. The first of these seminars is the Parent Seminar #1, which will occur every three months.

Multi-Family Group Seminars are based upon the following books:

  • Changing For Good, by Prochaska, Norcross and DiClemente
  • Extraordinary Relationships, by R. Gilbert, M.D.
  • Parenting from the Inside Out, by D. Siegel.
  • A General Theory of Love, by T. Lewis et al.
  • Parenting Teens with Love & Logic, by Cline and Fay   (From the Swift River website, July 22nd, 2009)

Bartolomeo now is director of The Spire School in Connecticut.  Bartolomeo is no longer working for Academy at Swift River.

Rhonda Papallo Admissions Director  
John Marquis Executive Director Formerly, Dean of Students at Dublin School, 18 Lehmann Way, Dublin, NH

Formerly, Dean of Students at program in Pittsfield, ME.  The only such program in Pittsfield, ME HEAL could locate is known as Hillcrest Educational Centers, Inc.  Please contact us if you can confirm or add to the staff information listed here.  Thank you.

Martha Ballou-Baldwin Admin. Asst.  
Brittany Gutermuth Teacher  
Judith Lyons Learning Specialist Lyons currently works for the Plymouth Area Collaborative in Pembroke, MA as a special education reading specialist.  (August, 2014)
Melinda Misener Teacher  
Colleen Ryor Teacher  
Charles Tripler Teacher  
Jon Wallender Teacher Joined Swift River in 2006. (Swift River staff bio claimed 4 years at program in September, 2010.)
Dennis Wilcox Registrar  
Greg Williams Teacher  
Jeff Winston Teacher Joined Swift River in 2007. (Swift River staff bio claims 3 1/2 years at program in September, 2010.)
Jason Bennett Program Director  
Lisa DeLisle HR Manager Joined Swift River in 2001.
Dan DuBois Academic Director Joined Swift River in 2004.  Has long history working for "unnamed" programs.
Brenda Stokes Exec. Asst. Joined Swift River in 2002.
Jeremy Sullivan Clinical Director  
Jean Wagner Nurse  
Geri Wilcox Finance Manager Wilcox has been with Swift River since it opened.
Lisa Hunt Admissions Hunt no longer appears to work for this program.
Nayiree Roubinian Admin. Asst. Joined Swift River in 2005.
Jordana Amato Counselor  
Kathy Blackburn Counselor Formerly worked at "unnamed" programs.
Richard Curtis Counselor  
Elizabeth Donahue Counselor  
Audrey Everson Interim Clinical Director Joined Swift River in 2005.
Deb McGranaghan Counselor Formerly worked in an unnamed prison's psychiatric unit.
Alix Nelson Counselor Joined Swift River in 2003 and specializes in psychodrama.  Currently works at same location, but, it is called Swift River Recovery and only for adults now.
Phil Buffum Facilities Asst.  
Dana Dodge Maintenance  
David Martin Maintenance/Facilities  
Michael Griffin Residential Formerly worked for Pembroke Academy.  Joined Swift River in October, 2009.
Kalei Carlson Residential  
Cherie Dame Residential Joined Swift River in 2003.
Bethany Flagg Residential  
Christopher Kusmeskus Residential  
Todd Lavigne Residential  
Iris Martin Residential  
Thom Pasculli Residential  
Dan Phoenix Residential  
Mark Piaget Residential  
Michael Richtell Residential  
Clayton Salem Residential  
Marc Stanislas Residential  
Shelly Szkutak Residential  
Linda Capen Transportation Joined Aspen in 2008.
Richard Champoux Nurse  
Erin Flemming Nurse  
Ted Sisley IT Manager  
Nicholas Watroba Math Teacher  
Tim Brace Co-Founder Reported by survivor via e-mail to HEAL on January 31st, 2019 and went on to work at Carlbrook School.
Andrew Coe (Andy) Staff Reported by survivor via e-mail to HEAL on January 31st, 2019 and went on to work at Carlbrook School.
Glenn F. Bender Staff Reported by survivor via e-mail to HEAL on January 31st, 2019 and went on to work at Carlbrook School.
(Academy at Swift River, 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.)
Aspen Ranch is an Aspen Education Group program.  Thomas J. Croke, Educational Consultant, has denounced Aspen Education Group for putting profits over the safety and care of children in Aspen programs.
Article: Swift River Victim Dies of Overdose (January 22nd, 2006)
(Academy at Swift River uses the same abusive "Positive Control System" as WWASPS and Eagle Ranch Academy!)

SURVIVOR ACCOUNT #1 By Richard Meehan   ASR is a boarding school in Cummington, MA that is for kids 13 to 19.  It will take anyone who has enough money to pay to get in.  The school's therapeutic policy is a group therapy session three days a week lasting three hours per session.  Before you do that, you spend another session in there home brewed wilderness program. I got there when you were allowed indoors to sleep so i got lucky.  However, this was not a hiking around a mountain type wilderness, this was more like a boot camp type wilderness.  You did physical training everyday and every consequence was a physically enduring task, like push-ups or pull-ups.  Personally, I liked this a lot more since one of my personal goals was to get in shape.  However, for most people this was not very good.  Even worse, a good friend of mine has this problem with blood circulation in the cold.  She was still subject to doing PT on the floor in the cold with the rest of us, even though a warm and safer area was located less than a forth of a mile away.  After being in that wilderness for 29 days, i went on to the main campus.   For the entire time i was in the wilderness I had been plotting to run.  Me and a group of friends had it all staged for one night.  It turned out that only me and one other person decided to do it.  We climbed through a sky window, scaled the roof, and hiked from Cummington, MA to North Hampton, MA through the night.  We had shaved off all our facial hair and got buzz cuts to make us look a lot different.  We eventually got caught at a bus station the following night.  We both got put on a self study.  Essentially, you get written assignments from staff members that are semi-therapeutic in nature.  They are intended to get you not only thinking about the reasons why you did what you did but also get you thinking about the issues they think you need to change (More on this later).  These self studies also consist of work projects, where the staff have certain random physical labor tasks that the school grounds needs done and the students in trouble do them.   Anyway, the main problem with ASR was not the physical abuse but the mental abuse you suffer.  They were very good at making kids yell at you about things they direct until you broke.  You may not understand why you did in group, but you would.  And once the lifestep comes around, which is a session that lasts hours, that do various things to make you change.  These sessions can last days if they need be.  The reason why the program was so effective before my Peer Group got there was because students would get screamed at by other students and the staff would manipulate the situation to get kids to think a certain way.  In short, they used brainwashing.  This is a hard allegation to prove.  However, consider this.  Students have found two books on adolescent brainwashing within the school.  Personally, during my stay I acquired both these books and had read them in full.  I could open up a random page from the book at any given point and cite something that happened that day that was exact to the situation put forth in the book.  I had also found various packets that outline the different parts of the program.  At one point, I found a sheet describing the third part of there program.  It stated that the counselors should be getting the kids lonely, scared, and confused to make them more susceptible to the upcoming life step.  It also stated to steer the kids to an end where they will be right up to the breaking point.  By using extreme peer pressure and mental stress they create an environment where a young mind can have trouble surviving.  All of what I said is true.   Webmaster Note:  See Richard's testimonial regarding Adirondack Leadership Expeditions here.  
Article: Aspen Education Group: A Guide to Stealing Money and Ruining Lives by Daniel Savoy (March 15th, 2011)




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 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

Enrollment Agreement (Page 2)

"Pro-rated Daily Tuition for Current Month..................$_________.................................days@$216.00/day"

"Alumni Program Fee: (non-refundable)......................$6,560"

"Enrollment Fee:..........................................................$2,500"

"Senior/18yo Deposit: (if applicable)...........................$13,120"

"Student Sundries Account:........................................$300"

"Retainer for 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."

"I understand 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."

"I understand 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's Questions/Concerns

HEAL is concerned that this program is so costly for what is provided.  If a teen is 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:, 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.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 3)

"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."

"Assuming the 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's Questions/Concerns

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 no record 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 concern.

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.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 4)

"Sponsor shall 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."

"Payments not 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."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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 tuition rates. 

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 practices.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 5)

"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."

"SAF, Retainer 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 psychiatric care."

"Any unused 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."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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, consult an attorney.)

Enrollment Agreement (Page 6)

"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."

"Sponsor agrees 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 therewith."

"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 said accounting."

"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 all times."

"Sponsor agrees 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 clinician."

"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)

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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 contradictory. 

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.  Anasazi 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.

In addition, Swift River 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 River 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.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 7)

"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 all risks."

"In consideration 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 law."

"Sponsor intends 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 representatives."

"Sponsor 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)

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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 program. 

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 above in 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 at

And, repeatedly 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 consult an attorney.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 8)

"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.""

"Sponsor agrees 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."

"Sponsor hereby 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)

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

We included 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.  "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:, 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 River 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. 

Strip-searching without 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.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 9)

"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."

"Sponsor hereby 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."

"Swift River 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 pre-paid tuition."

"Sponsor agrees 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."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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.

Swift River 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 families.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 10)

"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 River herein."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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.

Enrollment Agreement (Pages 11-12)

"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."

"Sponsor hereby 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."

"The parties 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."

"Student, his/her 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 Student."

"Authorized 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."

"Notwithstanding 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."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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.  Swift River 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 children.  See for additional information.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 13)


"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."

"Without limiting 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)."

"To physically 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 materials."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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  This is for information purposes only.  If you need legal advice, consult an attorney.

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"?  Federal court decisions have shown that censoring/monitoring a child's mail is a violation of their rights.  These are all serious concerns.

Enrollment Agreement (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."


"The approximant cost for this vaccine is $14.00 but may vary from year to year."


"Students 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."

"Pelvic and/or Breast Exam"

"Date Last Gynecological Exam/LMP"


"Viral Hepatitis Screen (A & B)"

"HIV Test"

"Pregnancy Test"


"The total cost for all 3 injections is $414.00"


HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Initially, Academy 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 family.

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.

The Menactra Vaccination has resulted in some "cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)".  GBS is a serious illness that effects the nervous system.  There 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.  Please see,, and  Side effects have included death and paralysis according to the above reports.  These are serious side effects and this is a serious concern.

The tetanus 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 programs.

Enrollment Agreement (Pages 27 & 28)

"Aspen Ranch Program Details"

"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 Ranch."

"Other family 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."

"Typically, the 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."

"Students who 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."

"Parents should understand that academic progress waxes and wanes relative to therapeutic progress."

"Students must 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."

"Monthly tuition 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 testing."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

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 rights.

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 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 family? 

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 rights.  See and 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.

For information on issues with accreditation agencies, see  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?!

Are children 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)? 

Readers may 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.

For the police call log regarding complaints involving Academy at Swift River, click here.
Son's fatal overdose consumes ex-pitcher:  …They pulled Shane out of Palm Beach Gardens High before his senior year and sent him to the Academy at Swift River, a private treatment center and boarding school in western Massachusetts, near Jeff's hometown of Dalton. Swift River bills itself as a "therapeutic boarding school," specializing in college prep for "troubled teens struggling with behavior, emotional issues or academics."… Shane was arrested and released on bond for marijuana possession in North Palm Beach in August 2003. But on Feb. 21, 2004, the Reardons' worst fear came without warning.  Shane was found dead in his Winter Park apartment.  He was 20 years old.  Police found alcohol and several kinds of drugs in the apartment. An autopsy confirmed Shane died after taking a lethal dose of methadone, a synthetic narcotic used to treat patients with heroin addiction. The medical examiner also found trace amounts of other drugs in Shane's system: Oxycodone, a painkiller, and Alprazolam, commonly called Xanax, used to treat depression.  On the day Shane died, his roommate came home and found Shane disoriented and nauseated. Shane eventually passed out. The roommate thought he was drunk, according to the police report, and did not call 911 until Shane started turning blue.  Shane was pronounced dead at the scene. Jay Reardon, who at the time was nearby in Orlando, was called to identify his brother's body. For complete story, click here.


 Last Updated: December 29th, 2020

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