World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools

World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools

The World Wide Association Of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS or WWASP) is an organization based in Utah, in the United States. WWASPS was founded by Robert Lichfield and was incorporated in 1998. WWASPS states that it is an umbrella organization of independent institutions for education and treatment of troubled teenagers, all operating in accordance with WWASP guidelines. Many outside observers believe, however, that the WWASPS-affiliated institutions are actually owned (through limited partnerships, many of which have used the same street address) by WWASPS or its principal officials or their close relatives. [See [ Investigation shows troubled school may be buying interest with lawmakers] (Associated Press, September 20, 2004), [ Utah-based school owner banned] ("Deseret News", July 6, 2003), and [ Former student alleges months of abuse] (John Sullivan, "Columbia Daily Tribune", April 15, 2005.)] [Maia Szalavitz, [ The Trouble with Troubled Teen Programs] , "Reason", January 2007] WWASPS is connected to several affiliated for-profit companies. These include Teen Help LLC, the marketing arm of WWASPS and the entity that processes admissions paperwork; Teen Escort Service, a teen escort company that transports teenagers to WWASPS facilities; R&B Billing, which does tuition billing and payment processing; [John-Thor Dahlburg, [ Key to His Schools' Success? It's God, Founder Says] , "Los Angeles Times", July 13, 2003] and Premier Educational Systems, LLC (also called Premier Educational Seminars), which conducts orientation and training workshops for parents whose children are in WWASPS facilities. [See] WWASPS claims to have helped over 10,000 students with issues related to personal behavior. [ [ WWASPS Rebuttal website] ] Some participants and parents give positive reports of their experiences, but others say that WWASPS programs were abusive. WWASPS has faced widespread allegations of physical and psychological abuse of the teenagers sent into its programs, resulting in a lawsuit filed against the organization in 2006. [ [ Troubled Teen Programs - 25 Plaintiffs Join in Lawsuit Against WWASPS, Cross Creek Manor, Robert Lichfield, and Associates – More Expected to Join In ] ]


WWASP operates, formerly operated, or is associated with, several facilities in the United States and in other countries. In 2003 there were 2,300 students enrolled in its facilities and programs. [ Parents Divided Over Jamaica Disciplinary Academy] by Tim Weiner, "The New York Times", June 17, 2003]

In July 2007 World Wide's president, Ken Kay, told the "Salt Lake Tribune" that only two schools remained in the WWASPS network, including Majestic Ranch Academy in Utah, which he said was likely to sever its ties with the organization. [ [ Loophole in state law has allowed some in teen-help industry to go unlicensed] , "The Salt Lake Tribune", July 16, 2007] Schools and programs currently or formerly associated with the organization include the following:

Currently operating

United States

* Academy at Ivy Ridge in Ogdensburg, New York (no longer affiliated with WWASP)
* Carolina Springs Academy in South Carolina
* Cross Creek Programs in Utah
* Darrington Academy in Georgia
* Gulf Coast Academy in Lucedale, Mississippi (formerly Bethel Girls' Academy, Bethel Boys' Academy, and Eagle Point Christian Academy)
* Majestic Ranch Academy in Utah
* Midwest Academy in Keokuk, Iowa
* Horizon Academy in Amargosa Valley, Nevada
* Red River Academy in Lecompte, Louisiana.
* Royal Gorge Academy in Canon City, Colorado
* Spring Creek Lodge Academy in Montana (claims to be no longer affiliated with WWASP)
* Woodland Hills Maternity Home in Utah

Other countries

* Pillars of Hope, (previously the site of closed school Academy at Dundee Ranch) in Costa Rica
* Tranquility Bay in Jamaica (subject of several documentaries detailing severe abuse) [Joanne Green, [ Rough Love] ,"Miami New Times" June 22, 2006]
* Oceanside [ [ Oceanside ] ] (previously marketed as "Pacific View Academy" [ School Information on Pacific View Academy] and "Seaside Academy" [ School Information on Seaside Academy] ) located at the former Hotel Carmino In Rosarito, Mexico

Now closed

United States

* Bell Academy in California (shutdown after issues with state Social Services) [Henry Winckel, "The Porterville Recorder", September 26, 2003]
* Bethel Girls Academy in Mississippi (shut down after state officials investigate reports of abuse)
* Brightway Hospital in St. George, Utah (closed by authorities for providing inadequate care and abuse) [ [ Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse] ]
* Sky View Christian Academy, for boys, in Hawthorne, Nevada. Enrolled about 120 students and employed about 63 staff and teachers, with a total annual payroll of $1.57 million. Closed abruptly in 2007 after a hazing incident. [ Housing slump indefinitely delays Hawthorne project] , "Reno Gazette Journal", December 2, 2007, and [ Hawthorne project postponed] , by David C. Henley, "Lahontan Valley News", December 1, 2007.

Other countries

*Academy at Dundee Ranch, Costa Rica
* Casa By The Sea, Ensenada, Mexico (investigated and shut down by the Mexican government after allegations of abuse ) [Sandra Dibble & Anna Cearley, [ Baja raids shut boarding schools for U.S. teens] , "The Union-Tribune", September 11, 2004]
* High Impact in Tecate, Mexico (investigated and shut down by the Mexican government after allegations of abuse) [Sandra Dibble & Anna Cearley, [ Baja raids shut boarding schools for U.S. teens] , "The Union-Tribune", San Diego, September 11, 2004]
* Morava Academy, Brno, Czech Republic. Opened in 1998 and closed later that year when Czech police arrested its managers (Glenda and Steven Roach, former police officers from Utah) and charged them with child torture. [ Too-tough love?] , "Forbes Magazine", March 22, 1999] [Adam LeBor, [ Czech school accused of torturing pupils] , "The Independent" (London), November 20, 1998 ]
* Paradise Cove, Samoa (shutdown by Samoan authorities because an investigation determined credible allegations of abuse) [ [ Legal Affairs] ]
* Sunrise Beach, Cancún, Mexico (raided and closed by Mexican authorities over abuse) [ [ Denver Rocky Mountain News] ]

Related and spinoff programs and projects

Some personnel formerly associated with WWASP schools and programs have gone on to establish or work at other similar institutions.

In 2005 Robert Lichfield and the Utah-based holding company, Golden Pond Investments Ltd., made an offer to buy the campus of the Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, to open a new school for adolescents needing help with discipline, responsibility and leadership skills. It was announced that the school would be directed by former WWASP staff member Randall Hinton and his brother Russell Hinton. The Hintons told Boonville officials that the proposed school would not be a part of WWASP. [ [ Boonville to discuss Kemper proposal: A company involved in the plan has faced abuse allegations] , "Columbia Missourian", April 11, 2005, and John Sullivan, [ Kemper suitors plan new military school] , "Columbia Daily Tribune", April 5, 2005.] The Boonville City Council rejected the proposal. [Amy Joi Bryson, [,1249,600128053,00.html Utah-based group under fire] , "Deseret Morning News", April 21, 2005]

=Controversy= WWASPS and its associated institutions have been the target of criticism over their treatment methods, including allegations of severe abuse and torture by staff at programs supported by WWASPS. [Joanne Green, [ Rough Love: Kids from South Florida and beyond are sent to Jamaica to straighten up. Or else] , "Miami New Times", June 22, 2006.] The programs have been the subject of legal investigations by several U.S. states. [Amy Joi Bryson, [,1249,600128053,00.html Utah-based group under fire] , "Deseret Morning News", April 21, 2005.] In 2003, a reporter for "The New York Times" interviewed 60 current and former program participants and parents; some gave positive reports of their experiences, while other participants and parents said that WWASPS programs were abusive.

Numerous former students or their parents have filed lawsuits against WWASPS, its personnel, or individual schools. Most have been settled out of court or dismissed for procedural reasons. For example, a 2005 lawsuit filed in California on behalf of more than 20 plaintiffs was dismissed because the judge found that California lacked jurisdiction. In June 2007, Utah attorney Thomas M. Burton told a reporter that six suits he had filed against WWASPS on behalf of his clients had been dismissed on procedural grounds. WWASPS president Ken Kay told an interviewer that lawsuits against WWASPS are ploys to get money, brought by people who "are never going to be happy." A lawsuit filed in 2007 against WWASPS and its founder, Robert Lichfield, on behalf of 133 plaintiffs alleging physical and sexual abuse and fraudulent concealment of abuse brought negative publicity to Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, because Lichfield was one of six co-chairs of the Utah state fundraising committee for Romney's campaign.Alexander Bolton, [ Lawsuits hit a Romney money man] , "The Hill", June 20, 2007] [Maia Szalavitz, [ Romney, Torture, and Teens: The former governor's connections to abusive "tough love" camps] , "Reason Magazine", June 27, 2007.]

On August 31, 2007, Randall Hinton was convicted of one count each of third degree assault and false imprisonment, for mistreating students at the WWASP-affiliated Royal Gorge Academy, of which he was manager and co-founder. However, the jury returned verdicts of "not guilty" on four other counts of third-degree assault and one other count of false imprisonment. [ [,1,1 Hinton guilty on two counts: Jury finds Royal Gorge Academy official guilty of assault, false imprisonment] , "The Cañon City Daily Record", 9/1/2007, Page A8.] Hinton was sentenced to jail followed by probation. [ [ Randall Hinton Sentenced to Jail for Bloody Assault on Child] , November 20, 2007, by Tracy Harmon, and [,1,1 Top 10 stories of 2007] , "The Cañon City Daily Record", 12/31/2007, Page A1.]

ee also



Further reading

*Claire and Mia Fontaine, "Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back", HarperCollins, 2006. ISBN 978-0060792169

External links

Corporate websites

* [ R&B Billing]

Web sites for WWASP facilities and affiliated institutions:

* [ Academy at Ivy Ridge]
* [ Cross Creek Programs]
* [ Carolina Springs Academy]
* [ Darrington Academy]
* [ Gulf Coast Academy]
* [ Midwest Academy]
* [ Spring Creek Lodge Academy]
* [ Tranquility Bay]

Marketing web sites promoting institutions associated with WWASP

* [ 2 Boot Camp]
* [ Help My Teen]
* [ Parent Support Services]
* [ Teen Paths]
* [ Teen Recovery]
* [ Teen Soulutions]
* [ Teens with Problems]

WWASP critics

* [ - WWASP Survivors]
* [ Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse]
* [ International Survivors Action Committee - WWASP]
* [ Paula Reeves]
* [ Want Your Kid to Disappear?] by Nadya Labi, " [ Legal Affairs] ", July|August 2004.
* [ Loving Them to Death]
* [ Tranquility Bay and WWASPS]
* [ The Trouble with Troubled Teen Programs]

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