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WWASP Fails – Florida Mom Prevails (Jury Rules in favor of Mom)

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WWASP Fails – Florida Mom Prevails (Jury Rules in favor of Mom)

WESTON, Florida (August 8, 2004).  Corporate giant, World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), came after a single Florida mom, Sue Scheff, and her organization Parents Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.™), because she spoke out about the company’s alleged abuses against children. When she learned her daughter and other children had been abused in their programs, she fought back.

WWASP came after her through fear, intimidation, and the high cost of litigation, when she tried to speak out by reporting fraud, child abuse, and child neglect against their programs both in the U.S. and other countries. They brought three charges against this mother and her organization – defamation, civil conspiracy, and false advertising.

As a result of her tenacity in seeking the truth, along with her attorney, Richard Henriksen, Salt Lake City, Utah:

WWASP’s attempt to silence this mother failed.

Sue Scheff and P.U.R.E.™ prevailed.

Enlarged photos and video clips from 48 Hours, Primetime, Dateline, and Inside Edition were shown to jurors. Tears welled up in some of their eyes as they watched the following accounts of child abuse and neglect:

  • Video clips were shown of children who were locked in dog cages in the hot Mexican sun at WWASP’s High Impact program in Mexico, sometimes for days at a time. High Impact was shut down by the Mexican government for allegations of child neglect and abuse. Although Robert Lichfield, Ken Kay, and Karr Farnsworth will claim High Impact is not a WWASP program, former employees and parents testified they were.  An employee testified she was asked not to divulge the program’s association with WWASP – she further testified she traveled to High Impact with Ken Kay, president of WWASP, who specifically warned her against divulging its association with WWASP.

  • Amberly Knight was the former Director of Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica. She testified that a girl was raped there and her skull was cracked. She further testified children at Dundee Ranch were punished with food deprivation and were kept in a small isolation room where they were made to kneel and lay on concrete for up to 14 hours a day. Dundee Ranch was closed in May 2003 after she reported WWASP’s alleged child abuse to Costa Rican protective services. This resulted in the arrest of Narvin Lichfield.

  • Photos were shown of children who were locked inside The ISO Box (Isolation Box), a wooden structure no larger than a small closet at WWASP’s Paradise Cove program in Western Samoa. Children told of their experiences when they were hog-tied, struck by staff members, and duct-taped during their stay. When an investigation into allegations of child abuse and neglect was initiated, WWASP closed this program.

  • Again at Paradise Cove in Western Samoa, bugs were seen in the children’s meager food portions. There were photos of children with skin infections, including scabies.

  • Former victims demonstrated the abuse and neglect they endured. They also verbalized it on Dateline, Primetime, Inside Edition and 48 Hours.

More disturbing accounts of abuse and neglect surfaced during the trial, both in WWASP facilities in the U.S. and in other countries:

  • A Texas mother whose two sons were sent to Tranquility Bay, a WWASP facility in Jamaica, stated when she went to pick them up she saw terror on their faces, ringworm scars, and chemical burns on their bodies. Her children were forced to sleep on plywood beds with soiled mattresses; they had no soap, no toilet paper, no fans, and no hot water.

  • One boy spent 4 ½ years of his adolescence being physically moved between five WWASP programs. He entered their programs when he was 12 and was 19 at the time of this trial. He broke into tears as the defendants showed the jury a video of children who were locked inside dog cages in the hot Mexican Sun, the very place where his nightmare ended when he was removed from those very cages. In an interview this young man described more horrific events. He told of how older children in the program plotted to kill him in an attempt to shut the program down. They lured him into the water, grabbed him, beat his head against a large piece of coral until he passed out, as they tried to drown him. He has been left with lifelong emotional scars.

  • Chris Goodwin’s son started his journey through WWASP at Casa by the Sea in Mexico. He stressed he did not want a discipline-based environment for his son, but rather a loving environment and was reassured repeatedly that Casa by the Sea was just that – a loving and caring program. He was not allowed to speak to his son for seven months, and was told speaking to him would harm his progress in the program. He later learned his son had been beaten by four staff members in the middle of the night, then forced to sit Indian-style for up to 16 hours per day while facing a wall. Mr. Goodwin received a call from the program director telling him his son needed a harsher environment, recommending his son be sent to Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. Mr. Goodwin would not agree and insisted his son be sent to Cross Creek in LaVerkin, Utah. He was asked to enroll his son into a new WWASP program, High Impact, on a short-term basis while they worked out the details of his transfer to Cross Creek. He was told it was basically a wilderness experience. All the while, his son had already been transferred there without his permission or knowledge. While there, his son’s thumb was broken, needing surgery to put it back in place with several screws. He told of how his son’s head was pounded into the ground by staff during a restraint. He further testified when he picked up his 15 ½ year-old son from Cross Creek he witnessed a girl whose mouth was covered with duct-tape and felt he had been deceived and financially “taken” by WWASP.

  • A young Florida girl was described as having to bathe outside in cold water with other girls. When they had their menstrual cycle they all showered in their blood and discharge. She experienced eating pork with hair still on it. Every night she heard kids screaming in OP (observation placement) while others cried for their parents.

  • This young girl witnessed the suicide death of Valerie Heron on Valerie’s first day at Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. Witnesses say there was no staff present to keep her from climbing up onto the railing, jumping to her death. Girls who witnessed this event were told they would receive counseling to cope with their grief and trauma but the therapist never arrived. Instead, the girls witnessing this traumatic event were given some pills to cope with their pain. During the night after Valerie’s death, she heard staff trying to scrub the blood stains off the concrete. The next morning, they made the girls line up for head count directly over the blood-stained “X” that marked the spot where Valerie landed.

  • Jay Kay, Director of Tranquility Bay, and son of Ken Kay, President of WWASP, sat in the courtroom with seemingly no remorse while the defendants presented Prime Time’s video clip of him admitting: “Do I have pepper-spray? You bet I do. And, I haven’t had to use it in five and a half or six months.” Since the time of this trial, Fox aired an interview with a mother whose son was pepper sprayed by Jay Kay and Randall Hinton, employee at Tranquility Bay, on a daily basis for over eight months. Further, his genitals were scrubbed with a toilet brush. In an interview, his mother revealed that before being sent to Tranquility Bay, her son was a 4.0 student and a good boy. He turned to drugs when she and his father divorced, which resulted in her turning to WWASP for help. She stated, “My son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a direct result of the abuse he suffered at Tranquility Bay. He had a breakdown and spent two years in a mental hospital. He is now 24 years old and still living at home. He has had repeated nightmares for years on at least a weekly basis if not more. Just last week he screamed out in his sleep ‘Randall, why are you doing this to me?’ I can personally attest that my child was far worse when he returned from the emersion of abuse and neglect at Tranquility Bay than before he entered this so-called children’s program.”

  • John France, an Educational and Forensic Psychologist, testified about his son’s stay at WWASP facility Spring Creek Lodge in MT. He stated his son spent nearly nine months in “The Hobbit”, a small structure that was no more than two shelves on top of one another, his body barely able to fit. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. So cold, his orange he stored away at night was frozen by morning. He was forced to sleep on a small shelf and to urinate in his drinking cup during the night. He etched the words “Let Freedom Ring” on one of the shelves.

While others were shocked, distraught, and cried as these accounts of child abuse, neglect, and even death, were divulged, Robert Lichfield was seen smiling in the corner of the courtroom while WWASP lawyers were seen laughing in the presence of the Federal jury.

In 2006 WWASP continues to grow and thrive, housing thousands of children from all over the world.  To this day, WWASP refuses to admit any wrongdoing, including child abuse, child neglect and fraud.

WWASP has repeatedly filed lawsuits against advocacy groups in an attempt to stop them from exposing child abuse and neglect in their programs.

Today, Sue Scheff continues in her quest to provide families with the resources, options, and safe alternatives they need in finding help for their children. Congressman George Miller continues to fight for Federal legislation to regulate this industry, and we at P.U.R.E.™ support his fight.

As of December 2015, it is believed that WWASP aka WWASPS or Premier Educational Systems has affiliations with the following:

  • Academy of Ivy Ridge, NY (Recently withdrew their affiliation with WWASPS)

  • Canyon View Park, MT

  • Camas Ranch, MT

  • Carolina Springs Academy, SC

  • Cross Creek Programs, UT (Cross Creek Center and Cross Creek Manor

  • Darrington Academy, GA

  • Help My Teen, UT (Adolescent Services Adolescent Placement) Promotes and markets these programs.

  • Horizon Academy, NV

  • Lifelines Family Services, UT (Promotes and markets these programs).

  • Majestic Ranch, UT

  • Midwest Academy, IA (Brian Viafanua, formerly the Director of Paradise Cove as shown on Primetime, was director there). NEW ALERT – Click here.

  • Pillars of Hope, Costa Rica

  • Pine View Christian Academy (Borders FL, AL, MS)

  • Reality Trek, UT

  • Red River Academy, LA (Borders TX)

  • Royal Peak Academy, CO (It is believed that Randall Hinton – who admitted using pepper spray on teens – is employed at this facility).

  • Sky View Academy, NV

  • Spring Creek Lodge, MT

  • Tranquility Bay, Jamaica

Latest news story on WWASPS. (2/7/16)

NY Post Article (2/13/16) Midwest Academy Shut-down

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    For every parent that is struggling with their teenager - 18 comes very fast. A must read via Grown and Flown ...

    THIS IS ADOLESCENCE: 18 18 is a year overflowing with contradictions. Eighteen wants to be a child forever and yet he cannot wait to grow up. He loves his house and cannot wait to leave it. Eighteen is our teen living in our home and in the same momentous year, an adult residing in another state. On the eve of his 18th birthday it seems almost as if nothing has changed and then one morning in August everything is different. 18 is a year of contradictions, of being our child at home and an adult living in another state. 18 is the year I have dreaded since the day he was born. It is the year that I will begin to know him a little less, the year when more of his life happens away from our family than within it. But 18 is also the year I am most grateful for, that as his childhood ends it has been filled with joy and he has thrived wrapped in our love and that of his brothers. Eighteen cannot believe he is 18. When I tell him that he must register for the selective service and to vote, that I can no longer deal with his doctor, the health insurance company or his college housing office, he is taken aback. Eighteen wants to be an adult, but not if it means a lot of paperwork. Eighteen wants to spend every spare minute with his friends. He dreads the day when one by one they will leave for college and he tells me how much he will miss them, how much their closeness has meant to him and that he hopes they will stay that way forever. While I am indebted to these wonderful boys who have taught my son so much about friendship, I ignore the tightness in my throat and do not say that I feel the same way about him. Eighteen needs to show me he is a grown up, even at the times when I know that he is not. When he is unhappy with me he reminds me that soon he will be gone and then I will not be able to tell him what to do. Eighteen tells me this both because he wants me to acknowledge his independence and because he wants to hurt me that little bit, because in getting ready to go, some small part of him is hurting too. When Eighteen defies me, I can see that my arsenal for controlling him is severely depleted. Eighteen is brimming with confidence. His confidence comes from the physical strength and stamina of youth, from being surrounded by those who have known and loved him most or all of his life and from the fact that we may all be at our most beautiful the summer of our 18th birthdays. Eighteen loves senior year in high school and life at the top of the social food chain. He loves knowing most of the teachers and coaches in his high school and the way they have begun to treat him and the other seniors like young adults. While I delight in seeing him so at ease in his world, I also know that there is nobody less secure than a college freshman. Eighteen thinks the drinking age is 18. I am the bearer of bad news. Eighteen thinks he should not have a curfew. I bear more bad news. Eighteen’s personal hygiene is impeccable. He has never needed to be reminded to shower or brush his teeth. He rarely leaves a mess in the house and usually cleans any garbage from my car when he borrows it. Yet, Eighteen still leaves every article of dirty clothing on his bedroom floor. He has been told 4,287 that there is a laundry hamper in his room. Fearing that he has forgotten, I remind him again. He wonders why I do this, and so do I. Surely there is a point where I should give up, but how will I know when that is? In the summer before he leaves, Eighteen wants to push his father and me away and hold onto us at the same time. I am told that as the reality of their leaving begins to confront some kids, they “soil the nest,” at times giving parents some of their very worst behavior. I try to remember that this is temporary and that if I have learned anything about parenting it is that a markedly changed adolescent will be returned to me come the winter holidays. Eighteen lies on the floor petting his dog. I am in the next room, but I can hear him telling her that he will miss her. He does not remember life before this dog and is old enough to fully understand that this means that in the coming years he will experience the loss of her. He feels love and he feels fear. He has heard that kids get “the call” at school about their dogs and he does not want that call. I can tell Eighteen what to do and what not to do, until he leaves for college. But that would be foolish. We are on a trial run for adulthood, so I let him make most of the decisions and step in only when I cannot help myself. I try not to treat him like the child he no longer is, he tries not to act like the obnoxious teenager he no longer is. Most of the time we are successful, sometimes we fail. Eighteen leaves little gashes on my heart, like stinging paper cuts, as time winds down and we no longer have months or years but rather weeks and days. I miss him before he is even gone and I grieve once he has left. Eighteen drifts slowly away the summer after graduation and then one morning I load up the car and he is really gone, and I can do nothing more than help him on his way. www.facebook.com/grownandflown/

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