Only in a free country that is also free of state and federal oversight for the thousands of boot camps, er, "wilderness training" schools, where troubled children are first discarded by negligent or just plain stupid adults.
Instead of meddling in the business of accreditation for colleges, I am wondering if Sec. Spellings has checked into the credentialing of this PR outfit that lies, dissembles, and covers up for the sanctioned sadists who torture thousands of innocent teens in their sanctioned hell schools: the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP). From reading a bit of their public school bashing in their propaganda literature, I would guess NATSAP postion gets warm receptions from the ed industry enablers. From a NATSAP white paper:
In the past 25 years the level of structure and protection for youth in our society has deteriorated. More than 33% of public high school students drop out of school. Drug use is rampant in junior high and high school, and these drugs are more powerful, addictive, and dangerous. More and more young people have addictions such as cutting, and eating disorders. More are being diagnosed with depression (including bipolar disorder), anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and oppositional defiance. Use of prescription medications to manage emotional and behavioral problems has increased. These facts are symptoms of an adolescent culture that is stressed, overwhelmed, and struggling to cope.And, of course, the NATSAP has a dues-paying torture camp just right for all these children.
Today's Arizona Republic has a story on the latest GAO report ( Full Report PDF, 34 pages) on these private youth boot camps, and it looks specifically into ten cases where teens died. Recommendation from Congress: Don't go there until regulation and oversight are put in place:
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, also announced it has identified thousands of allegations of abuse, some involving death, at boot camps since the early 1990s. It cataloged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 33 states in 2005.
"Buyer, beware," said Greg Kutz, who led the GAO investigation. "You really don't know what you're getting."
Kutz said the GAO closely examined 10 closed cases where juveniles died at residential treatment camps. In half of those cases, the teens died of dehydration or heat exhaustion. Other factors were untrained staff, inadequate food or reckless operations, the GAO said.
Five of the 10 camps are still operating, some in different locations or under new names.
"Ineffective program management played a key role in most of these deaths," Kutz testified before the House Education and Labor Committee.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the committee and requested the investigation, has sponsored a bill designed to encourage states to enact regulations.
"This nightmare has remained an open secret for years," Miller said in a statement. "Congress must act, and it must act swiftly."
The death of Bacon's son was one of the 10 cases studied by the GAO, but not the only one with an Arizona connection. The sample cases did not include names, but some were identifiable through news reports.
One was the death of Anthony Haynes, 14, at the American Buffalo Soldiers boot camp in Arizona in 2001.
One of the state's most high-profile camp deaths was that of Nicholas Contreraz, a 16-year-old Sacramento youth who died in 1998 while being subjected to discipline at the Arizona Boys Ranch near Queen Creek.
Bob Bacon's account was among those Wednesday that outraged House committee members.
Bacon said Aaron was sent to the camp because of minor drug use and poor grades. The father said he was fooled by the owners of the Utah facility into believing his son would be well cared for.
Instead, Aaron was forced to hike eight to 10 miles a day with inadequate nutrition and was not given protective gear to withstand freezing temperatures, Bacon said. When Aaron complained of severe stomach pains and asked for a doctor, his pleas were ignored even though he had dramatically lost weight and suffered from other serious symptoms, Bacon testified.
According to court documents, the boy's condition was ignored for 20 days, until he collapsed. The autopsy showed he died of an acute infection related to a perforated ulcer.
Five camp employees pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, and another was convicted of child abuse. All were sentenced to probation and community service.
Kutz testified that camp employees studied by the GAO were often poorly trained. He said kids weren't properly fed and were exposed to dangerous conditions, their cries for medical assistance ignored.
He said that in only one of the 10 sample cases was anyone found criminally liable and sentenced to prison.
The residential programs, designed to instill discipline and character, can be privately run or state-sponsored programs and sometimes include an educational or school-like component. They are loosely regulated by states. There are no federal laws that define and regulate them.
The programs are marketed to parents who are at a loss as to how to help emotionally troubled teens, Kutz said.
Jan Moss, executive director of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, a trade group, said many kids have been helped by the treatment programs.
She said the industry is taking steps to improve, but she added, "Clearly we still have a very long way to go."
Kutz said there is no comprehensive nationwide data on deaths and injuries in residential treatment programs.
Auditors found thousands of allegations in lawsuits, Web sites and state records.
"Examples of abuse include youth being forced to eat their own vomit, denied adequate food, being forced to lie in urine or feces, being kicked, beaten and thrown to the ground," Kutz said, adding that one teen was reportedly "forced to use a toothbrush to clean a toilet, then forced to use that toothbrush on their own teeth."
At the boot camp where Anthony Haynes died, children were fed an apple for breakfast, a carrot for lunch and a bowl of beans for dinner, the GAO said.
Haynes became dehydrated in 113-degree heat and vomited dirt, according to witnesses. The program closed, and the director, Charles Long, was sentenced in 2005 to six years in prison for manslaughter.
The autopsy on Nicholas Contreraz showed that after Boys Ranch staffers punished and humiliated the teen for days, he suffered from a severe infection in the lining of his lungs. Five employees were charged criminally, but all counts were dropped. The ranch now operates under the name Canyon State Academy.
Julie Vega, Contreraz's mother, recently told The Arizona Republic, "I feel like he was sacrificed, and some good things changed for the better because of him. But nobody really paid a price for his death."