Nine ex-students sue, say they were mistreated at central Oregon school for troubled teens

The Oregonian/July 6, 2011

Nine former students of a Prineville-area school for troubled teens are suing the now-defunct school's parent company, saying teachers and staff humiliated, isolated and abused them as part of its curriculum.

The complaint, which was filed today in Multnomah County Circuit Court, detailed students' accusations:

One teen, a girl who had suffered sexual abuse as a child, was forced to repeatedly engage in provocative role-playing with older males, the complaint states. Another student, who suffered from asthma, was forced to sleep outdoors in below-freezing temperatures. Staff members also denied him food, sleep and use of a restroom and withheld his asthma inhaler despite asthma attacks that were brought on by their tactics.

The suit seeks nearly $14.3 million from the Mount Bachelor Academy, its parent company Aspen Education Group, and Aspen's parent company, CDC Health Group Inc.

The school shut down in December 2009, about a month after receiving an emergency suspension order from the state's Department of Human Services, which had investigated the abuse allegations.

"The so-called treatment," said Kelly Clark, an attorney for the plaintiffs, "was not education, was not treatment and was not therapeutic. We intend to prove that it was abuse, pure and simple."

The company issued a statement saying that it had not had the opportunity to review the claims. But it argued that it had resolved its dispute with the state and noted that the state withdrew its emergency order to close the school.

That September 2010 settlement notes that the state agreed to withdraw its emergency suspension order because the school was already closed.

Clark and his law firm have pressed hundreds of claims against the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts of America. Clark last year won a nearly $20 million judgment from the Boy Scouts of America on behalf of a sex-abuse victim last year.

This story will be updated with more information.

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