Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)




Daniel Merrill

I was seventeen when my parents made the decision to enroll me in The Family School in Hancock, NY. The next 26 months of my life were an experience in survival.  

At the school, i was stripped of my identity as soon as i arrived. Most of life was stuffed full of activity. The 11 hour school  day and lack of any personal space or time is not important though. What is important is the absolute brainwashing, contsant antagonizing, and
harsh punishment methods.

I had to repeat my junior and some of my sophmore year when I arrived at the school. This was due to improper paperwork, and a lack of care for transcripts. For more than fourty thousand dollars a year, i had hoped to enroll where i had left in school. Instead, i was placed back in earth science, where i wasted my time for a full year. I had aced the midterm which was taken straight out of the regents final exam, and i was still not reevaluated or allowed to audit the course.  Every mealtime was a terror. In my "Family unit" we had discussions at the table called "table topics". these topics involved bringing concerns, real or imagined, to the attention of myself or one of my peers.

The leader of my family was a self admitted sex addict, and every problem with a student was tainted by that. These topics involved high levels of mental and emotional abuse designed to break down the psyche of the student involved. If this student did not say what the staff members wanted, they would be given a consequence; sitting or standing in the corner, being pulled out of class to do useless physical labor, alternative food(a single packet of cram of wheat for breakfast, or a single soy burger for lunch or dinner), denial of contact with parents, and many more punishments which were socially and emotionally damaging.

Only a few members were educated in child care or any kind of therapy, and they seldom were involved in these table topics.  I was taken out of school in 2004 for more than 5 months, forced to stand in the corner, trot while standing, eating 3 alternative meals even though i am diabetic, and doing physical labor for 11 hours per day. This labor included carring buckets full of rocks up a steep hill, labor in the kitchen and groundskeeping tasks. At one point in the winter, i was forced to stand in an outside hallway in the New York winter, when temperatures did not exceed 45 degrees inside even during the day.

My experience was certainly not the hardest which i have seen. Studentswere sometimes kept at the school for up to five years, and submitted to the same amount of hardship. I saw one student commit suicide. Also, one winter I witnessed a restraint in the snow involving 3 large staff members, at least one of whom was sitting on the fourteen year old student.

In the time since I left the school I have experienced an incredible amount of difficulty in rebuilding my identity and my ability to relate to peers. I hope that this bill will help other children be protected from the hell which many of us have survived.

Submitted By: Daniel Merrill