Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)



E. K____-W.
My name is E, K.-W. and I am a survivor of the Family Foundation School. I attended FFS from July 27th 2006 - June 28th 2008. My stay at FFS was nothing short of horrible and degrading.

I was escorted by 2 large strangers threatening the use of hand cuffs and ankle shackles at 3 A.M. from a different school in California. Immediately I am brought into the locker room of the school building. I was forced to strip down naked and all of my personal items were searched for drugs and other items on their black list. All of my clothing and music was sent home only being told that they were "negative."  As far as I was concerned my music was what kept me going through the day. My one joy in life was ripped away from me in what seemed to be a blink of an eye. This was just the beginning of FFS attempting to strip me of my individuality, my very being. I soon found out that there were mandatory religious services every morning and that students were forced to participate. I didn't want to participate in something that should have been a matter of choice. My sponsor Thomas Wood didn't feel the same way. I was forced to sit in a chair facing the corner of a wall. This corner is where i would eat my meals, do my work, and spend my free time. I sat in the corner for 2 days until I gave in and participated.

You learn quickly at FFS that if you want to get along you have to go along. Some of the staff were genuinely good people but these good people were scarce. I was appalled to find out my first day that students would be yelled at, cursed at, and made to sit in a chair facing a corner for days on end for reasons as small as waking up late, or not obeying 'simple' staff orders. One night I had to spend the night in the isolation room, a small cold room that had a door with 3 deadbolt locks and camera to monitor you with, because I was a larger individual and I had a disagreement with one of my peers. I was told that you go to the isolation room when your being aggressive and or violent towards others. I was also told the door wouldn't be locked unless you were violent with the staff. When they closed the door and locked me inside isolation for the night I was cool calm and collected and had not been aggressive or violent towards any students or staff. They still locked me in. I learned quickly how to speak the language of FFS for fear of getting punished the way I had seen my friends get punished so many times. I remember being told at one point early in my stay by several staff members, "FFS is a student run school." I later found out the school ran on the fear. I had what Family School students called an "easy stay." By no means was it easy but I stayed out of corner (for the most part) and rarely got into any kind of trouble. My issue is the staff that feel it necessary to break a person down emotionally and mentally by the use of profanities and name calling. Those staff members were the people that were supposed to have their heads on straight before hand so that they, in return, could help us get our heads on straight. You would expect profanities and name calling from the students who have been literally pulled from his/her life, not from the people employed to help us.

No human being on this earth deserves the verbal abuse that I and all of my peers have experienced. The amazing thing is that rarely were there verbal altercations between students. 90 percent of the verbal abuse came from staff members. How can a person expect another person to respond positively to a staff member, someone the students were supposed to rely on and have trust in, who is yelling and cursing at you. I told my parents how Jim Trego, a staff member was yelling, cursing, and even pushed me over a call made in a pick up basketball game. I told them how when I tried to remove myself from a bad situation, something I learned at home, that he only followed me and got in my face to instigate me to hit him. They just assumed that I was overreacting because that is what the Family School told them. FFS brainwashed my entire family to believe that I was a lying criminal and my only hope for salvation was to follow what ever version of AA the Family School taught. By no means was I was an easy teenager to manage but the methods that Family School continued to follow through out my entire stay was cruel and unusual. I had been hearing stories straight from the staffs mouths dating 30 years back, when the school first opened, about wrapping 'out of control' students in rugs and duct tape. On more times than once a student has been 'out of control' and staff would have to alleviate the situation. On the occasions that I have seen students been restrained it has been with force that is DEFINITELY not necessary. You do not need four 200 pound men to subdue one 150 pound teenager. I was in Spanish class one day and saw a student get tackled by Thomas 'Woody' Wood, Tommy Cummings, and Dick Sesh. After the student was on the floor telling the staff on top of him that they were hurting him I saw Tommy Cummings get his last knee in while he was on the floor.

One of the other many frightening things about FFS was their policy on food. Failing grades meant no extra food even if you were still hungry. There were to many times I remember laying awake in my bed because my stomach was eating itself. It was school policy that you had finish everything on your plate. I have seen students literally throw up from eating the food and forced to finish the rest of their plate. If they refused they would be served it later.

School was never my strong suit. I have been in special education schools since I was in the second grade. Every single doctor, therapist, and psychologist I have ever seen has told me that I have learning disabilities that only a special education school could help me with. When I arrived at the Family School I quickly found out that the passing grade was no longer 65 but 75. When I was younger I was embarrassed that I had to be in a special education school but learned that was the best thing for me as far as my education went. When speaking to my academic adviser Millie Triff about what should be done about my situation she tells me that my special education record has been expunged and was no longer necessary. I was told that the only reason that I was in special education was because I refused to do the work to be in a mainstream school. I was told I was taking the easy way out my entire life. I failed almost every single course that I took at the Family School, repeating many of them. Only in the last 6 months of my stay did I start to get my grades up with constant work and private tutors.

There was extremely little contact between me and my family. I got one phone call a week with mother and father. I spoke to my sister even less. The Family School made claims to help fix relationships between the student and their families. Upon Leaving the Family School the relationship between me and my parents was worse ever. The Family Foundation School has robbed me of my experience to experience life. The Family Schools claims to be a drug free college preparatory school. I left the school having no idea what I was supposed to do next. They did not prepare me for any real life situations. I left the school with a fear that drug addicts would be at every corner trying to shoot me up with a needle. This is all difficult for me to write and re-live. I try to talk to my friends, my family, and my wife about my experience at FFS in hopes that by talking about it I will be able to move on. The Family Foundation School needs to take responsibility for their actions and right the many wrongs that they have made over the past 3 decades.

Submitted by: E. K.-W.