Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)


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Rebecca Schwarzmer

I was a victim of the Family Foundation School from mid October to mid-December, 1996. Even though I was there 14 years ago, I cannot banish the memories.
Last year I wrote what I remembered at a time that the memories became too much.


1)      why?

I was taken there because I complained that my step-mom verbally abused me.  I was a threat to the typical American family image that my step-mom worked to hard to show the outside world.  First I was sent to a military boarding school, and when I got depressed and suicidal I was taken out of there, put in a psychiatric center for 2 weeks then sent to this school

2) first day

I was taken there by my dad.  The first day I found out I would have no contact with my family for at least a month.  I had many things taken away, including many of my fiction books (mostly Star trek); a shirt I had tie-dyed at camp (was considered drug paraphernalia).  I was told I would have to eat everything that was served.  When I told them that for religious reasons I didn’t eat pork, they said it didn’t matter (see more about this later)  I was assigned to a bed in a trailer that had 2 rooms, each room had 8 bunk bed, 16 kids…each  room had 1 bath for the 16 kids to share.  Also, in my initial interview I found out I supposedly masturbated regularly and beat my step-mom daily.  They would not believe me when I told them it wasn’t true.

3)Religious

As I said, they told me I would not be exempt from eating pork.  One time they let me not eat it.  Another time they served me something I didn’t recognize and I asked if it was pork.  They kept saying it wasn’t so I ate it, even though I didn’t believe them.  As soon as I finished one person asked me if I liked my ham.

I was forced to learn the lords prayer as well as some sort of grace and to say it.  Eventually they relented and said I didn’t have to do the communal Christian Prayers.

Even thought they claimed to not be a religious school, there was priest on staff and they had statues of Mary all over.

They one time, to try to get me to see things their way, made a prayer circle around me and prayed for me to be saved

If I wanted to have a “Shabbos service” I went to the priests office.  He told me how long I had and how many prayers I could say.  Usually I had about 5 minutes on Friday nights

I got so desperate for religion that I went to mass…not for the sake of mass, but just of something

See more below in physical abuse.

4) medical

Medicine was handed out by a staff member not trained in any ways as a medical professional

Most kids there were on a combination of psychiatric medications

When people had a sore they would stand in a line and pass a bottle of throat spray from one to the other.  Squirt your throat and then pass the germs to the next person in line.

WARNING: Don’t read if you cry easily.  I personally had a horrible experience medically.  My 3rd day there I was depressed, terrified and in a lot of emotional pain.  I felt I couldn’t keep living there.  I needed an escape and I decided to try a permanent one.  One evening as we were all going back to our dorms, I jumped off a 2nd story balcony.  While I didn’t kill myself, I did break my foot.  I started running out of fear.  They caught me and took me to the office.  For AT LEAST 2 hours they talked to me about how wonderful the school was and I should give it a chance.  I was so  confused (I think in retrospect I was in shock) by the end I was fully agreeing and believing that it was a wonderful place that I would stay until I graduated and then after nursing school I would come back and be a nurse there.  They told me they would take me to the hospital the next day for my foot.  That night, I was in such pain I literally had to crawl out of bed to go the kids in charge of the room and ask for something for my foot.  Her response was ‘we don’t believe in pain relievers here” They didn’t end up taking me to the hospital until the 2nd day after I broke my foot.  By then I was re-disillusioned and tried to get the drs to help but no one listened to me.  Each time I went to get my foot examined, I tried to get help.  They stopped taking me to the Dr after a while (see below for more).  Also, one staff member said she had a cousin on the police force, so there was no use trying to get through to them.

5) Educational

If you didn’t agree with their 12 step program then they would not let you attend class.  I had to face a corner for days at a time and in my 2 months there, only attended class for maybe 2 weeks of the time.  When I tried studying on my own they took away my books.  Once when I was allowed back in class, there was a test that day that I was not able to prep for and I was still made to take it.

6) Physical

Safety:  At night, one bunk bed was stationed in front of all doors to the dorm.  That way no one could try escaping at night.  It also would have prevented a timely escape in event of a fine (3 dorms were in trailers, 2 in attics and 1 in a basement)

Students were physically abused on a regular basis.

When we went to a public school for the presentation of our schools play, I was allowed to go, but made to sit in the back with a 6 foot everything ‘enforcer’ (that’s my way of describing him, not theirs) and threatened if I tried to get help, they would wrap me in a blanket and duck tape it.

WARNING AGAIN:  I spent a lot of my ‘corner time’ reading my prayer book, which was all I had left.  They decided I was getting too attached to it and decided to take it away.  I held it to my body, with my arms crossed over it in an attempt to keep it.  They ripped it out of my hands.  Then 4 people picked me up, carried me down a flight of stairs, took me into a small room, and closed the door.  They then put me on the floor and the 6 foot everything ‘enforcer’ stepped on my head to stop me from trying to escape.  Remember, I had my foot in a cast and the door was closed.  I wasn’t going anywhere.

Other physical abuse I witnessed by didn’t experience.

A)    One boy took a ‘threatening step’ (their words) toward another student.  For this he was wrapped in blankets and duct tape and put on the floor of the library (see article) and told he wouldn’t be allowed out to go to the bathroom, or be given any food.  They would only give him enough water so that he couldn’t say they were starving him.  They let him out after a few hours.

B)     One boy punched a hole in a wall.  They made him sit facing the wall for the rest of the day (which I understand). When asked to go to the bathroom, they told him to piss in the hole he had made.

C)    One boy, when he turned 18 and wanted to leave, he got in a fight with the’enforcer’ they took him to the side of the road and dropped him off, pretty much stranded.  It was thanksgiving.  He was back a few days later, threatened by his parents to either go back or be disowned.

D)    A 12 year old ‘bad boy’ was punished by being told to shovel the snow off the baseball diamond.  He fell asleep while doing it, and instead of waking him up, the staff just laughed at him and let him keep sleeping.

7) My last day

They finally got tired of me trying to get to the police.  They bagged up some of my stuff in a black garbage bag, took me to the community hospital and dropped me off there, washing their hands of me.  While I was there my foot was x-rayed and they saw that my cast was ready to come off (had it been ready earlier, no idea since I hadn’t been taken to the dr in a month).   I ended up in another psychiatric center, and had terrible fears because of that place.  For months I couldn’t sit with my back to a door or a large window because I was always afraid that when I wasn’t looking they would send someone to come back and get me.  I kept imagining the ‘enforcer’ coming toward me.

Is till cry about it when I think too long about what happened to me there.

 There was a 14 year old girl who had been placed there 4 days before me.  We became secret friends.  At one point I told her “I’m gonna get out of this place, and when I get out, I’m gonna get you out” It still haunts me that I was not able to fulfill that promise.

Years later when Ra’anan and I were engaged, we went back to that place.  It was much different.  It was bigger; there were more real buildings, not just houses and trailers.  But I was still terrified.  I asked for some of the possessions that had been left behind back, especially an afghan that my mother had made before she passed away.  They pretty much implied that they didn’t wholly believe that it was there, and tried to say it was probably used so much it had been thrown out by then.  They also refused to give me my school records.

 That’s all I can write for now.  Sometimes, other things pop up like poisonous mushrooms, but that’s the basics.  I was hurt, humiliated, denied education and freedom of religion.  I was abused.


Submitted By: Rebecca Schwarzmer