stories from a "gulag" school

By Ilsa · Apr 30, 2009 · ·
  1. Ilsa
    the following is the story of one of the girls i went to school with at mountain park baptist boarding school and academy. don't let the name fool you: these people were masters of insidious abuse and had no qualms about keeping almost 200 girls from ages 12 to 17 on thorazine to maintain control of an understaffed "school" that was really just a money-making scheme, as in, tuition checks were made as donations to the churchand therefore non-taxable. they have been run out of mississippi, louisiana, missourri and florida on child abuse allegations. anyway, here is becky's story:

    I don't remember much, having blocked a lot out and from the effects of the thorazine, but here's what i do remember:

    I left for Mountain Park on August 25, 1995. My parents and I were driving from Florida, and it took us 2 days to get there. I knew that I was going to a boarding school, and I even knew that it was a "Christian" school. I had no problems with that, I was raised a Catholic (sort of) and I thought that God was alright. I was 13 when my parents decided to send me there. I wasn't an awful kid, but I was back talking, I failed science (a big deal for a 7th grader), and I was getting into shoplifting from the local stores. My best friend at the time, who I considered much wiser than I, had gone to a European boarding school, and typical of 7th grade, I wanted to out do her. So of course, when my parents broached the subject of a boarding school for me, I jumped at it. What did I know?? Anyways, we left home and made the trip to the Ozarks.

    On August 28, 1995, we drove up to the school that would become my hell. I remember that I was wearing a black skirt, a wildly printed black silk shirt, and black heels. I remember thinking, "This won't be so bad. These people seem nice." When my parents came down to say goodbye, I hugged and kissed them, not knowing it would be the last time I would see them for four months.

    No one was out right mean to me the first few days, and I think that was because I was too scared to hardly talk to anyone. I do remember after the first shower I took there I wanted to "scrunch" my hair, because it's naturally curly, and I was told that I wasn't allowed to do that. I thought it was strange, but I agreed.

    I cried a lot my first couple of days, and in one of the first letters I wrote home, I said that the water spot on the page was real tears (it was) and I was crying them because I hated my parents for leaving me there. That was when I got labeled as a troublemaker and a crybaby. From that day on, everything changed. I was not longer the "girl they would have no trouble with". I became the child from hell that needed to be taught a lesson. If I was ever seen in public crying, I was ridiculed. If I ever wrote a letter home asking why I was there, I was ridiculed.

    I remember the incident that cemented my humiliation and degradation. Before I left home for MP, I had my hair cut and I had bought a shampoo that doubled as a body wash. (I still remember that it smelled like bubble gum.) I got out of the shower one day after using it as both and the shower monitor noticed that the bag with my bar of soap in it was still dry. My OG looked as if she wanted to die because she had a "dirty" new student. I was taken to Mama's office where I tried to explain that I could use it as both, but they just laughed me off. I even tried to show them the bottle, but they would have none of it. Debbie said that if I wasn't going to wash myself that she would wash me. I told her that I did wash and she said I was lying, and I got my first swats. Ten, to be exact. Then to top it off, she took me to the showers in First Dorm and made me get back in where she proceeded to watch me as I showered again. She also said that I had bruises on me from the paddle and that was a good thing because maybe whenever I sat down I would remember that I would get punished for lying. Needless to say, they decided that I was not to be trusted anymore. That is also when I got the famed "soap-box necklace" and the baby chair. They told me that if I couldn't bathe like an adult, I needed to be reminded by the soap boxes around my neck and that I needed to sit on a chair to remind myself that I was a baby who couldn't wash. Talk about humiliation. I was forced to wear and carry those things for at least a month. I can't remember how many times I stood up in church and said that I got "saved" or that I "rededicated" my life to God. One night Sam even said to me, "Are you sure this is for real? Are you ready to get rid of the soap-boxes?" Even now, I cringe.

    On the coveted day that I gained my "freedom" as a single girl, I swore to myself that I would stay out of trouble. I don't remember what I did to get in trouble again, but once again, I found myself in trouble. This time, though, they told me I had to write the word hateful 5000 times. I thought that then, I would be home free. Little did I know that my life, as I knew it even at MP, was about to change.

    From that time on, no matter what I did, I got in trouble. I was on silence, I had a baby chair, you name it, they did it. I was on "silence" for months, not allowed to talk to anyone but staff.

    I remember when Will Futrelle was killed. (For those who don't know, Will was part of a group that planned to take over the school. He changed his mind and the other boys didn't want him to tell, so they murdered him.) It hit home for me because I was from Boca Raton too. I didn't know him, but some of the other Florida girls did. I felt bad for them.

    When Child Protective Services (CPS) came to the school to interview us, I was so nervous that I nearly forgot my name because I didn't want to say anything negative towards the school and get into more trouble than ususal. The second time they came, which was about 3 or 4 months later, I had my first interview with them and then I was called back for a second interview because one of the other girls (I know now she was trying to look our for me) had said that I was treated badly. I was so scared that they were going to take me out of the school that I just cried and begged to be let go. When they dismissed me I went crying back to the dorm where I was promptly told to quit crying because no one wanted to take me away. I wasn't important enough.

    When my mother finally realized all that was going on, and to the extent that it was, she told the school that she was coming to get me. At the time, I had a perpetual writing assignment from Mama. I was to write 200 lines a day, for 7 consecutive days. If I missed a day, I had to start all over. This had been going on for probably 2 months, and I had been told I was not allowed to exercise with the others, or go swimming. I went from 136 lbs. up to 150 lbs. in 2 months. The day my mother took me out of that hell-hole would have been my 7th day of writing lines. Ironic, isn't it? I also was not told until she was an hour away that I was going home. I panicked. I didn't think I was ready to go home!! On August 18, 1997, my mother rescued me from the hell that was, and is, MP.

    When I first got home, I had to go to public school, because my parents were broke from MP and couldn't afford my church's school (HCA). What a culture shock. It was there that I learned about all I had missed in the last 2 years. I learned about OJ, the internet, Princess Di, and a multitude of other things, from an 11 year old, the only person I felt I could relate to. I was 15, and I was being taught by an 11 year old. By the end of my sophomore year, I was back in my shorts, my jeans, and trying to figure out who I was away from MP. Because I was bitter about MP, and because I had never really changed, I went right back to my "old" self. I transferred to HCA my junior year, and things started looking up. I made some friends and started to come around. However, I could not believe that I was not worthless and insignificant, as all at MP had told me.

    Since I have left there, I have been diagnosed as bi-polar. This diagnosis only came after attempting suicide. With the help of some very good friends, I once again started the climb back up the self-esteem ladder. It has not been easy, and many of these memories I would have liked to have forgotten completely, but for the sake of other girls going through what I went through, I must tell my story. Now I am married, with a wonderful husband who loves and supports me, a beautiful baby boy, and a wonderful relationship with my mom which has become my lifeline. I am on meds now, to help balance my moods and control the depression. It helps, but it's still hard. For a long time, I blocked MP. I didn't want to remember the hell. Now, as the can of worms is opened around them, I realize that the person I was before, as far as my self confidence went; well, that person will return some day. For the rest of me, that's gone. I can't get my innocence back. I can't erase the permanent marks made both on my body and on my soul from this hell, but I can sure try to stop them from hurting someone else. I'm sorry if this is long-winded, but I wrote what I felt I needed to be said. My love and prayers go to all the other survivors out there. Let's stick together to end the hell we all lived.

    Rebecca XXXX
    student from 95-97

    there are other stories, but not all will fit here. my experiences were comparable with those, and many of us keep in touch, helping one another cope with the PTSD diagnoses that abound among the ex-mpbba students.

    i am posting this as a warning to any parent that would consider sending their child to a similar establishment.

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  1. Heretic.Ape.
    That's some crazy shit. You went to one of these schools? I respect you all the more that you've become such a great person: smart, confident, friendly ,etc. Many people are never able to overcome their past, continuing to let it keep them from NOW and it's open ended possibilities.

  2. rokman nash
    you draw strength from what doesnt kill you. and the girl I know isnt a fucking quitter. you know how I feel bout you.
  3. helikophis
    wow. amazing. frightening. thank you for sharing.
  4. Ilsa
    yeah...the really frightening part is this: at any shelter, you'd be told that you could leave at anytime you wished, as the workers weren't oour parents and you'd broken no laws by going to a runaway shelter. but mountain park required parents to sign multiple contracts, among them was one wherein our parents signed over limited power of attorney to the people that ran the school, allowing them control of our healthcare (yeah right, we didn't go to the doctor. if we were sick we weren't right with god), allowing them to keep us against our will, allowing them to make decisions about almost every aspect of our lives. it fit the definition of a cult and they definitely did everythign they could to control our inner lives, from verbally derisive statements to telling us our parents didn't want us to putting girls who talked about the outside world, friends, their "old" lives on silence indefinitely. a girl on silence is not allowed to speak. period. if she does, no one is allowed to acknowledge her. she is invisible. she is not a human worthy of attention.

    there were girls that went to extremes. physically trying to escape, only to be pinned down and incapacitated, and is a few cases, kicked and beaten. one girl refused to east for 6 days. she was sat on, her nose pinched, and when she opened her mouth to breathe, was force fed.

    i couldn't imagine before that, and still hate to think, that this happens to people here in the US. and just because they are minors with at best naive and at worst simply don't give a fuck. this young lady, whom i saw during her brief stay as lucky to get out, as she had serious medical issues, beyond the mild jaundice and lack of mentrual cycling caused by the illegally administered meds:

    Name withheld upon request.

    "..I'd be happy to talk with anyone about this situation or anything else. I've been through it all, and survived. Two and half years ago I was taken from my home at 4am, by two escorts, put into a car with safety locks, flown into Missouri and left at Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy.... I stayed at Mountain Park for one month......

    ...I couldn't talk to most of the girls because I was new and I "posed a threat" to the other residents. I couldn't call anyone, my mom was only allowed to write me and call me after two weeks of living there. It was the worst two weeks of my life. I had no idea what I was in for. After I talked to my mom for the first time I told her that I had seen a girl who was beaten up by being paddled, she had bruises all over her back. She treated it like a joke, that it couldn't happen with such "loving" people running the school....

    ...I was told that I wasn't good enough, that I had ruined my parents life, and how I must feel bad how my poor parents still had to walk past my room every day and think about how evil I was. I cried every night, I couldn't eat or sleep. I kept a picture of my family on my desk until a worker decided that I looked at my family too much and that I was being a baby. She took the picture away and told me that the next time I cried over my family that I would be wearing a pacifier and sitting on a stool wherever I went.

    The only way I could communicate with any other girls was if I talked to them through the shower drain. There was only one girl who would talk to me, and we would cry through the drain, promising each other that if one of us got out first we would get the other one out too....

    ...I lost a lot of weight and started to throw up blood because I was so stressed out. I started bleeding from other orifices of my body and when my mom called she told me to show someone else. I told (and showed) it to one of the workers and she told me that it was "all in my head" and I needed to "knock it off"...

    ...A suit was brought against the school for eight counts of medical neglect. The last I know is that the files are sealed and the school is still open. This has separated my whole family....

    ...I was always the good kid, I had a 3.5 throughout high school and wanted to be a doctor. I didn't do bad things. I feel like I didn't deserve this. And I feel that no one else deserves it. I still have nightmares about it, and for the first year of being back I slept with my door locked and shoes on. I am still paranoid that I might be taken away again...."
  5. savingJenniB
    Education should be in harmony with the child's essentially kind nature.
    The most important element is that children be raised in a climate of love and tenderness.
    Although from an ideal perspetive human qualities ought to be developed in conjunction with kindness,
    I often say that if had to choose between important general qualities and kindness,
    I believe I would choose kindness.
  6. dyingtomorrow
    That is truly a nightmare. I think it is a very bad idea to leave children and adults completely isolated from society anywhere. Nothing good usually comes from it.

    I hope that something can be done about it (namely closing them down or monitoring them), and especially that children who were put through that can get some kind of legal compensation for it.
  7. Potter
    These stories are quite common among "christian schools". One day the good people of this country will rise up with pitch forks and torches and dispose of the human trash that runs institutions like this.
  8. honourableone
    This entry is fascinating. It's appalling that such places exist, especially in countries that consider themselves kind and above such atrocity.

    One of my colleagues used to work as an assistant at a school for children with learning disabilities. She is really kind, and and would have been excellent at such a place, but she soon left because she found the treatment of the children to be terrible. Any slight "fault" on behalf of the child would result in the headmaster being called in, who would send the child to the school nurse (who he was married to), who would heavily sedate the child (via injection). This was very common practice, and the headmaster would often get very agressive and scare the children enough that they soiled themselves (and doing so would warrant that trip to the school nurse). At the time my colleague left, there were many complaints from parents about the zombie state that their children were being sent home in, but as far as I know that school is still open too.

    People who see through such torments deserve great respect, and the sooner evils such as these are banished from the world the better. Thanks for posting this.
  9. Ilsa
    Repression says, “If I don’t look at you, you will leave me alone.”

    To which the shadow answers, “I can do things that will make you look at me.”

    chopra has this right... the fear and rage are so big that i can't handle them and get overwhelmed a lot. but as i and many of the girls i knew there have learned, we have to deal with this and support each other or we'll be emotionally crippled for life by fear.

    thanks for taking the time to read this; it means a lot to me personally and is a way for me to face the fear this experience generated, and that has stayed with me ever since.

    to endwith chopra: "....if you bring light into the shadow, its distortions start to lessen and eventually are healed. Is there time enough and patience to do the whole job thoroughly? There’s no fixed answer to that."
  10. Humanity
    I'm not saying this in a sarcastic or belittling way, because what you've just told is an amazing story, albeit a tragic one, but have you ever thought about writing a book with more detailed events? It could both serve as closure and as a testimony to what the school did (does?).
    I for one, would read this book.
    I'm happy that you've turned out OK :) Best wishes.
  11. Ilsa
    if i could remember more i would....i have several other stories saved though. maybe one day, when there's more time than grad school allows.
  12. Spucky
    Remind me of Therapy-Concepts in the Eighties in Germany!
    Exactly the same.
  13. Ilsa
    i just read a book about one of the same type of schools, only in the dominican republic....brought up a lot for me....just because someone had serious problems and "found god" doesn't warrant them shoving it down the throats of already-troubled teens.

    the adults at these places are addicted to power over drugged up kids that couldn't go anywhere even if they did get out.

    i remember, on an xmas trip to my stepdad's mother's house....i was ready to go out the window late one night and my mom almost caught me. i almost wish i had, but where would i have gone? the streets of chicago? and if i'd gotten caught i'd have been in that place until 18 for sure.

    i was just trapped.
  14. thebige
    Had a very hard reading this post,it's hard enough for a kid to grow up......and to put a young girl through this.........It incites a rage within the reader.......
    Swim will now move on and maybe go do some fishing....
    Spend some time pondering over this........make some sense of it,and try to find some calm,as he hopes the girl in the story has..............................bige
  15. bananaskin
    That really made my friend cry.
    She had a rough time as a kid too... only her boarding school times were the best of her young life (although she didn't realise it until she had been thrown out for searching for who knows what via her frequent absconding)
    She has her views on what she was seeking... that opens many doors in itself.
    Her pain began later in local authority 'care'.
    She says she would like to write to you about this one day.
    She was on tablets too, she can't remember the name and doesn't remember taking them.
    And she was diagnosed as bi-polar, something she disagreed with from the start, SHE knew she was a 'just' a very very angry child , but this diagnosis did cause her psychological issues years later.
  16. MrG
    "Rebecca" is *not* Bipolar.

    I repeat, she is *not* Bipolar.

    What she has is a condition that is classed as "Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" and it manifests itself in a number of ways, depending on the victim's current physiological state and environment. It is as a result of an extended period of trauma, not simply PTSD which is more commonly associated with single event trauma.

    The primary symptom and the one that it consistently mistaken for Bipolar is, in fact, Borderline Personality Disorder. It is an emotional regulation disorder as a result of Toxic Stress endured in childhood.

    Her problems didn't begin at school, they began long before that, trust me.

    I'll bet my left nut (it's my favourite one!), that she can become particularly "problematic" after a few "too many" drinks. (Alcohol is known to aggravate BPD symptoms).

    Rage is not an issue it is *the* issue.

    She also has a problem with sleep.

    She has overpowering emotional memory that gets, incorrectly, attached to those around her in "the now" when, in fact, it needs to be assigned to visual memory from "then" in order to resolve. Only she might not have the visual recall, yet.

    Tell me I'm wrong about her.

    Until she can get the correct treatment for CPTSD which will need to primarily focus on the BPD symptoms, she is at great risk of harming herself or, even if she manages to create a life of quality, destroying it in the future, whilst not understanding why.
  17. Ilsa
    thanks, MrG, i think soem of that may apply to me regarding the complex PTSD, it would explain a lot. i'll have to look it up. as for rebecca, i will pass on what you said to her, she is very open about her emotional issues so this may help her as well.
  18. MerryPrankster
    This is an extreme when it comes to people using religion to control peoples' lives. Very terrible experiences and I feel for everyone involved. I grew up in a cult, so I understand what you went through. While it was nowhere near as abusive (especially towards the children) there were elements that are similar. Using ridicule and isolation is a favourite method of cult leaders to control its members. It's terrible and can leave some horrendous scars. PTSD is part of it, but there is also the lack of sense of self or self worth. People like this deserve to be tortured until death.

    The big problem with religion and Christianity is the things people do under that banner. The scriptures are amazing and wonderful things that, when taken in the right context, can be used to benefit myself and mankind. They can also be used as an excuse for abuse and genocide. The problem is, 90% of what goes on in most churches is bullshit. Has nothing to do with the original texts and is just a bunch of man-made rubbish that is added on. It's terrible and is what has given religion such a bad name. It's sad because most people discard it out of hand, mostly because of the atrocities done under the banner of religion.

    Personally, it's not God I dislike. It's his fanclub I can't stand.

    Thanks for sharing, I appreciate it.
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