Eight more former students of the now-closed Mt. Bachelor Academy near Prineville, one of Oregon?s best-known ?tough love? boarding schools, joined a previously filed lawsuit Wednesday alleging emotional, physical and sexual abuse, their attorneys announced.
The lawsuit, which is pending in Multnomah County Circuit Court, now includes 17 plaintiffs who allege they were abused as children at Mt. Bachelor Academy, their lawyers said.
The suit seeks $25.5 million in compensatory damages, and states that punitive damages will be sought as well. The suit is being brought by attorneys Kelly Clark and the Portland law firm O?Donnell Clark and Crew, who often bring child abuse cases in Oregon and around the nation.
In a news release, Clark said of the latest filing, ?Sadly, we now know of dozens of kids who were subject to the kind of systematic humiliation, degradation and outright abuse that was inherent in the Mount Bachelor program, and eight of these have now joined this lawsuit, which seeks to achieve justice for these plaintiffs and to prevent future abuse in other similar programs in Oregon and around the country.
" We contend there simply is no excuse or justification for abusing children, even?especially?under the guise of ?tough love.??
The lawsuit was originally filed in July and alleges claims of battery, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress against Mt. Bachelor Academy and its parent companies as defendants.
Those include Aspen Education Group ? a national conglomerate of therapeutic boarding schools which, at its peak had nearly 40 youth programs throughout the United States ? as well as Aspen?s parent company, CRC Health Group. CRC Health Group is a large national healthcare corporation controlled by Bain Capital, a private equity firm with $65 billion in assets.
The attorneys said Mt. Bachelor Academy was closed by the state of Oregon in November of 2009 based on the findings of a state investigation related to charges of systemic abuse and neglect.
They quoted a report by the Oregon Department of Human Services that said Mt. Bachelor Academy used ?punitive, humiliating, degrading and traumatizing? tactics as ?treatment.?
At the time of its closure in 2009, Mt. Bachelor Academy reportedly had more than 75 staff supervising about 90 students who were being charged $6,400 per month in tuition, the lawyers said.
The largest defendant -- CRC Health Group ? has been the subject of increasing scrutiny regarding the safety children in its facilities, the attorneys said.
In late July, the state of Tennessee reportedly decided to stop placing children at a large CRC Health facility following the deaths of several patients at that facility, citing concerns for the well-being of children in its care.
Nine former students of Mount Bachelor Academy, a now-closed program for troubled teens east of Prineville have filed a $14 million lawsuit against the school and its parent companies, alleging serious abuse -- something its operators and supporters are strongly denying.
Their attorney, Kelly Clark of the Portland law firm O'Donnell Clark & Crew LLP, said Thursday this is only the first step toward closure and justice for what they claim happened.
"My folks have two reasons for doing this," said Clark. "No. 1 is to get this behind them, to have closure and healing and justice for themselves. But secondly and equally important to them is they want to get the word out that some of these 'Tough love' schools are not good places -- and there are hundreds of them all over the country."
People living near the closed school about 35 miles east of Prineville, had a different impression of the private boarding school.
"I thought it was a great school," said Jarrod Warren of Prineville."Every time when I was in middle school, I'd drive by there with my parents and I'd see a whole bunch of kids down there. And now I drive by and there's nothing now. "
"Not exactly what has happened at the school, but what happened in their past and how the school has changed them, but this is definitely different," said Tasha Asbow, also of Prineville.
The school was shut down by the state in 2009 after finding evidence to back allegations of repeated neglect and abuse.
The 52-page lawsuit filed by the nine former students who have chosen not to be named claim physical and psychological child abuse.
They say parents were instructed not to believe anything they say, and they were denied basic medical care. The claim also states they were sexually abused.
The attorney for Mount Bachelor Academy, Greg Chaimov Davis Wright Tremaine LLP said in a written statement Thursday afternoon, that these alleged incidents took place before the school was purchased by a "nationally recognized network of therapeutic schools and programs that espouse comprehensive best practices and safety protocols."
Chaimov closed his statement by saying, "Following review of this complaint, we firmly stand by our original statement and vigorously deny any and all charges of mistreatment."