Could Sue Scheff perchance be trying to capitalize on the current Narvin Lichfield animal abuse case
for her own
-------------- • -------------- • --------------Florida woman's crusade against school led to books, lawsuitsBy Kirk Brown · Anderson Independent Mail
Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:05 p.m.Sue Scheff and daughter AshlynThis story has been corrected from its original version.
When Sue Scheff's teenage daughter Ashlyn came at her with a knife 10 years ago, the single mother from Florida knew it was time for drastic action.
Scheff sent Ashlyn to Carolina Springs Academy, a boarding school in Abbeville County.
Her decision set in a motion a chain of events that would lead to a high-stakes trial in Utah, the publication of two books and a precedent-setting $11 million Internet defamation judgment against a Hurricane Katrina survivor.
Contending that Ashlyn was mistreated at Carolina Springs, Scheff has waged a continuing campaign against the school.
While at Carolina Springs, Scheff said, Ashlyn "was put in a box for 17 hours as punishment."
"It took my daughter two years of intense therapy to get deprogrammed from what they did to her there," Scheff said. "Not only wouldn't I send my child there, I wouldn't send my dog there."
Narvin Lichfield, the owner of boarding school near Due West, says Scheff has spread lies about Carolina Springs in an effort to hurt the school's reputation and enrich herself.
Lichfield said Scheff told fabricated stories about his school to parents of troubled teens as part of a scheme to persuade them to send their children to other programs. In turn, he said, these programs would then pay her referral fees.
Carolina Springs Academy figured prominently in a book called "Wit's End" that Scheff wrote in 2008.
In one of the book's chapters, Ashlyn described her experiences at the boarding school near Due West.
"The scare tactics and intimidation started the moment that my mother wasn't around anymore," wrote Ashlyn, who is now the married mother of two children. "They never got better."
Ashlyn also was dismayed with living conditions in her dormitory at Carolina Springs.
"We didn't have windows and our rooms smelled of urine, mostly because the bathroom toilets were always overflowing," she said.
"Nothing that I was seeing in this place made sense to me — unless the entire purpose of the academy was simply to provide cruel amusements for the staff," Ashlyn said. "I suppose a lot of what went on would have been easier to understand if I had been sophisticated enough to see it as a matter of pumping the most money out of parents while spending as little as possible on the kids."
After removing Ashlyn from Carolina Springs, Scheff formed an organization called Parents' Universal Resource Experts in 2001. Its stated purpose was to educate parents about the loosely regulated "teen help" industry.
But officials with the Utah-based Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, which was affiliated with Carolina Springs and several other boarding schools, filed a lawsuit filed in federal court accusing her of defamation.
The case went to trial in Salt Lake City in August 2004.
Ken Kay, the president of the association suing Scheff, told jurors that her attacks against Carolina Springs and other boarding school had been damaging.
"Reputation is really about everything when it comes to helping families," Kay testified.
After hearing three days of testimony, the jury ruled in Scheff's favor.
In a 2006 ruling upholding the verdict, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Court of Appeals said Scheff's comments about the association's boarding schools were no more damaging than accounts that had appeared in The Miami Herald, Forbes magazine and the TV news program "48 Hours."
Scheff's referral business for parents of troubled teens led to another trial in 2006.
A parent named Carey Bock who was unhappy with Scheff began venting her feelings on the Internet, describing Scheff as a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud," USA TODAY reported.
Scheff responded by filing a defamation suit of her own against Bock.
Bock, whose Louisiana home was flooded after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, did not appear in court when the case went to trial in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The trial proceeded despite's Bock's absence and a judge ruled in Scheff's favor. A jury then returned a verdict ordering Bock to pay Scheff $11 million in damages.
Although it is unlikely that Scheff will ever collect the full amount, the experience provided the material for a second book. She and Internet law attorney John W. Dozier Jr. wrote "The Google Bomb" in 2009, which provides readers with advice on how to protect their online reputation.
Ashlyn now lives near Orlando, where she works as a stuntwoman.
There is still ill will between her mother and officials at the boarding school in Abbeville County.
Elaine Davis, the school's director, posted a blog in November accusing Scheff of "unethical, dishonest tactics."
In her blog, Davis said the real reason Ashlyn was removed from Carolina Springs involved Scheff’s sexual harassment dispute with another student’s parent.
Scheff said Friday that the dispute Davis mentioned was only a minor factor in her decision to bring Ashlyn home.
Scheff also said that two TV news programs have recently contacted her about appearing in their upcoming stories about Carolina Springs and other boarding schools.© 2010 Anderson Independent Mail.