Author Topic: Teen Mentor (Costa Rica) shut down by authorities  (Read 18686 times)

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Offline Xelebes

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Re: Teen Mentor (Costa Rica) shut down by authorities
« Reply #60 on: August 26, 2011, 08:10:05 PM »
Is it not funny to anyone else that Lichfield literally means "from the field of bodies?"  Lich meant corpse in older times, nowadays it means zombie.
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Offline Ursus

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Re: Teen Mentor (Costa Rica) shut down by authorities
« Reply #61 on: August 27, 2011, 01:09:43 AM »
Quote from: "Xelebes"
Is it not funny to anyone else that Lichfield literally means "from the field of bodies?"  Lich meant corpse in older times, nowadays it means zombie.
Interesting. Also of note: that this was per Narvin's choice and initiative! :D

If I'm not mistaken, his surname was originally Litchfield. I recall reading this somewhere (fwiw)... Narvin had wanted to distinguish himself from his older brother, Robert, who was already more well-known (aka infamous) in the kiddie torture camp industry.
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Offline Xelebes

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Re: Teen Mentor (Costa Rica) shut down by authorities
« Reply #62 on: August 27, 2011, 01:15:46 AM »
Lich and Litch are the same.  Leetch (like Brian Leetch of hockey fame) is not, as that means a doctor.
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Offline Ursus

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Re: Teen Mentor (Costa Rica) shut down by authorities
« Reply #63 on: August 27, 2011, 01:21:20 AM »
Quote from: "Xelebes"
Lich and Litch are the same.  Leetch (like Brian Leetch of hockey fame) is not, as that means a doctor.
I couldn't find litch, just lich. Maybe I didn't look hard enough.
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Offline Xelebes

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Re: Teen Mentor (Costa Rica) shut down by authorities
« Reply #64 on: August 27, 2011, 01:33:28 AM »
Litch is only an early alternative form, which would have disappeared as spellings became standardised.
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Offline Ursus

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A bit of History: Dundee Ranch
« Reply #65 on: September 02, 2011, 09:07:13 PM »
Quote from: "BuzzKill"
A bit of History:
I managed to find an online source for the full Joel Snider / Dundee Ranch story that came out in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 'bout 7 years ago... Although I'm sure this tale is somewhere in the dark recesses of ancient fornits discussions (probably even posted by you, Buzz), this might be a good time to post it again.

This article was originally published in three parts:

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The Series

PART 1: The knock came at 3:05 a.m. Two men stepped from the darkness and went straight to the couch where the boy was resting. Joel Snider went for the back door, but before he could make it, he felt the pinch of a handcuff closing around his left wrist.

PART 2: At the school in Costa Rica, Joel rebelled more. And the school got tougher. Hour after hour, he was forced to stand with his nose against the wall. At other times, he was made to kneel, nose to the wall, hands behind his back, as if he were under arrest.

PART 3: After months of trusting the academy, his mother suddenly was wary. Hours later, she heard her son's voice for the first time in five months. Joel was crying.

# #
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Offline Oscar

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Re: Teen Mentor (Costa Rica) shut down by authorities
« Reply #66 on: September 03, 2011, 03:32:43 AM »
You have to buy it from their archives. The name for the article was "Desperate steps, dark journey".

It also found this old thread with a re-print: Desperate steps, dark journey; prts I & II (Fornits)
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Offline Ursus

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Joel Snider / Dundee Ranch story
« Reply #67 on: September 03, 2011, 10:10:04 AM »
Quote from: "Oscar"
You have to buy it from their archives. The name for the article was "Desperate steps, dark journey".
Actually, I found it combing through Web Archive/Wayback Machine. Each part was archived on a different date, but I have them all...
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Offline Ursus

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Desperate steps, dark journey - pt 1/3
« Reply #68 on: September 03, 2011, 11:38:19 AM »
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Desperate steps, dark journey
Troubled at home, a young man is spirited off to Costa Rica and learns how extreme tough love can be

[email protected]
Posted: Nov. 7, 2004

First of three parts

The mother kept glancing at the clock as it ticked closer to 3 a.m. That was the hour she had told the men to come for her son.

They were professionals, and they had given strict instructions: Open the door. Introduce us. Leave the room.

Cathy Petershack would be delivering her boy to the care of strangers - men with handcuffs.

Despite his thieving, drug bingeing and fighting, despite the fear of him that drove her to deadbolt the bedroom door at night, she did not want to do this to her only son.

Four years earlier, Joel had been just another kid going to Cub Scouts with his stepfather and building a pinewood derby racer.

Now, in August 2002, her son was 16 and a 280-pound gangbanger and truant, the kind of youth people dismiss with a single word: "thug." And yet, Cathy looked at her baby-faced son lying on the couch in his boxer shorts, watching "The Lord of the Rings," and her heart broke.

His clothes lay folded in a Tupperware container, packed for departure. He didn't even know he was leaving.

At 1 in the morning, Cathy could not look in his eyes. She just wanted to hold him again as if he were still a child.

"I love you, hon," she said and left the room.

The knock came at 3:05 a.m.

When Joel's stepfather, Steven Petershack, opened the door, two men stepped from the darkness into his Milwaukee home. They went straight to the couch, where the boy was resting.

Joel looked up, startled. One of the men was actually bigger than him, half a foot taller, 300 pounds, muscular.

"These guys are going to take you to a school," Steven Petershack told his stepson, and at that moment he felt he had failed as a parent.

Joel shot up from the couch and went for the back door. Before he could get there, he heard a sharp, metallic click and felt the pinch of a handcuff closing around his left wrist.

"You're coming with me," the big man said, "either the nice way or the hard way."

As the men led Joel from the house toward a waiting car, his stepfather rushed to hug him. Joel swung with his uncuffed fist. Before he could strike his stepfather, the escorts pulled him away and guided him into the car.

Cathy walked outside, and one of the men unrolled a car window a few inches. She could see her son's face, his brown eyes squinting fiercely.

"I have to do this," she said, "because I love you."

Joel cursed and gave her the finger.

The car drove off.

Cathy prayed that the program would work and that in time her son would forgive her. She believed that to survive in the world, he'd have to learn to make good choices.

She wondered about the choice she had made.

Better than jail
Other options exhausted, parents take extreme action

In a final act of desperation, Cathy had paid $5,000 to have her son taken against his will and flown to a "tough love"-style boarding school in Costa Rica.

Every month, she and her husband would pay the Costa Rican school about $2,100 to do what they could not - straighten out their troubled boy.

Cathy, a boiler attendant at Juneau Business High School, and Steven, an engineer for 65th Street School, took out loans totaling $25,000, money that might have sent their son to college.

Still, if the Costa Rican school worked, it would be worth the cost.

"What's the price of a person's life, especially your son's?" Steven Petershack would later say. "We would have hocked everything to get him on the right path."

Everything they had tried - drug rehabilitation, counselors, threats, love - had failed. For two years they had been surfing the Internet and collecting catalogs on military schools, boot camps, even Boys Town, the Nebraska home for wayward youths.

But the night Joel was jumped in a park, his face beaten bloody in a dispute over girls and snitching, the Petershacks realized they could wait no longer. Cathy believed that without drastic intervention her son would end up dead - if not by someone else's hands, then by his own. A few days after the beating in the park, she phoned the men who would take Joel to Costa Rica.

Cathy knew extreme measures can change a life.

As a teenager in Kenosha, she had rebelled against her mother's strict Southern Baptist morals by drinking in bars and running away from home. After Cathy was arrested for being a habitual runaway, her mother let her sit in jail for almost a month. Behind bars, Cathy saw women in their 20s and 30s, and she wondered whether this was a glimpse of her future.

"I wrote a letter to God and to my mother, and read it in juvenile court," Cathy recalled. "It said something like, 'This is not the path I want to choose for my life.' "

Although the time in jail would not mark the last time she made a poor choice, 30 years later she would view it as a turning point.

Now, worried about the path her son was choosing, she had sent him to a foreign land. The brochures for the Academy at Dundee Ranch showed a swimming pool and assured parents that observing the abundant howler monkeys, green parrots and other Costa Rican wildlife, "one cannot help but gain a new perspective."

At least it wasn't jail.

A burgeoning business
New programs cater to tougher breed of teen

A generation ago troubled teens like Joel ended up in reform school. Today there are mellower-sounding "behavior modification programs," "specialty boarding schools," and "wilderness treatment facilities."

"They're exploding. They're opening all over the United States. They're opening in prairie towns and New England farms and the deserts of Arizona," said David L. Marcus, author of the forthcoming book "What It Takes to Pull Me Through: Why Teenagers Get in Trouble and How Four Got Out."

Teen crisis centers run by Americans also have opened in places such as Mexico and Costa Rica, where cheap labor and the strength of the U.S. dollar allow them to charge lower fees. But the practice has brought international scrutiny to the treatment of children tolerated by the United States, one of only two nations (Somalia being the other) that have never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.N. document broadly defends the rights of children, including contact with their families, freedom of expression and protection from physical and mental abuse.

Moreover, critics have charged that some overseas facilities catering to American teens have employed harsh methods that violate the laws of their host countries.

In the U.S., the new programs fall into a regulatory gray area between residential treatment centers and traditional boarding schools; monitoring varies from state to state. No one even knows how many such facilities exist.

The 5-year-old National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs boasts 127 members in 30 states, "but I know there are a lot more than that out there," said Jan Moss, the association's interim executive director.

Today's programs must deal with a tougher breed of teenager, Marcus said, kids who face more temptations, take bigger risks and "are tripping up in bigger and more dangerous ways than kids did 50 years ago."

To bewildered parents like the Petershacks, these children are stumbling toward an overdose, suicide, imprisonment or life on the streets.

"Most of these families are strapped. You mortgage your house. You cash in your 401(k). But if your kid needed a liver transplant, you'd figure out where to get the money," said Ken Kay, president of the Utah-based World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, a group of schools for troubled teens.

Kay's association included the school in Costa Rica that Cathy Petershack chose for her son.

Father figures
Modeling his own upbringing, stepdad gave time, attention

Cathy, 47, had always hoped to give Joel and his big sister, Julie, a less turbulent childhood than her own.

Cathy was just 7 when her father effectively vanished from her life. He spent time in prison, and after his release, moved away. His contact with Cathy became a check at Christmas.

Cathy's son, Joel, was 4 when she divorced his father.

During a miserable first marriage, Cathy spent time in a shelter for battered wives. She claimed her husband punched her in front of the children, even as she told them, "Go play in the bedroom."

Joel took his surname, Snider, from his birth father - but little else. In an echo of earlier times, a check from his dad arrived at Christmas. On the rare occasions when they spoke, Joel took to addressing his birth father by first name, never "Dad."

That title passed to another man, Cathy's second husband, Steven Petershack. The couple met through friends in the school system and married six months after Cathy divorced her first husband.

Cathy was heartened by the way her son took to his stepfather. Joel was a loud, funny, independent child, much as Cathy had been.

When Steven introduced Joel to the structured world of Cub Scouts, the boy thrived. They went to troop meetings and played baseball together. On weekends and holidays, they fished at Steven's cabin up north.

"I sort of treated him the way my Dad treated me," Steven said.

Steven's own father had been generous with his time, and strict with his discipline. Steven felt such a mix of fear and respect that he craved his father's approval long after the old man died.

The bond between Steven and his stepson turned out to be more fragile.

The bond loosens
Rebellion escalates into drug abuse, violence

About the time Joel turned 13, he left Scouts and the family moved to another neighborhood in Milwaukee. Father and son found nothing to replace the Scouting activities that had helped them bond. The only time they were good together anymore was up north in the cabin.

Soon, Joel was less eager to make the trip to Rhinelander. He sat at home more, watching television and snacking. He gained weight, topping 200 pounds. With the weight gain came depression. He felt isolated - by his size and by the birth father who had rejected him.

Joel made no effort to hide his dark mood. When Cathy and Steven asked him to pick up clothing or lectured him about schoolwork - he'd already been held back a grade - Joel maintained a stony silence or walked away.

Very quickly, the Petershacks found themselves facing more than the typical surly teenager. The first clue was a call from Kmart security. Joel had been caught stealing pens and pencils.

He was in sixth grade.

His parents grounded him for weeks.

As he felt Joel pulling away, Steven grew angrier and less patient. He could not understand why Joel seemed unconcerned about consequences. The boy skipped school often, something Steven had been too afraid to do when he was young.

He yelled at Joel. That only made the boy rebel more against Steven, a man he began to view as merely a substitute father.

Early on, Steven had spanked Joel, just as his own father had spanked him. But Cathy disapproved; violence rekindled the bad memories from her first marriage. As a result, Steven was unsure how to discipline Joel.

"I didn't know whether to be nicer to him or be more strict," he said, "give him more privileges or take privileges away."

Like other parents, Cathy and Steven took away TV and video games and sent their child to his room. Like other parents, they heard the door slam in response. Like other parents, they searched their child's bedroom.

In Joel's room, they found his old toys - plastic bats and even a ceramic teddy bear; he had hollowed them into marijuana pipes.

He was in seventh grade.

Cathy knew about youthful rebellion, but her son's version seemed extreme and frightening. How can he be so unhappy? she wondered.

He ran away, and not just once or twice. He ran for days, even weeks, then returned to fill a backpack with fresh clothes, and ran again.

Joel bolted so often that Cathy took home a stack of "missing person" reports and filled out everything but the date and what her son was wearing.

He was in eighth grade.

When he was home, Joel brought new friends who wore dark "Goth" clothing, including long black coats. They made Steven and Cathy feel like intruders in their own house.

Joel and his friends broke into Cathy's prescription bottles, stealing not only pain pills, but blood pressure and even hormone pills.

She bought a small safe and locked up her medications.

One night Cathy awoke to find a friend of Joel's on the bedroom floor rifling through the pockets of her clothes and snatching wadded-up dollar bills. She chased the boy downstairs and forced him to return the money.

Then, Steven installed a deadbolt on the bedroom door.

"We couldn't lock him up," the stepfather explained, "so we locked us up."

Outside their house, Joel did worse things. He and some friends were involved in a gang. They mugged people for drug money. They fought in school and outside.

Sometimes Joel came home with black eyes and swollen lips.

However, no one damaged Joel's body more than Joel himself. What he did went beyond anything Cathy could imagine from her teen years.

One day she grabbed her son's arm because he was ignoring her. He jerked his arm back, his face stiffening in pain. Cathy rolled up his sleeve and discovered a series of cuts, more than a dozen, some deep and raw.

At the time he could not explain why he cut himself. Several years later he would put it this way:

"I didn't have any emotions at all. Feelings were what I couldn't feel. That's why I was a cutter. I was so numb inside that the only way I could feel was to cut my body."

One day Joel saw his mother crying at the kitchen table, and he knew she was crying over him. He felt nothing.

Alarmed by the cuts on his arms, the Petershacks took Joel to Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital to undergo drug rehabilitation.

He was in ninth grade.

He spent at least three weeks at the hospital. He started taking the anti-depressants Zoloft and Wellbutrin. He saw a psychiatrist.

Nothing changed.

He was using cocaine. To pay for it, he sold a Game Boy his parents had bought him just a day earlier, shoplifted compact discs, and stole his father's collection of quarters, worth close to $1,000.

At one point, Joel lived with his sister, Julie, who was married and had children, but after six months he moved back home. Whatever progress he made with her was short-lived.

The drug use, fighting and stealing continued. His weight peaked at 350 pounds, before he resumed running away and eating irregularly.

Cuffs and barbed wire
Parents hatch plan to move son out of country

It was no secret to Joel that his parents had been looking at military schools and boot camps. Sometimes he picked up the mail, laughing as he delivered the brochures to his mother. Like you can afford these places, he'd say.

The Petershacks were not rich. But they were running out of ideas.

One day Cathy went to the computer and began typing phrases into an Internet search engine: "teen problems," "help for troubled teens."

A few keystrokes led her to a network of facilities for troubled teens, known as the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools. With headquarters in Utah, this trade association included more than half a dozen schools that used similar methods and treated 2,000 teens a year.

The schools were expensive, some well over $3,000 a month.

Cathy found that the most affordable was a place called Academy at Dundee Ranch. The academy, which opened in Costa Rica in 2001, looked beautiful in the photographs, a former resort set amid tropical fruit trees and flowers. Students took classes, as they would at school, and earned credits toward their high school diploma.

There was a videotape with testimonials from grateful parents and students, who explained over and over that the program had saved lives. Parents got back the loving sons and daughters they thought had been lost forever.

Cathy knew that Joel would not enter the academy voluntarily. Nor could he be tricked into believing the family was taking a vacation to Costa Rica. An official at the association of specialty programs and schools suggested one other option: Hire men to "escort" Joel.

Cathy soon faced a barrage of forms, waivers and applications, so many she bought a small fax machine to send and receive everything. She and Joel's birth father agreed to give temporary custody of their son to the men taking him to Costa Rica. They gave the academy permission to monitor Joel's mail, place him under observation away from other students and even physically restrain him.

It seemed as if Cathy was giving up a lot. But if Joel overdosed or crossed the wrong gang member, she might lose him forever. She signed every form.

Then, in the early hours of Aug. 7, 2002, the men with handcuffs came for Joel.

At Mitchell International Airport, sheriff's deputies checked with Cathy to make sure she approved of her son being taken away. The two escorts removed Joel's handcuffs as they boarded a plane to Atlanta. They took three seats and put Joel in the middle.

I'm screwed, he thought.

At the airport in Atlanta, Joel realized they weren't heading down the hallway to pick up baggage. The men were marching him toward the area for connecting flights. He pressured them until finally they told him where he was going: Costa Rica.

At 8 that morning back in Wisconsin, Joel's sister, Julie, awoke suddenly. Her mother had come over and was standing beside the bed. Cathy told her daughter that Joel was going on a plane. He was leaving the country. If she wanted to talk to him, she had to do it now.

Cathy dialed a number, then handed the phone to Julie. Joel said he didn't know what was going on. He sounded scared. He was crying. Julie hadn't known he was capable of tears.

Joel told his sister he loved her. But there was something he needed to get straight. Had she known he was going to be sent away?

"No," Julie said. "No, I didn't."

She wished she could jump through the phone and save him. All she could do was say goodbye. When she got off the phone, her mother was crying.

After the flight to Costa Rica and a two-hour drive through the green, mist-shrouded mountains, Joel arrived late in the afternoon at Academy at Dundee Ranch.

The academy, a 15-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean, had a curious entrance for a school: a barbed wire fence with old branches for posts. Inside, Joel passed an abundance of tropical flowers and palm, mango and lemon trees.

This would be his new home, though for how long he did not know. Legally he could be compelled to stay until his 18th birthday - 16 months away.

Joel was taken to the cafeteria, where he insulted a member of the staff.

Then, left alone for a moment, he remembered something. He'd hidden a small amount of cocaine inside a seam in his shoe. No one had stopped him at the airports. He reached down.

Still there!

In his first hour at the $2,100-a-month academy, Joel snorted cocaine.

For the last time.

© 2005-2007, Journal Sentinel Inc.


Now 18, Joel Snider faced the toughest challenge of his young life when his parents sent him to a harsh school in Costa Rica. Photo/Gary Porter
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Offline Ursus

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Months at ranch leave son bruised, parents in turmoil - pt 2
« Reply #69 on: September 03, 2011, 10:00:35 PM »
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Months at ranch leave son bruised, parents in turmoil

[email protected]
Posted: Nov. 7, 2004

Second of three parts


    You don't know how bad I felt doing this to you, but I truly did it out of my love for you. I know you won't think so for a while, but this was the hardest thing I felt I faced up to in a long time...
    I love you son. Please believe I'm doing this to save you from yourself...

    Love, Mom & Dad

    - August 2002 letter to Joel Snider from his mother[/list]

    Forced to fly from his home in Milwaukee to a tough Costa Rican boarding school in order to turn his life around, Joel Snider was not off to a promising start.

    The staff at the $2,100-a-month Academy at Dundee Ranch had left him alone for just a few minutes. Joel, 16, hastily had snorted cocaine he'd hidden inside a seam of his shoe.

    It was cocaine - along with the stealing, truancy and gang activity - that had convinced his parents, Cathy and Steven Petershack, to borrow $25,000 to send him to this last-chance school.

    In the smoldering heat of Costa Rica, Joel's rebellious streak would collide with the academy's rigid system for breaking teens of destructive behavior.

    That first day, Aug. 7, 2002, Joel met with a "buddy," a senior student who was supposed to explain the academy and its rules. Instead, he seemed more interested in hearing Joel talk about his misdeeds.

    Joel would learn the rules on his own - mostly by breaking them.

    In the first 24 hours, his hair was cut short. When the staff shaved off his goatee, he struggled so much he was shoved against a wall.

    He had joined 134 teenagers at the academy.

    At night, Joel and nine other boys shared a three-walled room, or "bat cave" as it was called. They slept in triple bunk beds. Speaking was not allowed.

    The academy used a point system to reward students for good behavior and punish them for bad behavior. Points for good work and positive attitude allowed kids to move up in levels and gradually gain privileges.

    A phone call home was a privilege that took students at least three months - and more often six - to earn.

    Losing points was easy. Students forfeited points for rolling their eyes, burping, making rude comments about the program, looking at a member of the opposite sex.

    After a few days, Joel realized he faced a choice: "If you're not working the program, you're refusing the program." From the beginning, Joel was a "refuser," the term the academy used for defiant kids.

    His first act of rebellion: talking.

    His first punishment: more than 12 hours of exercise - jumping jacks, push-ups and walking laps in the sizzling Costa Rican heat. Such physical activity did not come easy for Joel, who arrived at the academy weighing 280 pounds.

    And yet, the punishment failed to make him compliant. He swore at the guards. In the classroom, students weren't allowed to glance up from their books, but Joel stood and walked out.

    The staff responded day after day with more exercise and less food. They gave Joel rice and beans for all three meals, and as long as he refused to cooperate, he got less to eat than the other students.

    At times, the exercises were so grueling that Joel thought he would pass out. He began to lose weight.

    Anger kept him going. He knew the academy was costing his parents plenty; he would show them it was not only expensive, but futile. They would see no change in him, no improvement whatsoever.

    No family contact
    Treatment causes rift between mother, daughter

    When he wrote his first e-mail to his mother and stepfather a few weeks after arriving in Costa Rica, the message was: I hate you. This place sucks. Do you know what you're doing to me?

    The staff refused to send it. Nor would they send his second e-mail. Too angry.

    Weeks passed before Joel's parents finally heard from him. By then Cathy and Steven had been warned to disregard any complaints from their son. Over the phone, a Dundee official had told the Petershacks to be wary if Joel claimed he was being abused. Staff routinely warned parents not to believe their children's complaints, according to Amberly Knight, a former director of the academy who quit in August 2002.

    The Petershacks were told that kids will say anything to get out of the academy. They manipulate. Hadn't Joel been manipulating them for years?

    But the phone call from the school alarmed Joel's older sister, Julie.

    "You know Joel," she told her mother. "Joel's not going to be, like, 'Somebody's abusing me.' He's a tough kid. If he starts saying that stuff, you need to pull him out."

    Cathy trusted the academy. She knew that Joel hated going to school and following rules. She'd have been suspicious if he loved the place.

    Besides, the academy staff stressed the importance of not removing Joel from the program too soon. That would be like taking a cake out of the oven before it had fully baked, Cathy was told; the cake would collapse.

    Such arguments did not persuade Julie, who is five years older than Joel. Secretly she and her husband discussed a radical step: fighting for custody of her brother.

    In the end, Julie was talked out of a custody battle by her father-in-law; he feared the fight would drive a permanent wedge between Julie and her mother.

    More than 2,000 miles away, Joel was still dividing his family.

    Bruised knees, lost weight
    Punishment begins to take physical toll

    In Costa Rica, Joel rebelled more. The academy got tougher.

    "It seemed like he was always in trouble," said Lindsay Garner, a teenager from Alabama who attended the academy with Joel. "I would always see him in O.P."

    O.P. was shorthand for a punishment called "observational placement."

    Day after day, while other students went to classes and watched educational videos, Joel was ordered to the observational placement room - a small, former bathhouse with a hard tile floor. There, he was forced to stand with his nose an inch from the wall, hour after hour, with only short breaks. At other times, Joel was made to kneel, nose-to-the-wall, hands behind his back, as if he were under arrest.

    The kneeling bruised his knees. More noticeable than the bruises, though, was the weight Joel was losing.

    "After a while, he got real skinny," Garner said. "He looked drained a lot of the time. His clothes were so baggy, they didn't fit anymore."

    Although academy officials have insisted that students received plenty of food, the school's doctor, Edgar Leguizamon, said he saw some children who were losing too much weight. The doctor said he insisted they receive more food and even made a list of students to be given second helpings. For a few months, the students on the list did get seconds, but after a while, the academy stopped, the doctor said.

    Leguizamon also worried that students were suffering from overcrowded conditions, insufficient psychological counseling and excessive sun exposure during the forced exercises. Many times he considered leaving the academy.

    "I stayed for the kids," he said.

    Broken will
    After months of resistance, 'I just gave up'

    The Spartan conditions at Dundee Ranch had not softened Joel's attitude. He still refused to obey rules, and that brought even harsher consequences.

    One of the many forms Joel's parents had signed before sending him to Costa Rica had given the academy staff permission to restrain Joel in extreme circumstances, for example, if he endangered himself or someone else. In the observational placement room, Joel learned what was meant by "restrain."

    Joel was seized by male staff members more than a dozen times - once for striking a guard and the rest for minor offenses such as talking. Each time, Joel lay on his stomach while a guard pressed a knee into his back and wrenched his arms back toward his head.

    "You'd scream," Joel said. "Everybody screamed."

    He fought the urge. As he felt his arms jerked behind him, Joel would tell himself: Don't let your enemy hear you scream. Before you know it, it will be over.

    Garner said that as she studied in the classroom, she could hear the shrieks of fellow students coming from the observational placement room some 50 yards away. In her view, the practice "was like torturing people into being good."

    Students were restrained only as a last resort, said Ken Kay, president of the association to which Dundee Ranch belonged. But Knight, the academy's former director, disagreed, saying that restraint "was commonly used as an intimidation technique, not as a last resort."

    Joel found that during the days of exercise and observational placement, there was nothing to do but think. He picked over every aspect of his life.

    It wasn't like a movie in which all of the thinking swells into a great wave of regret. Joel daydreamed about beating up the guards or running away. Often, he simply thought, I wish I hadn't got caught.

    Still, there were things he regretted. Neglecting school was one. But what haunted him most were his last words to his mother as he'd sat in the car waiting to be taken far from home. He had cursed her. It pained Joel to think that if anything happened to either of them, his last message to his mother would not have been "I love you," but something ugly.

    In December, with Christmas approaching, it dawned on Joel that he had been at the academy almost five months and was no closer to going home. He was tired of exercises, staring at walls, going to bed hungry and waking up the same.

    "I just gave up. They broke my spirit. They broke my will," Joel said. "I'll write the letters you want me to write. I'll say what you want me to say. I'll be a goddamn robot."

    He had refused the program. Now, reluctantly, he tried to follow it.

    On Christmas Day, Joel got his first phone call home since his arrival four months earlier. It lasted five minutes.

    With a member of the Dundee Ranch staff hovering nearby, Joel apologized to his mother for cursing at her in Milwaukee. Cathy Petershack wept and told her son that the family loved him and missed him.

    She chose her words carefully, making sure not to say that she wanted him home right away. The academy staff had warned her not to tell Joel anything that might lead him to believe he'd be coming home soon.

    In his absence, it was a grim Christmas. The family had not been told precisely when Joel would phone, and his sister, Julie, missed the call by a few minutes when she ran out for diapers. She spent much of the day in tears.

    Raw emotion
    As time wears on, frustration builds

    After Christmas, Joel made a push to gain points, hoping this would help him to leave the academy sooner. He struggled, torn between rebellion and resignation.

    Jan. 13.

    "Hello mom and dad: I am doing great so far in school and in the program. I am busting butt. But I feel my anger has come up for me in a big way today."

    When he wasn't in trouble, Joel now spent hours in the classroom staring at a world history book. Although the Dundee brochure had called the education "self-paced," the promotional video that the Petershacks watched appeared to show an instructor looking at a student's work and offering assistance.

    In practice, no teacher lectured students. Kids were given a book to read, and when they finished, a test to pass. They could keep taking the test until they passed.

    Cathy Petershack said she was told her son could keep up with his high school class in Milwaukee and perhaps even catch up the grade he had fallen behind. But Joel never approached that best-case scenario. For months, when Cathy phoned the academy for updates on Joel, his curriculum consisted of the same lone course: "World history."

    He also was attending a daily "group session," in which students got to talk about their lives and reflect on their choices. At first, Joel said little. Gradually, though, he began to open up.

    "He would talk a lot about his sister, how he had bounced around, drugs," said Christopher Carbo, a Florida teenager who met Joel at Dundee Ranch. "Everything he said was real on point, mature, the kind of thing an adult would say."

    According to Joel's e-mails home, he was trying to follow the program. Yet at times he made little progress. The rules had changed, and Joel found it harder to earn points. He lost points for small infractions, like having a stain on his white T-shirt.

    Frustration boiled over into his letters and e-mails, and into those from Cathy and Steven.

    Joel to his stepfather:

    "... As for me being a disrespectful Bleep that's the way you perceive me ... The reason a man would have done all you have as my father is because you LOVE my mother and eventually LOVED me. The fact is I am your son. I am more like you. No not blood, but values, behaviors, life. I am you."

    Cathy to Joel:

    "... I am at work right now, 2 a.m. with two hours sleep, feel like throwing up over the messes you put yourself into and dad and I along with you!! ... You are only headed down an express lane highway called Life ... At the rate of speed you keep going you are going to die. I don't care to watch it happening."

    The lectures flowed both ways. Joel wrote Cathy about her drinking. Sometimes she thought it showed how much he cared; other times, it only proved how far he'd go to provoke her. Before her son sat in judgment, there were things she wanted him to know. She wrote:

    "I have devoted myself to you from the day I made the conscious decision to want another child (YOU) enough to go 'cold turkey' in a clinic, off shooting heroin & cocaine to give birth to you. I have fought so much and overcame so much. You don't even know."

    Joel sent drawings home. Cathy looked at his sketches of kids with angry faces and wondered if that's how Joel felt when he thought of her.

    On other occasions, he doodled the word "mother" in graceful pen strokes and sent a beautiful drawing of a rose with a tear drop; Cathy saw love and sadness in these efforts.

    As often as the good days lifted her spirits, the bad ones jolted her back.

    She had borrowed so much money to send Joel to this school, and sometimes he just seemed angry.

    After five months, Cathy reached a breaking point. Some relatives had grown tired of Cathy and the chaos that surrounded her. Her drinking had gotten worse. And harsh as Joel's letters were at times, she missed him and felt alone.

    One day she typed an e-mail to her husband at work.

    "Goodbye," she wrote. "It's not that I don't love you. I just can't handle any more of this."

    She said she was leaving.

    Steven placed frantic calls to Cathy's relatives. He brought home flowers and told Cathy that he loved her.

    She didn't leave; in truth, she didn't know where she would go. But for several days, she shut herself in her room. Finally, Steven told her that together they had decided what to do about Joel; together they should see it through.

    Shared experience
    Parents get bitter taste of what son is enduring

    From the beginning, Cathy had known that her son would have to work hard in Costa Rica to straighten out his life. Now she realized the struggle was not his alone.

    That was a point Dundee Ranch officials impressed on parents by urging them to attend special seminars similar to those the children must complete. The seminars, which preach honesty, accountability and self-esteem, were sold to parents as a vital step in healing the whole family.

    Over a long weekend in the spring, Cathy and Steven Petershackwent through their first seminar, "Parent Discovery," at a hotel in Chicago.

    The rules were strict. Each day, parents had to be seated by the time the theme to "2001: A Space Odyssey" finished playing. If they were late, they were reprimanded.

    Inside the training room, parents were not allowed to eat, drink or chew gum. Nor could they record the proceedings or take notes without permission.

    During the seminar, parents were singled out and pressed to talk about traumatic events. Cathy was led to the front. Her knees shook. Under questioning from one of the seminar leaders, she talked about an event buried deep in childhood that did not involve her directly, but forever changed her family: Her father was convicted of incest and imprisoned.

    In front of all those strangers, Cathy wept so heavily that when she had finished speaking, she asked to be excused to change her contact lenses. No, she was told, not unless she wanted to face a "consequence" or punishment.

    Two thousand miles away, her son's school in Costa Rica was using a new punishment.

    For several months, instead of exercises, Joel and other students were made to build a walled compound known as a "high impact" center.

    The students dug trenches 5-feet deep, carried heavy bags of sand and mixed cement. Joel realized there would soon be a harsh, new place for the academy's hardest cases.

    He was building it.

    From the Nov. 8, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    © Copyright 2005, Journal Sentinel Inc.


    At Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica, officials of the harsh school cut Joel Snider's hair and shaved off the teen's goatee. Considered a "refuser" to the rules of the program, Joel (center), at the school about six months in this picture, was repeatedly punished for hours, painfully restrained and fed less than other students. Photo/Contributed
    « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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    Offline Ursus

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    Academy's grip lingers as son, family transform - pt 3/3
    « Reply #70 on: September 04, 2011, 10:37:24 AM »
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Academy's grip lingers as son, family transform
    Ranch closes amid allegations, but some praise it

    [email protected]
    Posted: Nov. 8, 2004

    Third of three parts

    Eight months had passed since the night Cathy and Steven Petershack hired men with handcuffs to escort their troubled son to a harsh boarding school in Costa Rica. In all that time, they had heard his voice on the phone just once, for five minutes on Christmas Day.

    His e-mails home to Milwaukee only added to the mystery of how he was doing. In some, Joel, now 17, seemed contrite, ready to give up the thieving, drug use and fighting that had driven the Petershacks to send him to Academy at Dundee Ranch in August 2002.

    In other e-mails, he just sounded angry.

    By spring 2003, his parents wondered what was going on at the $2,100-a-month academy. Unbeknown to the Petershacks, Costa Rican authorities were asking the same question.

    The school had tripled in size, from about 65 students in March 2002 to 200 students roughly a year later. With 10 or more children sharing some rooms, viruses spread rapidly.

    "Twice, they had this virus - we did not know if it was the food or the water. They had vomiting and diarrhea," said Edgar Leguizamon, the academy's physician. "Half of the students had it."

    In 2003, complaints about the academy reached the Costa Rican child welfare agency, Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, commonly called PANI. Susan Flowers, an American who reportedly had lost custody of her daughter in a divorce, told government officials the girl was being held at Dundee Ranch against her will.

    The agency visited the academy in February, and again a month later. In March, former Dundee Ranch Director Amberly Knight sent the agency a letter warning that the school was using "untrained, unqualified staff," "providing the bare minimum of food and living essentials," and putting students at "physical and emotional risk."

    There had been articles, too, in the Costa Rican press raising questions about the unusual school operating in a former resort outside Orotina, about a 15 minute drive from the Pacific Ocean.

    Joel knew none of this. He saw no newspapers or television. He did not know the United States had gone to war in Iraq.

    The controversy over the school built slowly in Costa Rica until the day in May 2003 when Flowers sat down with a local prosecutor named Fernando Vargas.

    "She told me a very unusual story, like a movie story," said Vargas, a square-jawed 35-year-old, who was filling in for a colleague in the office halfway between Orotina and the Costa Rican capital, San Jose.

    The story, Vargas recalled, was about a large, wealthy educational organization that used extreme methods to punish difficult children. From experience, he knew that people often tell outlandish stories in the prosecutor's office.

    He would see if this was a "movie story," or real.

    Catching attention
    Costa Rican prosecutor heads to the academy

    Vargas spent the weekend scanning the Internet for information on the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, the group of teen centers that included Dundee Ranch. The prosecutor read accounts of the punishments used by these schools. News articles described affiliated schools in Mexico, Samoa and the Czech Republic that closed following allegations of abuse.

    The following week, Vargas applied for a warrant to raid Dundee Ranch. He found out there already was a thick file on the academy compiled by the child welfare agency. Among other problems, the agency had found overcrowding, insufficient food for some and a number of children with immigration problems.

    "Some did not know where they were," said Rosalia Gil, Costa Rica's minister of children's affairs.

    The prosecutor was annoyed that child welfare officials had allowed Dundee Ranch time to correct practices that he considered human rights abuses. He believed some of the physical punishments - restraining children and forcing them to exercise or stare at walls - violated the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, a document ratified by Costa Rica, but not by the United States.

    Before heading to Dundee Ranch, Vargas said, he told the child welfare agency, "If they can't comply, you have to close the place and take the children away."

    On the scorching, muggy afternoon of May 20, Vargas arrived at the academy accompanied by 50 police officers, detectives and officials from the child welfare agency. As required by Costa Rican law, a judge also accompanied the raid.

    Joel was eating lunch in the cafeteria when he saw the cars drive up and men with guns jump out. The students kept eating. No one remarked on the men with guns because they were not allowed to talk.

    Outside the cafeteria, students approached the prosecutor.

    "When we got there, young people were seeing us as saviors," Vargas said. "They were saying in English, 'Shut down this place,' 'Help us,' 'I want to talk with my mom.' "

    But that was not what Susan Flowers' daughter said when Vargas spoke with her. She said she was fine.

    Nonetheless, Vargas planned to take statements from other students, especially those who had fewer points for good behavior and were unlikely to earn their way out of the academy anytime soon. They would have less to risk by speaking out.

    The young prosecutor led students into the cafeteria. Academy staff were ordered to remain outside, 50 meters back.

    "You cannot be in a place against your will," Vargas told the students, explaining their rights under Costa Rican law.

    He said the students could communicate with their parents and send e-mails home without anyone editing or censoring them. Even inmates in the country's jails retain those rights. Vargas then passed out sheets of paper on which students could make complaints anonymously.

    As the prosecutor spoke, an excited chatter rose among the students. Some cried and hugged. Joel felt something absent in him for a long time, "that little spirit of hope."

    When students left the cafeteria, chaos ensued.

    The judge and prosecutor argued, the judge insisting this was a "witch hunt" because the one girl the prosecutor had come to see - Flowers' daughter - had reported no abuse.

    Vargas insisted he needed more time to gather evidence. But under Costa Rican law, Vargas could not remain on the property once the judge left.

    When the judge drove off, Vargas was forced to follow, leaving behind computer files and other evidence.

    'Just bring me home'
    Reports of student riot make mother take action

    The judge and prosecutor were not the only ones departing the academy in a hurry. More than two dozen students - some barefoot - fled, hopping the fence and following the dirt road toward Orotina. Other students began vandalizing the school.

    "Everybody ran in every direction," Joel said.

    After nine months of rebellion and punishment, Joel was surprisingly low-key. When the other students ran, he walked back to one of the rooms. He picked up a guitar, lay on the bed and began to play.

    He could hear students running and people chasing them. It made no sense, he thought, to flee into the countryside. How far would he get in a land he didn't know?

    Later, the academy and its supporters would say that Vargas caused the riot at Dundee Ranch by telling students they were free to leave. Jan Bezuidenhout, a parent who was visiting the academy, took detailed notes describing the raid and riot. She said the prosecutor and other officials left that afternoon because "they saw the chaos they had created and didn't want to face it."

    The prosecutor denied this, offering his own theory.

    "I think this riot was because we promised something to the children and then we left with no explanation," Vargas said. "They always thought that we will take away the suspects or take the children out. But they never thought we would go out and leave them with their captors."

    On the morning after the riot, Dundee staff gathered students in small groups and asked them to sign a form saying that they had been treated well and not abused.

    "I thought it was an outrageous request for the staff to make of the kids," said Bezuidenhout, who supported Dundee Ranch in other respects.

    Joel read the form and handed it back.

    "I won't sign it," he said.

    Joel and other students who refused to sign the form were placed inside the "high impact" facility, the walled compound Joel had helped to build. Academy staff stood guard at the entrance preventing the students from leaving. When Joel tried to walk out, one of the guards cracked a wooden board across his legs.

    In Milwaukee, Cathy Petershack clicked onto the Web site for Dundee Ranch parents, and her eyes went straight to a message asking if anyone knew about the raid. Students had run away.

    Cathy grabbed the phone and punched in the academy's number.

    The staff member in charge of Joel answered brightly, telling Cathy there was good news. Joel had finally earned enough points for a phone call later in the day.

    After months of trusting the academy, Cathy was suddenly wary. What about the report of a raid and students missing?

    "Tell me," she said, "is my son even there?"

    Joel is here, the man answered. He's cooperating. Yes, the academy is having a little difficulty, but it will be taken care of in a day or two.

    Cathy wanted to hear her son.

    Hours later, in the early evening, she heard his voice for the first time in five months. Joel was crying.

    "Just bring me home. Give me a chance to talk to you," he pleaded. "Let me tell you what's happened."

    Cathy asked if he could wait a day for her to fly to Costa Rica and bring him home. Joel wanted to leave right away. He was willing to fly alone.

    When they finished talking, Joel's family representative got on the phone. He told Cathy: Joel is manipulating you again. He is not ready to come home.

    This time Cathy believed her son.

    "Joel is coming home," she said.

    Leaving it behind
    School closes amid praise, condemnation

    On May 22, 2003, at 4 in the morning, Joel left Dundee Ranch for the airport in San Jose. Tired as he was, he could not sleep. He thought how happy he'd be to eat airline food.

    As the small plane rose, Joel took a last look down at the dark Costa Rican landscape and thought: I'm free.

    The place he'd come to view as his prison would close within a few days, reeling from the riot and a government investigation. The owner, Narvin Lichfield, would be arrested by Costa Rican police, then released.

    Vargas, the young prosecutor, would receive e-mails and letters of support from more than a dozen parents of Dundee students. But those would be far outnumbered by messages from academy supporters such as Bezuidenhout, who said that in her daughter's case, "I honestly do think it kept her alive."

    Finally, Costa Rica's human rights ombudsman for children would write a harsh report criticizing the child welfare agency for knowing about abuses at Dundee Ranch for more than a year and failing to act.

    Joel left all of the controversy behind.

    At Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Cathy scanned the crowds in the arrivals area, looking for the boy she had not seen in nine months. Her eyes caught a glimpse of a skinny young man in white pants and a white Nike shirt. His face looked gaunt. Dark circles ringed his eyes. Skin drooped down from arms that were once bulky and muscular.

    Joel had left Milwaukee weighing 280 pounds. He returned weighing 180.

    "Oh my God," Cathy said. "What did I do?"

    Measured steps
    Change is apparent, but price was steep

    They took things slowly.

    That weekend, the Petershacks drove their son to the family cabin in Rhinelander, the place where Joel and his stepfather had bonded years ago.

    They didn't press Joel for details about what happened in Costa Rica. They waited for him to raise the subject. He didn't. A year would pass before he spoke about Dundee Ranch, and then the story would emerge mostly in fragments.

    "Some days I'll push him to talk, and he says, 'Mom, please leave it be,' " Cathy Petershack said. "He's told me he'll never forgive me for doing it."

    Cathy said she never realized how harsh the punishment would be at Dundee Ranch and never would have authorized the academy to restrain Joel had she known what that meant.

    As for the classes Joel took, they had little value in Milwaukee. None of his credits in Costa Rica were accepted here.

    All told, the decision to send Joel to Dundee Ranch cost the Petershacks close to $25,000. When Cathy complained, the company sent her a refund check - for $985.

    And yet, it was clear Joel had changed.

    Now, when he left the house, he would give his mother and stepfather a hug and kiss. For the first time in his life, he got a job. He worked at United Parcel Service, then took a second job at a pizza parlor.

    In fall 2003, Joel began attending classes four days a week to gain his high school equivalency diploma.

    His teacher, Pamela Bolden-Etter, had heard about Joel's rebellious past but saw no hint of it in her classroom. He was quiet and focused on his work. With two jobs, Joel often came to class tired.

    Though friendly, he didn't socialize much.

    "I do not allow people to know who I am," he said.

    Even so, Bolden-Etter liked him. She described him with a word that would have shocked the people who knew Joel before he went to Costa Rica: lovable.

    Sometimes he hugged her. Always, he thanked her.

    The teacher had no doubt Joel would get his degree, and he did.

    On a rainy evening in June 2004, Cathy and Steven Petershack relaxed with their son and daughter in the small teachers lounge at Juneau Business High School.

    It was less than an hour until Joel's graduation, and he looked excited, though he would not be going to any of the graduation parties. He had to work the 3 a.m. shift at UPS.

    "How are you feeling?" Bolden-Etter asked.

    "Tired," he said. "I haven't slept."

    "That's how your life goes," the teacher said gently.

    The graduation speeches were short; everyone seemed eager to get to the awarding of degrees. As the names were called, graduates crossed the stage, pumping their fists, waving, dancing, strutting, high-fiving.

    When his name was called, Joel smiled and opened his right arm in an expansive gesture, as if to say, Of course, I made it.

    Cathy cried.

    After the ceremony, the graduates left the auditorium. Then the Petershacks filed into the hallway, wading into the sea of parents looking for their children.

    Steven and Cathy eased down the hallway, standing on tiptoes, straining to see their son.

    "Here he comes," Cathy said finally.

    Steven surged forward and caught his stepson in a bear hug.

    "Yeah! Yeah!" he shouted. "You did it, my son."

    Cathy leaned in and kissed her son's face.

    Joel was smiling - for the first time in months.


    On a warm afternoon in early fall, more than a year after the riot and the closure of Dundee Ranch, a man named Harold Dabel walked the flowered grounds of the academy, showing off the new boarding school rising from the ruins of the old one. It is called Pillars of Hope and will cater to troubled American youths graduating from other programs. It will be very different from Dundee, said Dabel, the new administrator.

    No longer will students be brought by force, as Joel was. The new school won't be affiliated with the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, Dabel said, adding, "We don't want to get into the past history of Dundee Ranch."

    The observational placement room, in which Joel and other students were punished with hours of staring at a wall, has become a storage shed. The high impact center Joel helped build has been converted into a courtyard with adjacent rooms containing weights and ping pong tables, and a stable of horses in the back.

    "Instead of a boot camp," Dabel said, "this is our fun camp."

    Still, links to the past remain. Dabel said the new school will offer scholarships to graduates of schools in the World Wide Association. One of Dabel's partners in the new school, Francisco Bustos, was the finance manager at Dundee Ranch, and Dabel himself was featured in a photograph of Dundee Ranch's "management team." The new school will lease the 45-acre Dundee property from Lichfield, the owner of the former academy.

    "A lot of the ideas here are a credit to him and his dreams," Dabel said of Lichfield. "He's one of our major investors."

    The school has received a health permit, Dabel said, adding, "We could have students very soon."

    That news caused grave concern in San Jose at the Costa Rican child welfare agency.

    "They have no permission from us whatsoever," said Rosalia Gil, the nation's minister of children's affairs. She vowed to send government officials to visit the school.

    "It's important that what happened at Dundee Ranch doesn't happen again," she said. "We're going to be there to see that it doesn't."

    Days after Dabel and Gil spoke, Mexican authorities closed one of the other schools in the World Wide Association, Casa by the Sea. There had been complaints of abuse at the school.

    Ken Kay, president of the association, said he expects "total vindication" on the abuse allegations and believes the school soon will receive permission to reopen. Kay said, too, that schools in the association have discontinued the use of observational placement, opting instead for something he described as "more coaching in intent."

    As for Pillars of Hope, it has yet to open.

    What happened at Dundee Ranch changed the Petershack family in Milwaukee, turning the brittle bonds between a son and his parents into sinew. Relationships no longer rupture in the heat of an argument. Cathy and Steven Petershack don't wake up to the exhausting worry of a son careening from one crisis to the next.

    Still, they regret sending Joel to Dundee Ranch.

    "There's absolutely no way I would send him now," Cathy said.

    She has asked herself: Could something else have saved Joel? What would have happened had he stayed in Milwaukee instead of going to Costa Rica? She does not know.

    Joel, now 18, insists he has not changed, all evidence to the contrary. He has been slow to shed the deep reserve he brought home.

    This summer, he began seeing Brittany Sutton, an outgoing young woman whom he met through friends. They dated for three months before she learned about the place his parents had sent him. Even then, she said: "He wouldn't let me in. He wouldn't talk to me about it."

    Nonetheless, Joel and Brittany got engaged. She is pregnant with his child, and Joel has been imagining what parenthood will be like.

    "Raising a kid is difficult," he said. "With great responsibility comes great power."

    He paused.

    "And great love."

    From the Nov. 9, 2004 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    © 2005-2007, Journal Sentinel Inc.

    Breaking Joel
    Desperate Steps, Dark Journey

    Joel Snider's stepfather, Steven Petershack (center), grabs him in a bear hug just after the 18-year-old graduated from Juneau Business High School in June. His mother, Cathy, cried at the event, a celebration that she thought at one time seemed unlikely. Photo/Gary Porter

    The Petershack family was changed by the nine months Joel Snider (center) spent at a harsh Costa Rican academy. In the front row (from left) are: Cathy Petershack, Joel's mom; Joel; his girlfriend, Brittany Sutton; and his stepdad, Steve Petershack. Joel's sister, Julie Grayson (back row, far right), and her husband, Denver Grayson (back row, far left), are with their children, Megan, 2, Thomas, 3, Jonathan, 6, and Breanna, 4. Photo/Gary Porter

    Dundee Ranch
    « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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    Offline Ursus

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    About this story - Breaking Joel: Desperate Steps, Dark Jour
    « Reply #71 on: September 05, 2011, 12:17:36 PM »
    About this story
    Breaking Joel: Desperate Steps, Dark Journey

    Posted: Nov. 7, 2004

    This narrative is drawn from primary sources, with reporting in Milwaukee and Costa Rica.

    Dozens of interviews were conducted with Joel Snider, his parents and his sister. Extensive interviews also were conducted with four of Snider's classmates at the Academy at Dundee Ranch, all of whom witnessed or experienced the school's disciplinary practices; three school officials, including the doctor; and several Costa Rican government and law enforcement officials with a direct role in addressing the school's activities. (One spoke through a translator.) All of the information on the academy was checked with its former director.

    In addition to interviews, Snider and his family provided access to letters, e-mails, photographs and financial records. Written statements from a half-dozen students at Dundee Ranch were reviewed. And Costa Rican legal letters, child welfare documents and human rights reports on the school were examined.

    Information on the school and its rules came from promotional material, its enrollment agreement, a 60-page parent manual, and interviews with students and parents.

    The company the Petershacks paid to take Joel to Costa Rica refused comment.

    From the Nov. 7, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    © Copyright 2005, Journal Sentinel Inc.
    « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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