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CEDU settles personal injury, fraud claims ($300,000)


Boarding School Truth:
CEDU settles personal injury, fraud claims

Company to pay By KEITH KINNAIRD SANDPOINT - CEDU Educational Services has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle claims that the company bilked parents and failed to protect students from harm.

The settlement was announced Monday, the day a jury trial was to start in Sandpoint.
"Our clients are very pleased that we obtained the results that we did," said Todd Reed, co-counsel for the parents who brought the suit. "They are very glad to have this emotional experience completed so that the healing can continue. They did not want to go to trial and reopen their wounds."
Michael Ramsden, a Coeur d'Alene attorney representing CEDU, could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
The parents of former students Kevin Accomazzo and Stanton Lewis sued CEDU in 1997, claiming their sons were verbally and physically abused by CEDU staff. They also alleged the school was violating state and federal racketeering laws through deceptive billing practices.
CEDU, which has offices in Sandpoint, operates Northwest Academy, Rocky Mountain Academy, Boulder Creek Academy and Ascent. Located in Boundary County, the private boarding schools are geared toward students with academic or emotional difficulties.
The suit arose after a student uprising at Northwest Academy in January 1997. The riot left five people injured and brought to light claims by students that they were being mistreated by school staff.
A majority of the students at Northwest Academy felt their concerns were not being addressed and a grievance process for students was seen as ineffective, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which investigated the riot.
An incident involving Accomazzo helped trigger the revolt, according to Steve Verby, who is co-counsel with Reed. Accomazzo, then 17, suffered a broken arm in September 1996 when he was tackled from behind by a school employee for walking out of a group counseling session, court records state.
"The fact that Kevin was taken down by one of the counselors and had his arm broken was one of the incidents that lead to the unhappiness of the students," said Verby, who is running against Jack Douglas in today's election for 1st District judge.
Other students said school staff had berated them and spit in their faces, concerns which Health and Welfare officials later deemed valid.
Lewis, the other student in the suit, claimed school officials failed to protect him when he was set upon by another student who hit him in the head with an object. The injury required hospitalization and surgery, according to a copy of the complaint.
Parents of both students also claimed CEDU were defrauding them of hundreds of dollars through its billing practices. The students' actual laundry and transportation costs were well below what their parents were being charged, the attorneys said.
"Parents were getting charged what we alleged was an unconscionable amount, and they were charged for services that weren't provided," said Verby.
Accomazzo's parents, for instance, were charged $1,800 to have their son stay at a Bonners Ferry home after the riot. But Accomazzo spent some of those days on a slush-covered deck in a sleeping bag and a pup tent, court records show.
CEDU took advantage of parents who have the ability to pay large sums of money for their kids' education, Verby said. Parents, most of whom live out of state, had no way of knowing whether the charges were legitimate.
"The parent gets the invoice, thinks that that's the charge and pays it," he said. "Why should a parent pay for something that they didn't agree to pay for?

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