Academy at Dundee Ranch

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Current status Closed
Checked April 1, 2012
Close.gif Closed 2003

Academy at Dundee Ranch was a behavior modification facility located on located on La Ceiba Cascajal, 2km East from Abopac, Orotina, province of Alajuela, Costa Rica [1]. It is currently operated as Pillars of Hope.

The history of Academy at Dundee Ranch

Dundee Ranch was promoted as a residential school, offering a program of behavior modification, motivational "emotional growth seminars," a progressive academic curriculum, and a structured daily schedule, for teenagers struggling in their homes, schools, or communities [2]

The facility was and still is associated with World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP).

In May 2003, the facility was shut down by the authorities in Costa Rica due to claims of child abuse, and investigated the school and its managers. The facility reopened in 2004 as Pillars of Hope.

Controversy

There were claims from both parents and detainees about food being withheld as punishment [3].

Former students complain of emotional scars due to their stay there [4].

A judgment in Louisiana caused Costa Rican authorities to investigate the facilities [5]. A riot occurred at the facility in May 2003 [6] [7] [8], , leading to its closure.

Due to the closure U.S. Representative George Miller asked U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate WWASP [9].

Narvin Lichfield, who was the director at the time of the facility's closure, was jailed in Costa Rica for a brief period at the time of the closure. He was scheduled to go to trial for abuse in Costa Rica on September 26-29, 2006. A prosecutor was quoted in The Tico Times as saying that Lichfield could be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison if convicted on all accounts. February 26, 2007 was Narvin Lichfield declared innocent of ordering the abuse. The judges believed that the children were abused, but they could not prove that Lichfield ordered it [10]..

Three other Academy employees, all Jamaicans, were reportedly wanted in connection with the case, but they fled Costa Rica following the closure of the Academy [11].

On February 22, 2007, Narvin Lichfield was acquitted of all charges. In a rare twist of events, the head prosecutor, Edgar Oviedo, admitted that there was no evidence against Lichfield. Lichfield went on to state that when the school was raided, "Parents and staff were held at gunpoint while the Costa Rican prosecutor told the students that school rules no longer applied." and "One parent had a gun held to her head and was ordered to hang up the phone as she attempted to call the U.S. Embassy for help." [12].

Costa Rica's Diario Extra reported that the charges were the result of overzealous journalists who printed unsubstantiated allegations made by unreliable sources [13].

Time after the raid

- Main article: Pillars of hope -

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