Rumor has it that Tranquility Bay is shutting its doors. While a vast number of people would be thrilled if this were true, there is question as to whether or not all children will be returned to the US. According to a letter written by Jay Kay, the Director of Tranquility Bay, "Tranquility Bay will continue to deal with Zero Tolerance kids from other programs."
Recent allegations of abuse
In February 2007 CAICA received a disturbing call from a parent distressed after being thrown a letter from a boy at Tranquility Bay while she was there visiting her own son. The boy's note indicated he was being abused and needed help from the American Embassy. CAICA worked with agencies in Jamaica and Washington, DC for months. We reported the abuse, prepared a report with a copy of the letter from this boy, and have since monitored the situation. Finally in May 2007 the Ministry of Education in Jamaica acknowledged they had launched an investigation into the allegations of abuse. (Click here for Education Act of Jamaica).
Over the years CAICA and others have complained about the ongoing allegations of abuse at Tranquility Bay. Last year a documentary aired in Europe revealing the treatment children received while at Tranquility Bay and other WWASPS programs. While many of us are thrilled to see children being returned to the US, our concerns for the safety of the children continue.
According to the letter written by Jay Kay, the Director of Tranquility Bay, children labeled "Zero-Tolerance" kids will remain at the facility. This raises fear that these children will endure severe abuse if history repeats itself.
High Impact was one of the most abusive WWASPS programs that was located in Mexico. I personally took 16 hours of testimony from Chase Wood, a boy who attended High Impact. I was so disturbed by what I learned that I contacted his mother and the two of us worked together to locate the Turley Law Firm in Dallas, Texas. I provided a summary of the testimony I had, along with pertinent documents - and waited. Chase is now the lead plaintiff in the Wood, et al. v WWASPS, et al. 133-plaintiff lawsuit filed August 2006.
What I learned, and continue to learn, was shocking even to me - someone who has heard hundreds of survivors' stories. CAICA has been told that High Impact was used mainly for what they refer to as "Zero-Tolerance" kids.
Zero-Tolerance - what it really means
According to survivors of WWASPS programs, children and teens do not have to do much to be labeled Zero-Tolerance kids. If a child or teen looks out the window he or she is considered a runaway threat. If a child is considered a runaway threat he or she is considered a Zero-Tolerance kid.
The language in WWASPS Enrollment Agreements leave a lot to be desired. In Gulf Coast Academy's agreement they say:
Gulf Coast Academy has a zero tolerance policy against acts of violence and physical aggression as well as other dangerous, severely disruptive, or extremely defiant behavior exhibited by any student. According to Gulf Coast, that includes "consuming staff time and attention", "students who need to be physically restrained", "students who leave or are intently determined to leave the facility", and "influencing other students" .
Therefore, any student exhibiting these types of behaviors may be immediately expelled and transported, at the Sponsors (parents) expense to a treatment center or any other alternative placement/location chosen by the Sponsor.
However, in the rare case they cannot contact the Sponsor, they reserve the right to make that decision for them, making parents responsible for all costs incurred.
WWASPS' Darrington Academy's Enrollment Agreement (page 38) also has a similar Zero-Tolerance policy wherein if a student is found to be disruptive Darrington has the right to immediately expel and transport the child by an independent transport company to Tranquility Bay. If Darrington could not reach the parent or guardian of the child, the Agreement allows them to transfer the child and the parent agrees to pay Tranquility Bay their current Darrington fees even though Tranquility Bay costs are lower. And they have permission to sign the transport agreement in the parents' place and stead.
Parents, read your Enrollment Agreements!
Are the kids finally going home?
We are saddened to learn that most parents are not bringing their children home. While a few may, the majority of them will, according to Jay Kay's letter, be transported to Mississippi to Gulf Coast Academy.
It is believed Gulf Coast is now owned by Narvin Lichfield, Robert Lichfield's brother. Narvin was accused of abusing children in South Carolina's Carolina Springs Academy and in Costa Rica's Dundee Ranch facility. It appears the "new" facility in Mississippi, Gulf Coast Academy, is simply the new name for Bethel Boys Academy, a facility that has been under fire for years and has since changed its name three times. The concern is, are the children going to continue to be abused in this new environment? Chances are the answer is yes.
Some children are purportedly being transported to Costa Rica's facility, Pillars of Hope. Pillars of Hope opened its doors for youth ages 18-22. Currently, they are reportedly housing children as young as 12. Pillars of Hope is the new name for Dundee Ranch, the facility run by Narvin Lichfield that was shut down by the Costa Rican government for child abuse and neglect.
According to Jay Kay's letter, a new law has passed wherein parents must provide a passport for their child. The facility no longer can obtain a passport and visa in a parents place and stead.
Concerns at Tranquility Bay
Tranquility Bay is a residential facility in Jamaica for youth. It has been under scrutiny for quite some time with former students alleging serious forms of abuse and neglect and parents alleging fraud, among other things. You will read about a young man who was pepper-sprayed at this facility multiple times a day, every day, for the nine months he was there.
A Blog was written that shares with its readers comments from some of the major players of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS). It also contains a letter from Tranquility Bay's Director, Jay Kay, who said: "In order to alleviate any more rumors we felt it was time to notify everyone what is happening with Tranquility Bay. We have had a great 10 years and our staff has been tremendous. We could not have accomplished anything without your support and dedication ..." You can read the letter in full below.
While Kay works hard to keep parents believing their programs are helping their children, more plaintiffs are joining in the lawsuit that was filed by the Turley Law Firm in August 2006. Just recently a Motion was filed to Amend the Complaint, adding another 60 some plaintiffs for a total of 133.
Abuse at Tranquility Bay / Disturbing interviews:
Youth who attended WWASPS' Tranqulity Bay Academy in Jamaica and their parents have been voicing concerns for years.
One young man, Kerry Layne Brown, was a victim of serious abuse there. He suffered at the hands of Jay Kay and Randall Hinton.
Jay Kay, son of Ken Kay and Director of Tranquility Bay, said the following on national television (Primetime, Diane Sawyer) about the children in his care:
"Do I have pepper spray? You bet I do! And I haven't had to use it in 5½ to 6 months." Jay Kay admits to being a college dropout who ran a gas station convenience store before joining the "business" of the for-profit children's programs. He also said, "if I have kids, and they start giving me a problem, well they are going straight in the programme. If I had to, I'd pull the trigger without hesitation." (Aitkenhead 2003)
His father, Ken Kay told the Denver Rocky Mountain news in an interview before he rejoined Teen Help as Vice President, and WWASPS as president:
"These people are basically a bunch of untrained people who work for this organization. So they don't have credentials of any kind. We could be leading these kids to long-term problems that we don't have a clue about because we're not going about it in the proper way. How in the hell can you call yourself a behavior modification program -- and that's one of the ways it's marketed -- when nobody has the expertise to determine: Is this good, is this bad?"
Randall Hinton agreed to an interview which was videotaped. He laughed as he described the abuse he inflicted on Layne. He talked about how he and Jay Kay pepper-sprayed Layne multiple times a day, every day, for nine months. He didn't know that just a few short years later, in the prime of his life, Layne would be found by his mother, dead in his bed, a death believed to have been a direct result of the abuse he endured at the hands of Jay Kay and Randall Hinton at Tranquility Bay.
A documentary about Tranquility Bay aired Europe. The narator said: "The man who tortured Layne was Randall Hinton. The following is an account of what Hinton said in an interview with reporters:"
“Violence … as in violent kids? Violent staff? Violent programs? Ah, ya." ... he was pepper-sprayed by myself and by Jay Kay. I think we were the only ones who could actually pepper-spray students. I think I can remember Kerry Layne being pepper-sprayed more than once in a day. I know he was pepper-sprayed more than two times in a day. I don’t think it would have been more than three times.”
“... And from somebody on the outside looking in I would say it was abusive. For somebody that stayed with him 24/7 I would say I received as much abuse as he did as a staff. But that’s what we’re getting paid to do.”
“Restraints could be used - mechanical devices could be used - pepper-spray could be used to gain control of your child. It’s just a job that, that helps people. Instead of the pizza coming to you we’ll come and pick the pizza up and take it and let it get cook for a while, in a sense. Until it’s ready to come home and then you get a brand new hot pizza.”
Hinton currently faces misdemeanor assault and false imprisonment charges stemming from allegations that he was abusive toward students at the boarding school.
Hinton is scheduled to appear in county court Aug. 27 for the start of a trial where he faces seven counts of third-degree assault and two counts of false imprisonment.
And then there's the president of WWASPS, Robert Lichfield, who said it was "baptism by fire." Lichfield has no formal qualifications in education or child psychology and didn't graduate from college. On the job, he said, "you learn real fast, just as a [physician's assistant] learns doctoring skills by working with doctors."
Today, Lichfield is one of the largest contributor to the Mitt Romney campaign.
The effects on Layne's life were devastating. His life was never the same, nor could anyone expect it could be. This was only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the forms of abuse this child endured are unimaginable by most. No human being should ever have to endure such abuse.
Sadly, Layne could never get his life back on track after he returned from Tranquility Bay. Layne was a 4.0 student and a star athlete. He was a strong and healthy young man. Layne was very close to his family and was devastated when his parents divorced. As a result he turned to drugs, which frightened his mother. Wanting to nip it in the bud, so-to-speak, she decided to seek help. She was sold a wonderful program on an island in the Pacific where her son would scuba dive and snorkel in the warm ocean waters and where he would get a great education.
It was everything but wonderful. Layne was never allowed to go to the beach, let alone go scuba diving or snorkeling. The program was harsh and cruel. Every day was miserable, there was no reprieve. His mother was sold nothing but lies. She was never told once he was locked behind closed doors he would be abused by those who she trusted to care for him.
Not only did they break Layne physically but they broke his spirit. When he came home he was never the same. He had to be medicated for his severe post traumatic stress disorder. The medication is what is believed to have killed her son, to cause his heart to enlarge and to fail - medication that he would never have had to take if he had not been abused by Jay Kay and Randall Hinton.
Layne died on June 6, 2006. Ironically on June 7, 2006, Carter Lynn hung himself from the rafters of his home. Both boys had been interviewed and featured in Joanne Greene's Miami New Times article Rough Love.
Layne's mother, Terry Cameron, has suffered the greatest pain a mother can suffer - the loss of her only child. She has never so much as received an apology or acknowledgment from WWASPS that they made a mistake. Instead, they deny all allegations of abuse. As they do in all other cases, whether they admit to it on video or not.
LETTER FROM JAY KAY (provided to CAICA by parents):
Dear Parents/Guardians and Friends,
In order to alleviate any more rumors we felt it was time to notify everyone what is happening with Tranquility Bay. We have had a great 10 years and our staff has been tremendous. We could not have accomplished anything without your support and dedication.
Financially TB is at a time when change has become necessary. With this in mind we have thought long and hard about our options. The best solution we have come up with is to basically transplant our Program to Gulf Coast Academy in Mississippi. I have personally visited the facility and find it to be well suited for our kids.
Tranquility Bay will continue to deal with Zero Tolerance kids from other programs. As you know the new passport requirements have held up many, many enrollments. We are confident over the next few months that parents will get their children passports.
We would ask you to contact Gulf Coast Academy as soon as possible and arrange for a transfer of your child. The contact information will be sent to you tomorrow by your Family Rep. The BBS makes it difficult to put in phone numbers as well as web addresses.
I will certainly be involved with the Gulf Coast Academy school to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. In addition to this Dr. Chappuis has agreed to assist in a smooth transition. We are hopeful that some of our staff will be able to work at the school as well. Clearly this will assist everyone.
We do not see this holding any students back, in fact, they may be able to move a little quicker.
Again, we appreciate your support and look forward to a smooth transition in this new venture. Remember, change is a good thing.
Thanks and Love,
WWASPS' Main Players:
J. Ralph Atkin
Programs believed to affiliated with WWASPS - some named in lawsuit:
• Academy of Ivy Ridge, NY (Recently withdrew affiliation with WWASPS)
• Bethel Girls Academy, Mississippi
• Bethel Boys Academy, Mississippi (Eagle Point Christian Academy, Pine View Academy, Gulf Coast Academy)
• Eagle Point Christian Academy, Mississippi - (Bethel Boys Academy, Pine View Academy, Gulf Coast Academy)
• Canyon View Park, MT
• Camas Ranch, MT
• Carolina Springs Academy, SC (according to their own website sending kids to Pillars of Hope in Costa Rica)
• Cross Creek Programs, UT (Cross Creek Center for Boys and Cross Creek Manor)
• Darrington Academy, GA
• Gulf Coast Academy, MI
• Help My Teen, UT (marketing arm)
• Horizon, Academy, NV
• Lifelines Family Services, UT (marketing arm)
• Majestic Ranch, UT
• Midwest Academy, IA (Brian Viafanua, former Director of Paradise Cove)
• New Beginning Maternity, Utah
• Pillars of Hope, Costa Rica (working in conjunction with Carolina Springs Academy)
• Pine View Christian Academy (Borders FL, AL, MS - was Bethel Boys, Eagle Point, now Gulf Coast Academy)
• Reality Trek, UT
• Red River Academy, LA (Borders TX)
• Royal Gorge Academy, previously Royal Peak Academy, CO
• Sky View Academy, NV
• Spring Creek Lodge, MT
• Teens In Crisis, LLC (marketing arm)
• Teen Help, LLC (marketing arm)
• Tranquility Bay, Jamaica
World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS)
Programs shut down on allegations of child abuse and neglect:
Four separate countries, all with limited child protection laws, have shut WWASP facilities down for suspected child abuse and neglect:
▪ Casa by the Sea in Mexico
▪ Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica
▪ Morava in Czech Republic
▪ Paradise Cove, W. Samoa
▪ Sunrise Beach, Mexico
▪ High Impact, Mexico