Lawsuit Against Mt. Bachelor Academy Expands

From, September 7 2011

Now Totals 17 Playoffs; Damages Sought Top $25 Million

Eight more former students of the now-closed Mt. Bachelor Academy near Prineville, one of Oregon?s best-known ‘tough love’ boarding schools, joined a previously filed lawsuit Wednesday alleging emotional, physical and sexual abuse, their attorneys announced.

The lawsuit, which is pending in Multnomah County Circuit Court, now includes 17 plaintiffs who allege they were abused as children at Mt. Bachelor Academy, their lawyers said.

The suit seeks $25.5 million in compensatory damages, and states that punitive damages will be sought as well. The suit is being brought by attorneys Kelly Clark and the Portland law firm O’Donnell Clark and Crew, who often bring child abuse cases in Oregon and around the nation.

In a news release, Clark said of the latest filing, “Sadly, we now know of dozens of kids who were subject to the kind of systematic humiliation, degradation and outright abuse that was inherent in the Mount Bachelor program, and eight of these have now joined this lawsuit, which seeks to achieve justice for these plaintiffs and to prevent future abuse in other similar programs in Oregon and around the country.

“We contend there simply is no excuse or justification for abusing children, even especially under the guise of ‘tough love.'”

The lawsuit was originally filed in July and alleges claims of battery, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress against Mt. Bachelor Academy and its parent companies as defendants.

Those include Aspen Education Group, a national conglomerate of therapeutic boarding schools which, at its peak had nearly 40 youth programs throughout the United States ? as well as Aspen?s parent company, CRC Health Group. CRC Health Group is a large national healthcare corporation controlled by Bain Capital, a private equity firm with $65 billion in assets.

The attorneys said Mt. Bachelor Academy was closed by the state of Oregon in November of 2009 based on the findings of a state investigation related to charges of systemic abuse and neglect.

They quoted a report by the Oregon Department of Human Services that said Mt. Bachelor Academy used ?punitive, humiliating, degrading and traumatizing? tactics as ?treatment.?

At the time of its closure in 2009, Mt. Bachelor Academy reportedly had more than 75 staff supervising about 90 students who were being charged $6,400 per month in tuition, the lawyers said.

The largest defendant — CRC Health Group has been the subject of increasing scrutiny regarding the safety children in its facilities, the attorneys said.

In late July, the state of Tennessee reportedly decided to stop placing children at a large CRC Health facility following the deaths of several patients at that facility, citing concerns for the well-being of children in its care.