April 9, 2004
in Utah Targeted
By Amy Jo Bryson
The New York
State Attorney General's Office is probing Utah-based programs for
troubled youths after a teenager was allegedly assaulted last month
while being transported to an affiliated school near the Canadian
associated with La Verkin-based Teen Escort are accused of beating
the boy as he was being taken to the Academy at Ivy Ridge in New
The academy is a
member program of the World Wide Association of Speciality Programs
and Schools/Teen Help (WWASP), which was founded by Robert Lichfield
school director in a Utah program was charged with multiple counts
of abuse in 2002, charges that were later reduced because the victim
recanted. The case, however, prompted some Utah officials to call
for more oversight of private youth programs, but that effort failed
this past legislation session.
A New York
investigator said the business operations of WWASP and Teen Escort
have him concerned because of what he says is a lack of regulatory
oversight and the "impropriety" of the transport services.
those programs, however, say the alleged assault was blown out of
proportion, the business practices are standard and they welcome an
investigation because they have nothing to hide.
New York State
Police investigator James Hunt said the parents of a 17-year-old boy
hired contract transporters with Teen Escort to take their son from
their home in southern New York on March 22 to the school near the
The parents paid
several thousand dollars for the service, which included having
their son removed from home while he was asleep in bed, having him
cuffed and then escorted to a car in his bare feet, Hunt said.
At one point,
the 17-year-old boy, while on a rural stretch of road headed to the
academy, grabbed the steering wheel and caused the car to crash into
a guard rail, police say.
boy was beaten about the face while cuffed, Hunt said.
Leonard Faulstick and Timothy Hurd have been charged with unlawful
imprisonment and assault in the incident, Hunt said.
He said the
local district attorney's office is also looking at charging the
father because he allegedly helped facilitate the removal from the
Hunt said he has
since learned in his probe that while Hurd was a contract employee
of Teen Escort at the time of the alleged assault, Faulstick was
subcontracted to help with the transport.
Neither man, he
said, received any formal training to work in the youth transport
service other than "informational brochures" on how to deal with
Hunt said the
state Attorney General's Office in New York requested documents from
his investigation to determine what kind of "improprieties" may
exist regarding the Utah business operations and if New York can
impose any sort of regulatory oversight.
there have discovered, Hunt said, is that private youth programs for
troubled kids fall under little control. Officials discovered, for
example, that Teen Escort's business registration in Utah has
A check of the
Utah Department of Commerce's Web site shows the business
registration for Teen Escort Services in La Verkin has been expired
since 1998. It is also described as a "scenic and sightseeing"
bothers me in that with what I was able to see with the operation of
Teen Escort, their policies and procedures, we need to make other
agencies aware of this so we can see about getting some regulations
started," Hunt said.
But James Wall,
a spokesman on behalf of WWASP and Teen Escort, said there are
written policies and procedures in place and that Hurd has a
reputation as one of the best transporters.
"They are very
much on his side in this little battle," Wall said.
Wall said the
crash into the guard rail happened at 65 mph, and "nothing happened
as far as an assault."
transporters pick up a troubled youths, they often don't allow them
much clothing as a deterrent to running away, Wall said. The
arrangement was made with the consent of the parents, he added,
because the kinds of kids who go into these programs are often not
cooperative. Handcuffs are standard for safety reasons until the
youth demonstrates compliance.
said, isn't a requirement because it is not an advanced form of
"It's not like
being on a SWAT team."
While Hunt said
New York officials believe WWASP and Teen Escort are one and the
same, Wall said it isn't so. Teen Escort is separately owned and one
of three transport services approved for use by the admissions
branch of WWASP. If the service is required, it is something the
parents can arrange with more than a half dozen member affiliates in
the United States through an independent admissions office. WWASP
also has member programs in Mexico and Jamaica.
officials and watch-dog organizations say there is a need for more
oversight for private programs to ensure that "discipline" doesn't
amount to abuse.
In a letter to
lawmakers this last session, Utah assistant attorney general Craig
Barlow wrote, " . . . my experience with unlicensed residential
treatment programs calling themselves boarding schools is (that) no
one knows what occurs in these programs. Children are completely
isolated from the outside world and from their parents, and the
potential for child abuse and child sex abuse is high."