December 7, 2004
Reporter Raphael Rowe
BBC -- UK
Desperate US parents are sending
their troublesome teenagers to tough boarding schools overseas,
but many have had second thoughts when they discover just how tough
these schools can be.
(Below is a picture of WWASP'S Tranquility Bay, Jamaica - known
as the worse
of all facilities - it has been called a "prison" for teens and
Annual fees are
between $25,000 (£13,000) and $40,000 (£20,800)
Rowe visits Tranquility Bay in Jamaica, a correctional institution
set up specifically to deal with unruly teens.
Situated in a
small village with spectacular views across the Caribbean Sea, it is
the stuff of holiday brochures... but not for the kids who are sent
New arrivals -
some as young as 12 - cannot speak without permission and are
allowed only the barest of necessities.
They are cut off
from their families and they must earn privileges such as phone
One of the most
controversial methods of punishment used in the behavioural
correction programme is Observational Placement or OP.
Children in OP
lie silently on the floor in a guarded room until staff members
decide they can leave. They eat, sleep and exercise in the same
Tranquility Bay director, Jay Kay, says the aim is to get kids out
of OP within 24 hours, Raphael talks to ex-students who had been in
there for much longer.
Shannon Levy, who left Tranquility Bay in 2002, spoke about her
experience in OP.
"They lined us
up like sardines...there was no air, no ventilation... and if we had
to go to the bathroom we had to leave the door open so they could
sit there and watch us. I was there for eight weeks straight," she
Cruel to be
(below) asks students about the conditions in OP.
Some of the
parents of children who have not responded to the programme say the
regime is brutal, open to abuses, and some of the staff poorly
Several of them
are taking legal action against WWASPS - World Wide Association of
Speciality Programs and Schools - the business organisation that
runs Tranquility Bay.
Head of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in Jamaica,
wants OP scrapped because he says: "There is a high possibility it
falls under the definition of child abuse."
In their defence,
WWASPs say their schools have "helped thousands of teens and their
families and have a 97% parent satisfaction rate."
And it is true
that for some parents, the school has been the answer to their
interviewed one parent who was very satisfied. He had not seen his
son for 14 months, but told Raphael: "I have to believe in these
people, they have helped a lot of children."
Levy's mother Jayne, it was her only hope. "I had to do something
quick because I was fearing for her life," she said. "Desperate
parents do desperate things."
Paradise will be broadcast on Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, at 1930 GMT
on BBC Two.