DOZENS OF BOOT camps for teens across the US are coming in for increasing criticism as online scrutiny forces their practices into the open.
Time Magazine reports that information campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and other websites are helping to shut or police various centres, schools and camps which have, until now, gone practically unregulated by state or federal officials.
One school in Oregon previously came to the attention of authorities after girls, some of whom said they had been victims of sexual abuse, were made to dress in provocative clothing and perform lap dances for male students as a form of therapy. Another Oregon boot camp, the Sagewalk Wilderness Program, hit the headlines when 16-year-old Sergey Blashchishena died of heatstroke after being made to hike in high temperatures carrying a heavy backpack.
A number of schools and camps across the US have been forced to close after parents and students posted and shared stories online. Earlier this month, the Elan School in Portland, Maine became the first institution to blame its closure on internet activity. Former students have described taunting, physical abuse and sleep deprivation being used as disciplinary measures, and one led an online campaign to expose practices at the facility.
Katherine Whitehead, founder of the Community Alliance for the Safe and Ethical Treatment of Youth, told Time Magazine:
The Internet has been absolutely critical because survivors are spread out across the US. They get sent to a program and then they have to go home. When you connect to other program survivors, you recognize that this is a large-scale problem, not an individual program’s problem.