from Nick - Tuesday, December 07, 2004
accessed 2287 times
I found this article on the BBC web site. I can not believe that this is something that is allowed to go on. If you read the article you can see that most of the "teachers" are simply uneducated locals.
This article can be found at
Tranquility Bay: The last resort By Raphael Rowe Reporter, Locked in Paradise
Some parents of rebellious teenagers in the US are turning to privately-owned correctional institutions to steer their wayward children back on the right path. But is this tough love tactic a step too far?
At Tranquility Bay, children have to earn the right to look at the ocean
Perched on the edge of a cliff in Treasure Beach - a remote fishing village in southern Jamaica - there is a hand-painted sign on the wall: "Welcome to Tranquility Bay."
This isolated boarding school is surrounded by security cameras, iron gates, barred windows and high concrete walls.
It looks like a top security prison; but it is neither a prison, nor a juvenile detention centre.
At a cost of between $25,000 (£13,000) and $40,000 (£20,800) a year, parents of unruly teenagers send their children here to learn how to behave.
Tranquility Bay is one of several facilities run by an American business organisation called WWASPS, the World Wide Association of Speciality Programs and Schools.
Desperate parents do desperate things Jayne Levy, mother
According to their website, Tranquility Bay exists "to challenge and motivate the student in a structured, individualised learning environment... so they become mature, responsible and contributing members of society."
The teenagers inside are typically enrolled on the programme for three years, but this varies and largely depends on when the institution, and their parents, think they are fit to graduate.
As I glanced around the institution, some pupils - mostly white Americans dressed in khaki shorts and shirts, and flip flops - walked past me in line, military-style, with vacant expressions.
Not one of them looked at me, not even a peep from the corner of an eye.
Rules of admission
Shannon Levy lived in Tranquility Bay from 2000 to 2002
Fifteen-year-old Shannon Levy's parents arranged for their daughter to be forcibly taken from their home and escorted to Tranquility Bay.
"Three strangers - a lady and two big men - came into my house and sat me down on the sofa," Shannon told me.
"They said I was going to Jamaica and they handcuffed me and said I could co-operate or they were going to throw me over their shoulder. I was screaming for my mom because I had no clue what was going on. I was very scared," she said.
When I asked Shannon's mother Jayne why she felt the need to send her daughter to a school reputed for its harsh treatment of pupils, she simply said: "Desperate parents do desperate things."
Shannon had disrespected her mother, was sleeping around, drinking alcohol, smoking pot and not doing well at school.
Arguably, most of the children sent to the school flaunt typical teenage behaviour.
In order to recondition these children, once inside, they are completely cut off from their home life.
They are not permitted to talk to their families until they conform to the programme - which is a reward and punishment system.
If you do what you are told, when you are told to do it - and do it the way the programme says you should - you earn points.
Children must lie in silence in OP
These points move you up to the next level in a "six-point plan", a method of acquiring "privileges".
If you do not obey the rules, or as one former student told me, you cannot do what is required of you, you have to face the consequences.
One consequence is being sent to Observational Placement, or what is known to the kids as OP.
On my way to the OP room I caught a glimpse of the sleeping dorms.
They were furnished sparingly with thin, lumpy mattresses on wooden bed frames that fold up against the wall, and wooden shelves on which children have attempted to neatly fold the few items of clothing they are issued.
In OP the children are made to lie on thin plastic mats on the floor, all day, sometimes day after day. They eat, sleep and stay in the room until the staff members guarding them decide they can leave.
Shannon Levy told me she spent eight weeks in OP.
To continue their education, the children work from text books and are partly self-taught.
Kids are guarded during self-study
If they fail a test exam they do it again and again until they pass.
Staff members are not trained teachers in all the subjects they supervise and are often recruited from the local community.
During meals, students are bombarded with self-improvement messages over the tannoy. They are played over and over again.
The children must then write essays about what they have learnt straight afterwards.
Despite its hard and strict methods, many parents like Megan Quinn - who placed her son in the school - are pleased with the results.
Megan told me: "If it wasn't for the God-sent gift of this programme you'd be going to the lakeshore of Chicago where my father's buried, where my sister's buried, and putting flowers on his grave. So yes it hurts right now not to see him for 12 months but it would hurt a heck of a lot more not to see him for the rest of his life."
Other parents are not so convinced and taking legal action against WWASPs. "It was an act of desperation... and we were conned," said Julie Wilkinson, mother of ex-student Winston.
Concerns about the school's methods have also been raised by Bertrand Bainvel, head of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), based in Jamaica. He wants OP scrapped, because he says: "There is a high possibility it falls under the definition of child abuse."
In response to the criticism, WWASPs say: "The schools have a tremendous record of success and growth. They have helped thousands of teens and their families and have a 97% parent satisfaction rate."
I began to consider a conversation I had earlier with the uncle of one young female student, as he tried to make his way past security to visit her.
"They're criminalising adolescence," he said, and as I walked out of the gate beyond the high walls into the full tropical sunlight, I wondered if he was right.
Locked in Paradise will be broadcast on Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, at 1930 GMT on BBC Two.