Biblical Reform School Discipline: Tough Love or Abuse?


She showed photos of the name changes from Rebekah Home for Girls to New Beginnings Rebekah Academy to New Beginnings Girls Academy.

Campbell said McNamara was in charge during that period. When called him to ask about charges of abuse at the school, he would only say, "I cannot speak to any of those things -- the truth will be known."

Campbell had grown up in foster care, but went to live with her sister, who was a recent IFB convert.

At 15, after rebelling against the Christian household -- listening to secular music and wearing black -- she said she was sent to reform school.

"It was brutally psychologically and physically abusive," she said of both the Missouri and Florida programs.

"The worst part personally was during the first year through the process of breaking you down and getting you to submit to their way of life," she said.

Campbell said the staff pitted girls against girls, often having them pinned down by their peers for discipline -- "a tool to discourage camaraderie."

Cut off from family and friends for so long, Campbell said she had a hard transition back to the real world.

Today, Campbell lives in Massachusetts and is administrator of a Facebook group, NBGA: Proactive Survivors of New Beginnings Girls Academy, which has 65 members and writes a blog.

She is also the administrator of SIA-NOW, an organization that is planning a convention of participants of these boarding schools next year. Campbell said many of them reported post-traumatic stress disorder after their school experiences.

It was websites like those that Donna Maddox said caught her attention three months after she sent her 15-year-old daughter Kelsey to Circle of Hope Ranch in Humansville, Mo., in 2007, then returned to "rescue" her.

Maddox, 42, said she was hesitant to believe Kelsey's claims of abuse at the school, but saw testimonies from former students that scared her.

"We were told everything we wanted to hear, but nothing was as it was portrayed."

She provided with photos of dirty facilities, beds made only of plywood with a thin foam cover and bruises on her daughter's feet from working the ranch in shoes so old the soles were tearing away.

She said the school charged $300 in uniform fees.

Desperate Parents Look to Church For Help

Previously, Kelsey had been a good student, but was sent away because she began "getting involved in the wrong crowd," according to Maddox.

"I was really scared because my family has a history of abusing drugs and alcohol," she said. "I had seen so many horrendous things and how it tears up a family and I didn't want it to happen to one of my children."

Maddox found the school on the Internet and said a referral agency backed up their claims.

But Kelsey, now 18, said that from day one, she "felt like a slave."

"Every day I would wake up at 4 or 5 and start working the farm feeding animals, picking up the hay in barbed wire and walking five miles so you can make more money. I never did any school work."

Once, she said she was forced to do hundreds of push-ups and failed. As punishment, she said eight girls were told to jump on her and restrain her, smashing her face into the carpet.

After she returned home with her school books, Maddox said only 18 pages had been completed in three months.

"It is unimaginable in America," she said.

The director, Boyd C. Householder, said his lawyer advised him not to talk to reporters by telephone.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...