Back in January, I relayed the news that Randall Hinton had been arrested for abusive behavior towards a female student in his care. Class-action suits have been filed against teen programs in which Robert Lichfield has a financial interest.
Now, according to the Cañon City Daily Record, a counter-suit has been filed. Attorneys representing the Royal Gorge Academy have filed suit, alleging that government agencies in Colorado have both libelled and slandered the school.
This seems to be par for the Lichfield interests.
Academy alleges libel, slander by Vic Vela, in the Cañon City Daily Record
Royal Gorge Academy attorneys have submitted a notice to several local government entities, claiming the private school was the victim of libel and slander, and are asking the defendants involved to pay $1 million dollars in damages.
The notice was received this week by Cañon City and Fremont County officials, including City Attorney John Havens and County Attorney Brenda Jackson, as well as Cañon City Police Department and the Department of Human Services.
The Pueblo law firm of Gradisar, Trechter, Ripperger, Roth and Croshal, which represents the Academy, claims the school’s “reputation... has been damaged and has suffered financial loss” because of a January Cañon City Police Department investigation into Academy co-director Randall Hinton.
The notice states CCPD and DHS representatives, during the course of the Hinton investigation, “advised” students’ parents “to remove their children from the (school) and libeled and slandered the Royal Gorge Academy.”
Among the “untrue statements” made by officials were that the Academy was not an accredited school and that a diploma from the institution would have “no more value than a GED,” the notice alleges.
Here's a primer on accreditation. Royal Gorge is accredited by NAAS, but it certainly isn't as rigorous a process as WASC asks of its schools. ([Ivy Ridge" "belong to WWASPS," Mr. Steadman said. "It was WWASPS that asked us to accredit them; we accredit all of their schools.")
[The suit by Royal Gorge] also states CCPD and DHS investigators told parents “that the quality of education at the Royal Gorge Academy was inferior.”
I'd second that opinion. Royal Gorge's academics are not up to the standard one would expect from a private boarding school.
The school claims “numerous parents removed their children from the Royal Gorge Academy, causing financial loss.”
The notice complies with the Colorado Government Immunity Act, which, per the state statute, requires a party that believes it has suffered injury by a government entity to file a written notice of the alleged claim within 180 days of the date of the injury.
The notice has been filed with the state attorney general’s office as well, per requirement of the statute.
No lawsuit has been filed at this point in the process. But, the notice preserves the plaintiff’s right to file suit, if necessary.
Havens would not comment on the merits of the complaint, but said such matters often include parties that may not necessarily ultimately be involved in a potential lawsuit.
“In order to preserve the right to file suit, a lot of plaintiffs’ attorneys get out the shotgun and put as many parties as they can on notice.”
Phone calls placed to plaintiffs’ attorneys requesting further information were not returned by press time.
The Academy opened in Cañon City in the spring of 2006. The school houses teenagers who have been sent to the school by their guardians for various reasons, including behavioral and academic problems.
Hinton currently faces misdemeanor assault and false imprisonment charges stemming from allegations that he was abusive toward students at the boarding school.
Hinton is scheduled to appear in county court Aug. 27 for the start of a trial where he faces seven counts of third-degree assault and two counts of false imprisonment.
Hinton has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
There are two suits going against the organizations Robert Lichfield has invested in. One is specific to Ivy Ridge; the other is broader.
General class action suit (The "Wood Complaint"): (defendants include Lichfield, Ken Kay, Karr Farnsworth, David Gilcrease, and "John Does I through XX).
I imagine Hinton will be one of the Does. The amended complaint:
If you want to join the suit, go to http://www.wturley.com/
Ivy Ridge class action suit:
Previous Posts on WWASPS and WWASPS-related issues:
- Challenge Day & WWASPS --March 30 2005
- Thinking of Sending Your Troubled Teen to a Boot Camp? -- March 31, 2005
- Boonville Says No to WWASPS--April 10 2005
- The Enduring Lure of "Gunny Therapy" -- April 15, 2005
- Riot at Ivy Ridge--June 8 2005
- The Road to Whatever -- July 2005
- Academy at Ivy Ridge--August 23, 2005
- Why "Therapeutic Schools" are Booming January 2 2006
- Advice for Parents Looking for A Therapeutic School -- January 21, 2005
- Maia Szalavitz On Debunking "Tough Love" Schools -- April 11 2006
- WWASPS Suit--September 6 2006
- Exploitation of Youth and Families December 6 2006
- Ivy Ridge "Not A School" -- December 7 2006
- On Accreditation -- December 11 2006
- Northwest Association of Accredited Schools -- December 11 2006
- Randall Hinton, WWASPS Heavy, Arrested for Abuse -- January 12, 2007
- What Alternatives Are There for Parents of Troubled Teens?-- January 13, 2007
- Randall Hinton's Qualifications and Biography--January 13, 2007
- Patty Pacheco, Whistle-blower at Royal Gorge Academy -- January 29, 2007
- Royal Gorge Academy in the News--March 20, 2007
- Four Students Flee Ivy Ridge--March 20, 2007
- Robert Lichfield, One of Mitt Romney's Money Men, Has Legal Troubles -- June 22, 2007
Series on Questions Parents Should Ask Before Enrolling A Child in a NonPublic School:
- NonPublic Schools: Part I--Overview
- NonPublic Schools--Part II Evaluating Mission, Values, & Goodness of Fit for Your Child
- NonPublic Schools--Part III Faculty and Staff Qualifications
- NonPublic Schools--Part IV: Evaluating Academic Program
- NonPublic Schools:Part V--On Accreditation
- NonPublic Schools:Part VI--More Detail on Financial Issues: IRS Status
Other Sources of Information:
- Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (CAICA)--Royal Gorge Index
- International Survivors Action Committee ISAC --WWASPS Index
- WaspsInfo.net ("home of all the information WWASPS wants you to ignore.") --includes Randall Hinton's bio
- NoSpank on residential treatment
- Community Alliance on Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY)
- John Gorenfeld on Tranquility Bay
- John Gorenfield's writings on boot camp abuse
- List of Organizations Opposing "Therapeutic Schools" and "Specialty Schools"