Leaving WWASPS’ nest 

On June 23, Spring Creek Lodge Academy, a private behavior modification boarding school for teens near Thompson Falls, announced that it’s pulling out of the embattled World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS). According to the press release issued earlier this month, Spring Creek’s decision to split from WWASPS was based, in part, on “significant media scrutiny” the association has received over the years.

That’s the same reason director Jason Finlinson gave last January when he announced that The Academy at Ivy Ridge in New York state would be withdrawing from WWASPS.

According to WWASPS, only four schools remain in the association, which once claimed at least nine member schools worldwide.

Hundreds of articles have sprung up both in the American and international press in recent years focusing attention on WWASPS’ troubles, which have included student revolts, government shutdowns at two schools, several federal and state lawsuits and an investigation by the New York state attorney general’s office.

“I think WWASPS has had a few problems in the past, and so [Spring Creek and Ivy Ridge] wanted to go it alone,” says Andrew Laing, a spokesperson with WWASPS’ Denver, Colo.-based PR firm.

Spring Creek’s assistant director, Chaffin Pullan, referred in a press release to the school’s association with WWASPS as “a positive relationship that initially provided us with a very supportive network.” He says he doesn’t expect significant changes in the school’s day-to-day operations as a result of the split.

But Shelby Earnshaw, director of the watchdog International Survivors Action Committee, says she doesn’t believe Spring Creek or Ivy Ridge is serious about seeking any real independence from WWASPS. She says the schools and WWASPS are one and the same.

“You cannot un-affiliate from yourself; it cannot be done,” says Earnshaw, noting that the press release was issued by WWASPS’ own PR firm. “I don’t think WWASPS is so much the problem as are the programs those schools employ. And that’s not going to change.”

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