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Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy

Schools Closed Over Discipline Issues
Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy, in southeast Missouri, and Palm Lane Academy, in Florida, related boarding schools that relied on Christian fundamentalist teachings, strict discipline, and corporal punishment to reform troubled teens, have closed following years of criticism of their practices. Last month, a former student was awarded $20,000 by a jury for an injury suffered at Mountain Park. He alleged that he was falsely imprisoned at the school, that discipline there violated his civil rights, that he was denied outside communications, and that the school let [sic] students sleep as little as five hours a day. [csr 3.3 2004]

The Mountain Park lawyer called the allegations “part of a crusade by a few individuals against fundamentalist Christian schools.” Mountain Park founder, the Rev. Bob Wills, once ran a school in Hattiesburg, MS, that was sued for allegedly paddling pregnant teens and detaining a 19-year-old against her will. A settlement required changes in the school, but Wills closed it and relocated to Missouri. (AP in New York Times, Internet, 5/30/04) [csr 3.3 Schools Closed Over Discipline Issues

Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy, in southeast Missouri, and Palm Lane Academy, in Florida, related boarding schools that relied on Christian fundamentalist teachings, strict discipline, and corporal punishment to reform troubled teens, have closed following years of criticism of their practices. Last month, a former student was awarded $20,000 by a jury for an injury suffered at Mountain Park. He alleged that he was falsely imprisoned at the school, that discipline there violated his civil rights, that he was denied outside communications, and that the school let [sic] students sleep as little as five hours a day. [csr 3.2 2004]

The Mountain Park lawyer called the allegations “part of a crusade by a few individuals against fundamentalist Christian schools.” Mountain Park founder, the Rev. Bob Wills, once ran a school in Hattiesburg, MS, that was sued for allegedly paddling pregnant teens and detaining a 19-year-old against her will. A settlement required changes in the school, but Wills closed it and relocated to Missouri. (AP in New York Times, Internet, 5/30/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

Mountain Park Baptist Academy
Experience in Missouri Reform School
Mountain Park Baptist Academy, near Poplar Bluff, run by Bob and Betty Wills and their family for 25 years, is one of a number of private, Christian reform schools in Missouri for teens from around the country whom their parents can’t control at home.[csr 2.1 2003]

Like many other such schools, the Wills’s “ministry” has been praised by satisfied families, who say that their problem children have been “reclaimed” by the mix of Bible teachings and corporal punishment. But Mountain View has also been condemned by dozens of former students, some of whom say that they now pay therapists to treat the stress they came away with. Former student Carrie Nutt says that the school took her freedom, “down to your ability to express your emotions—who you are and how you feel.”[csr 2.1 2003]

Nutt went only reluctantly to Mountain View, but hoping to end fights with her parents over curfews, marijuana use, and sexual activity. But few teens willingly go there. Some are taken forcibly by “bodyguards” or “transport services” and driven across the country to the school. [csr 2.1 2003]

Nutt’s stay at Mountain View began with sixty seconds to say goodbye to her parents and physical restraint to keep her from leaving with them (so intimidating did the place seems to her). She then exchanged her worldly clothes for more modest attire and was assigned to a student guide who was never more than a few feet away during a lengthy orientation period. She was allowed to speak with virtually no one for the first few weeks and communication with family members was cut off save for 10 minutes every two weeks thereafter. [csr 2.1 2003]

The school’s parent handbook warns them to anticipate student complaints and allegations of mistreatment, and provides a script to deal with confrontations. If children persist, parents are told to hang up. Outgoing mail is screened. Each day follows a rigid schedule with no student control of their time, and they spend hours on religious instruction, being required to memorize three Bible verses daily and study in cubicles at their own pace using workbooks and prepared texts. Many say that they never saw a teacher give a lecture. Punishment for not adhering to the routine includes more chores, “writing out lines,” and paddling. The myriad reasons for punishment included “sullenness.”[csr 2.1 2003]

A Michigan parent who is a lawyer and former social worker feels that the discipline is what her son needs, including isolation from negative peer pressure, something that state-run juvenile programs were unable to provide, she said. Some parents say that limits on mail and phone calls with their children ultimately helped rebuild lines of communication severed by years of rebellion. (Matthew Franck, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Internet, 11/21/02) [csr 2.1 2003]