SAFE II continued



BACKGROUND.� In early June 2002 survivors of Straight (and some Straight legacy programs) met with survivors of other controversial juvenile treatment programs at a conference in Saint Petersburg, Florida. From this august assemblage of like-minded individuals, a new organization has been formed called SAFETY NET. Samantha Monroe, a survivor of Straight - Sarasota, has been elected interim executive director. Later in June SAFETY NET learned that SAFE, a Straight legacy program in Orlando, Florida had been served a summons from federal district court in Orlando, Florida for a suit charging negligence; false imprisonment; breach of written contract; fraud; violations of the racketeering influenced corrupt organizations act (R.I.C.O.). One week later SAFETY NET officers and the Oakton Institute learned that the U. S. Supreme Court had passed a decision to allow school officials to administer supicionless drug testing to any student involved in any extra-curricular school activity. SAFETY NET and the Oakton Institute were enraged to learn that the court's decision had been influenced by DFAF (which is what Straight Foundation now calls itself) and DFAF partners. One of the initiatives of SAFETY NET is to educate the public about treatment abuse. Consequently a decision was made to protest SAFE on June 12, and to protest designated sites in the Washington, DC area on June 18. For more on the SAFE story go here.  

At 5PM on July 12, 2002 Sammie Monroe, executive  director of the newly formed Survivors and Friends for the Ethical Treatment of Youth Network or S.A.F.E.T.Y. Net,  walked up to a group of SAFE parents who were looking  over a vintage T-Bird one of them had donated for a SAFE raffle.  The parents looked up and smiled for the cameraman thinking, perhaps,  he was a supporter.  But quickly the parents started moving away from the crowd of protesters who were quickly converging upon them.   The following report was snagged from The Seed Forum by a protester named GregFL.  Any comments added by the editorial staff at theStraights dot com are noted.  Hyperlinks were made by the editorial staff.  An invitation is extended to Brian Seeber of SAFE (or to anyone else from SAFE who witnessed the protest) to write-up their perception of the event.

It is 1:20 AM and I just rolled in from the protest of SAFE in Orlando, FL. First, a little background for those of you that don't know. SAFE is a direct descendent of the Straight- rehab program operating in Orlando. SAFE uses substantially the same methods as the Seed and Straight did with a few tweaks. Several years ago WAMI did a segment on SAFE that was highly critical of the methods. Around the same time we became aware of a kid named Weaver in the program that had broken ties with his mom who was distraught, and another kid named Jeff who says he had suffered severe abuse at the hands of SAFE. We got together and had our first-ever Straight survivors protest. Tonight was the second protest. We arrived at the staging area around 4:00 pm and about 20 Straight and Seed survivors were there with a SAFE survivor and our friend Jeff, who has now grown into quite a young man. We then proceeded to SAFE and set up our protest on the edge of the parking lot. Loretta Parrish, the director of SAFE, recently resigned. The person left in charge was a parent of former SAFE members named Brian Seeber. Brian is an attorney from Maryland and a quiet type of fellow. There is a whole group of kids from Maryland in SAFE. I told him that we intended to have a peaceful demonstration, that we wanted our side of the story told and he agreed and shook my hand. 

For Several hours we spoke to parents coming into open meeting, spoke to local residents and merchants, and "bullhorned" the group so the kids could hear our support. Sammie did an excellent job of letting them hear that we thought certain things they were experiencing were abusive. We told parents that they were involved in a cult, that if their kids had a real drug problem they should bring them home and find a better way. Our reception was of course mixed by the parents. During the course of the meeting, Weaver drove up and parked by us! I introduced myself and had a great talk with him. He is off the program, in touch with his mom (yeah) and seems to be critically thinking about what he went through. Big event for those of us that have been pulling for his mom and him to reconcile. [Weaver's mother is Alba Murphy. She feels the nervous breakdown she had stems from her estrangement from her son over SAFE. Her web page is here. Ed]  Jeff was having a good time confronting his tormentors and was feeling confident and looking and feeling good. (Double yeah).

Around 8:30, Jodi James [ed: Democratic Candidate for Melbourne and Palm Bay, FL House-District 31] and I decided to ask if we could observe the open meeting. We were met at the front door and told to leave or the police would be called. I asked if we could observe open meeting, was told no, and we left. Several minutes later the police showed up and told us SAFE wanted us arrested for trespassing [but there were no arrests]. They also told us it was against the law to bullhorn without a permit. Jodi challenged that assertion and asked for the statute. After not being able to produce it, we were allowed to resume. The police left and told us to stay off their property and we agreed. [The officer in charge apparently was Officer Weisner who filed report 02-069473. Ed.]

Around 10:00 they started driving around the back and taking the newcomers out in a way they wouldn't see us. Some of us decided to go around that way and let the kids know we supported them. While back behind SAFE on the adjacent property, Sammy and Carrie witnessed a kid come out of SAFE, try to run and be physically thrown into a car, restrained. They started yelling for someone to call the police and several of us, including Doc and I, ran back there to see what was going on. The ladies stood in the way of the vehicle that had the restrained kid in it, and Jodi walked over to intervene. [Dave "Doc" English called 911 and reported the incident to the police.  He read the Maryland license tag off to the police as he was looking at it. Ed.]  This is when all hell broke loose. The SAFE parents came out spewing program hatred, one of them got in Jodi's face and in a typical program confrontation, yelled in her face . . .  His veins were bulging and hate was spewing. I yelled at him to get out of her face. Things started happening fast. I got into a verbal exchange with Seeber, parents started yelling and confronting the girls to move, someone through a football block at Doc, I yelled at him and he disappeared back into the SAFE crowd. Ex SAFE staff members had a camera rolling and agreed to show it to the police and said they saw the whole thing. We continued to block the car and called the police. They put the car in reverse and started leaving just as the police arrived. I requested that they review the video and arrest the person who assaulted Doc. Unfortunately, the video, shot at dark, wasn't clear. Jodi was issued a trespassing warning. We demanded a report be taken to investigate the abuse of the child we saw. SAFE claimed it was a kid clowning around and produced a kid claiming it was he. Sammy filled out a report because someone had pushed her in the breast and did something to her foot. Seeber and I exchanged words and I encouraged him to drop the modality and admonished him for the cult-like behavior of his parents and followers. He was "talked to" right up and until the time he got in his car and left.

Sometime around 11:00 we broke up and went our separate ways. Several of the women were understandably upset at witnessing the restraint and at our inability to get the police to do anything. This was, to date, the most awesome, effective protest we have had yet. And it won't be the last, SAFE. Mr. Seeber, if you are reading this, and I am reasonably sure you will, take note. We are here, we know what goes on in there, and we intend on letting the world know. The story being told about us confusing Straight and SAFE is erroneous. We know where all the steps come from, the yelling "I'm coming home", the motivating, the chairs, the open meeting, the confessions, mic talk, the bathroom privileges, the earned affection of your family, the moral inventories. We KNOW what goes on in SAFE and we know where it came from. Many of us suffered under the same modality years and years ago. Change the modality of SAFE or be prepared to deal with us, the truth brokers.

Final thought: I truly believe that SAFE is on its last legs. The group size is small, the support fractured, and they are embroiled in a lawsuit that alleges, among other things, abuse and violations of the RICO act. 

Thank you for this timely report Greg.  We at the Oakton Institute want to ditto your sentiments that we are here to tell the world about Straight and its legacy.  Our rationale for protesting some Straight legacy programs is documented here.  As for the allegation that an individual attempted to leave the program but was restrained,  that causes great concern for any Straight survivor.  Here's why.  Bobby had been in Straight - Sarasota.  He escaped but was brought back.  Read what they did to him here.  That is not to say that that is how SAFE handles those who attempt  to run away.  It only says that Straight,  SAFE's predecessor,  did that.  In Straight child clients restrained child clients. Kids can't lawfully restrain kids. Look at the current scandal involving the police in Inglewood, California. The police are specially trained in the use of restraint. How to use it, when to use it. And yet, apparently, even they can make mistakes as the Inglewood film shows. In licensed rehabilitation programs in the other 49 states, paid counselors, who are trained in how to give restraints, may, under certain conditions, use restraints. But unpaid kids can't administer restraints.  Or at least should not be able to restrain other kids.  So who did the restraining,  if someone was restrained?   According to Cincinnati Magazine of August 1987, in February 1986 an Ohio Bureau of Drug Abuse investigative team witnessed four un-necessary physical restraints during one 20 minute period at Straight - Cincinnati.  A Florida HRS site visit report of SAFE conducted between July 6 - 8 and July 13 - 15, 1993 found that during the 30 day period leading up to the state investigation there had been approximately 29 "reported" incidents of restraint while only 1 reported incidence of restraint at all other juvenile drug rehabs in the district combined! These data concern us. If a client was detained leaving SAFE on July 12, then whether said client was court ordered or not, kids still can not detain kids. Can they? If the incident did occur, then how old was the detainee? If he is an adult, (i.e. over 18) then what would that mean? There are a lot of questions to be answered by the police and Children and Families seems to us.