2400 Silver Star Road, Orlando, Florida

June 1985 - August 14, 1992

by Wesley M. Fager (c) 2001


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"While I was in Orlando there was a girl that had bleeding ulcers. I will never forget her or how sick she was.  She vomited blood constantly, at first they would make her sit in group with a bucket (in case she had to get sick). They eventually let her lay down in one of the time out rooms  but they left the door open so she could hear the raps. Then she started having nosebleeds. She went to the doctor several times  but she kept getting worse.  I was her old comer once on an out-of-town weekend when she started vomiting a lot of blood on Saturday. morning. The host mom called staff and told them that she needed to go to a hospital. Staff told her that this girl did this all the time and that she would be fine until Monday. That weekend I spent a lot of time with her.   I can remember her looking at me and telling me that they were going to let her die. Of course I told her she would be fine, but I honestly thought she was going to die and I couldn't help her.  I'm not sure how it happened but she finally got to a hospital and was admitted.  She stayed at least a week. Her parents stayed with her and there was no "Straight supervision".   When she was released from the hospital  I was sent to bring her back to the building.  She looked a lot better but she was still really sick. Her parents took her out of Straight the next day.  I forgot to mention this girl was 13ywars old.
Shannon, a former student at Straight-Orlando, from a post on Kathy Martin's Internet forum


In 1989 200 pound, 16 year-old Rob Dell told a reporter he was used to restrain other children at Straight-Orlando, slamming them to the ground, hitting them as they went down. Ron Markam, a building superintendent reports he saw them hold a girl down while water dripped onto her face (the Chinese water torture). /A 15 year-old girl with a green belt in karate said she was used to restrain others for things like talking out of turn. One day, she says, there was a rap named "Who is garbage today?" She says they placed garbage on a seat next to her and handed her some saying this is your "Academy Award." She started crying.   Straight-Orlando program administrator Michael E. Scaletta admitted that the rap did occur, but "they didn’t use garbage", he says, "just wadded up paper."[1]  Mr. Scaletta had come to Straight-Orlando  in June 1988 as the assistant administrator for financial services.  Just prior to Straight Mr. Scaletta had been the business administrator for another company.  His resume prior to becoming administrator for Straight-Orlando shows a major in Business Administration--but does not indicate he graduated.  Before replacing Michelle Spisak as director of  Straight-Orlando Michael Scaletta had been a pretty big player for Straight's corporate offices and was aware of allegations of abuses at other Straights.   It would be Mr. Scaletta who would sign for Straight a July 6, 1990 consent agreement with the state of Virginia which described 18 specific elements which Straight must demonstrate compliance in, in order for the state to withdraw its notice of intent to renew Straight’s license for violation of human rights. In 1991 Mr. Scaletta was on the distribution of the McClure letter informing Straight that its’ Boston license would not be renewed because of child abuse violations.[2]   On December 12, 1991 Straight-Orlando’s license was placed on a temporary status until April 1, 1992, at which time it was reinstated. According to one published account,  while state investigators questioned clients, Mr. Scaletta allegedly  told "misbehavers" that if they did not tell the state investigators about the abuse at Straight-Orlando, he would give them two days to play games after the investigation was over.[3]  On August 14, 1992 Straight-Orlando closed down. On that very day Michael Scaletta opened Substance Abuse Family Education, Inc. (SAFE), which uses many of the program methods developed or perfected by Straight such as motivating.  The SAFE facility was leased from Straight.   Loretta Parrish, who had been Straight-Orlando's marketing director,  joined him.  Just prior to joining Straight she had worked in real estate and had developed Muffler Man, Inc.  A 1993 document shows her collegiate education to be in  Business Management  but does not claim she has a degree in it.   Today she is the Owner and Executive Director of SAFE.  

Florida HRS site visit report of SAFE  (a  Sembler-based synanon in Orlando, Florida)  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!  In 1993 HRS notified SAFE that the state would impose fines on SAFE for violations of administrative code in particular those revolving around excessive use of restraints.   SAFE felt it was being harassed by the state's health inspectors and sued the state.   Subsequently,  in 1994,   the state of Florida came into an agreement with SAFE which includes,  in part,  the following stipulation: 

"HRS agrees that any of its child abuse protective investigators who have investigated reports of abuse or neglect involving clients or staff of the now closed STRAIGHT program shall not be assigned to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect at S.A.F.E.  Any current investigations involving such HRS protective investigators shall be reassigned to other HRS personnel."[4]

On April 2, 1996 Administrative Hearing Officer Mary Clark, basing her decision in part on the Growing Together vs HRS decision of January 22, 1994 and on Straight vs HRS in 1986 ruled in favor of SAFE.[5]  Today Florida has the infamous  Marchman Act which allows for kids to be placed into a rehab for a 90 day observation period with the force of a court order. Lucy Moore, a former SAFE client, told this writer that she had been ordered into SAFE under four separate Marchman Acts! SAFE has been endorsed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  

But then it seems like Straights and some of their descendents have frequently been at odds with the state agencies empowered to regulate them. See the full story at Behind the Tallahassee Curtain.


1. Orlando Sentinel, 8-13-89, p. B1.

2. Letter from Bette McClure, Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Director Substitute Care Licensing Program, OFC to Debra Dragton, Straight-Boston dated May 3, 1991.

3. "American ‘Drug War’ Fallacy: Straight, Inc." by Richard Bradbury and John Foley in Strategies for Change, New Directions in Drug Policy by The Drug Policy Foundation Press, p. 274.

4. Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, Orange County, Florida, March 17, 1994, Case No. CI 94-407,  paragraph 9,  pp. 9 - 10.

5. Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, case numbers 94-0093 and 95-0659RX