Straight-Saint Petersburg, Florida
where the virus started



Morgan Yaught where East meets West.  The original Straight Seventh of May Academy was located at 700 43rd St. S.  which is shown in the photo above taken by Fred Victorin of the Saint Petersburg Independent for the September 2, 1976 edition of that paper (flags were over-layed by the author).    The building was known as Morgan Yaught.   Though Straight was incorporated on April 22, 1976,  it did not open for business until  September 1.  There were five students.  The building had been donated by  Theodore Anderson, the president of a lumber company, who later joined the board of directors.  By May of the following year Straight had outgrown the wooden structure and started operating out of  a giant metal warehouse in a somewhat desolate area off Starkey Road at 4950 � Park St. N.  And then in July 1980 Straight moved into its final home in Pinellas County at 3001 Gandy Blvd. 


  Some Alleged Abuses at Straight-Saint Petersburg.  Almost immediately there were complaints of child abuse which would continue to plague Straight for the next 17 years.  Board member Theodore Anderson, who had donated the original building, was among six board members who resigned from Straight within the first 16 months of its opening.  At his resignation he had remarked:
"It  [Straight] has many of the poor points of The Seed and few of the good points.  If I had to recommend one I�d recommend The Seed!"


The Leigh Bright Story.  Let me tell you the story of one former client in Straight.   Leigh Bright  was a Virginia teenager who was in Straight's re-education center in Saint Petersburg, Florida  in 1982.  Her story comes from her court testimony and from an accounting by Dr. Arnold Trebach in The Great Drug War.  Ms Bright testified that she has arthritis and was having problems doing her exercises at Straight, Inc. in June 1982, so she was taken into a shower stall to exercise where she was marathoned [Bomb Squad] by staff and old comers  who started pushing her around the stall.  She testified that they picked her up and threw her to the floor. One girl pulled her up and down by the hair until her head was numb. She kept telling them she had to go to the bathroom, but they wouldn�t let her go. When they  finally did, they kept trying to pull her off the commode as she was using it.   When she had finished,  she stated,  a girl started twisting her arm until another girl told her to stop or she would break it. They made her use a paper towel to scoop her own feces  out of the toilet. After three hours of this she was forcefully taken to stand before the GROUP of 600 Straight kids where kids would stand up and say she was no good. One old comer yelled for the GROUP to leave her alone when Straight�s national clinical director, Reverend Doctor V. Miller Newton went over and started screaming at the girl. Two girls came up and put their hands over Leigh�s mouth so she couldn�t breathe. Dr Newton, who was an ordained minister, in front of 600 kids, grabbed Ms. Bright by her hair and threw her to the floor stating, "I want this girl the fuck out of my GROUP." She was taken into the intake room where Dr Newton told the old comers to keep her awake until Monday night. Since this occurred on a Saturday, Ms Bright was kept awoke for 80 hours, during which time girls would push her and make her stand for 12 hours at a time all the while calling her a whore. Finally on Monday night she was allowed 3 hours sleep.  On another occasion Ms Bright testified she had to stand through an entire rap with her back bent half-way to the GROUP. When she tried to bend her legs to relieve the ache five girls restrained her by putting her on the floor and sitting on her for over and hour. 

Synanon Church,  Straight's progenitor, had its own cult doctors (and attorneys).  It was these doctors who performed the mass sterilizations on all the male Synanites.  But if a Synanite kid had to go to a specialist off-site,  the child was taken by a parent other than his own.  Straight is a cult which places  emphasis on recruiting parents with special backgrounds especially medical doctors, dentist, nurses,  and attorneys.  The child must be controlled at all times as to what he could tell an outsider.  If a child gets sick then he is sent to a program doctor (preferably one has had one of his own kids in the cult so that he has been conditioned never to believe anything a "druggie" says bad about Straight.)  Or the child is sent to a doctor accompanied by an adult program official or a parent other than his own, and escorted by a same-sex old comer who actually follows the sick child into the doctor's examining room telling the doctor the child is a "druggie", subject to  violence,  and she is there to protect the doctor should the client "act out".  This logic closed down Straight-Southern California.  When a big burly doctor was told this about a quite, little girl he told the old comer to take a hike.  This big man just sort of felt he could protect himself from being beaten up by a little girl!  Alone with an outsider for the first time the little girl told a chilling story of horror including having a sock crammed down her throat to silence her screams. 

There is a third option.  Especially abused students may be denied medical attention at all--or at least until their condition becomes life threatening or until a cult specialist doctor is recruited for her particular ailment.  (And all the while attempts are being made to extort embarrassing,  hand-written confessions from all the students which could be held against them should they reveal the abuses to a parent,  a judge, or a medical doctor.)  Ms Bright testified that she had a bladder infection when she entered Straight in May  but Straight wouldn�t let her go to a doctor. Finally in June Straight let her see a doctor because she had doubled over and started crying. The doctor gave her a prescription for a vaginal infection  but Straight did not give her the medicine until July. On another occasion she reported she had excruciating pain in her ears whenever she opened her mouth  but again Straight would not let her see a doctor. When Straight finally did let her see a doctor, he said she had a bone problem and needed to see an orthodontist. In the meantime he told her to eat soft foods. Straight did not give her soft foods  nor they let her see an orthodontist. Ms Bright remembered another girl who was not allowed to see an orthodontist. That girl, Ms. Bright reported, had such a bad problem with her braces that she went around with the entire wire sticking out of her mouth!   [In an unannounced site visit by officials from Virginia�s Department of Mental Health  conducted on February 14-15, 1990 client interviewee # 3 reported that she had had orthodonal surgery just prior to entering Straight and usually sees an orthodontist once a month, but had not seen an orthodontists in four months at Straight. Her teeth bleed when brushing, she reported,  because she did not have a special toothbrush to use with braces. She reported to authorities that she believed she could not see an orthodontist until she made Phase 2.]

One day, Ms. Bright says, she related to her old comer that she wanted to commit suicide [not surprisingly]. Later, her old comer stood her up in front of GROUP and announced that Leigh wanted to commit suicide, whereupon GROUP started mocking her. After that, for almost a week, she was made to wear a blue shirt with he words PSYCHOTIC written on it. Whenever parents were around like at Open Meeting, Straight would make her take the shirt off. After that, Ms Bright testified, she never talked about suicidal thoughts to anyone. 



1990s.  R. S. alleges that he was taken to the hospital after being beaten at Straight along with another boy who was beaten so badly that he suffered a concussion.  *Jane Doe and her brother are former Straightlings who went on to become staff members.   Later she claimed that  she was  beaten at Straight and that her brother suffered emotional abuse. *J. D. and his wife  allege that their daughter was beaten at Straight-St Petersburg.  *Michael T. Keen sued Straight-St Pete for forcing him to enroll in Straight even though he claimed he was neither addicted to or using any drugs.  *J. Y. suffered depression after Straight. *Straight lost its suit against J. D.  (#85001827CI) for committing a "wrongful act" against him.

1980s.  When Reverend Doctor2 Miller Newton left Straight in the early 1980s to setup his own Straight-like chain in New Jersey,  he left behind this trail of abuse accusations.  His flagship program,  Kids of North Jersey,  finally closed in 2000 after 17 years of allegations of abuse and some criminal convictions of his counselors, culminating in a $4.5 million out-of-court settlement with one former client.  All of his expansion programs closed under state investigations including his Kids of Southern California which closed amidst a state criminal investigation in 1988.  Straight immediately moved into the facility and was closed a year later by the state for criminal child abuse.   

Marcy Sizemore filed an affidavit with Fairfax Virginia Circuit Court saying that while she was being "marathoned" by six girls at Straight-St-Pete she was taken to the bathroom and made to stand on her feet for 9 � hours while they verbally abused her, beat her, punched her, threw her against the wall, and placed their fingers under her collar bone and twisted the bone. Two girls held her arms while a third repeatedly ran across the room and rammed her head into her stomach. She passed out twice and was kicked and forced back on her feet. When she asked for water, they poured it on her head.  *In 1987 HRS received a complaint that a kid ran from Straight only to be brought back in handcuffs by a sheriff deputy.   *Leigh Bright (from sworn court deposition) says she was picked up and thrown to the bathroom floor, pulled up by hair till head numb, made to pull excrement out of toilet with a paper towel. She says that Straight�s director Miller Newton grabbed her by her hair and threw her and had her kept awoke for 80 hours straight, and that she was denied medication. Not surprisingly, she began to think of killing herself, and when she admitted this to an old comer she says she was made to wear a shirt with PSYCHOTIC on it.

R. D.  alleges that in June 1989 he was thrown to the floor and knocked unconscious. He was carried to the hospital which did a cat scan, administered three stitches, and determined he had a concussion. This was only one of approximately five concussions Mr. Dietz says he received at Straight, all requiring hospital visits. J. M., a 1989 Straight graduate, confirmed Dietz�s allegations in a letter he wrote to HRS.

L. T. was admitted to Straight in 1989 for depression. He was restrained on numerous occasions for refusing to admit to drug usage even though a drug test 4 days prior to entry was negative. A doctor found contusions, bruises and a sprained back. Bryon Schouppe of Florida Protective Services and a Straight staffer confirmed that L. T. had been restrained.

1970s.  Jerry Vancil, age 17, escaped in 1977 and went to the press. He claimed he was beaten by several old comers who after the beating hugged him and told him they loved him Several old comers confirmed the incident but said they had not beaten Jerry. One said they had only patted him with their hands; another said that Jerry was hitting them. The state opened an investigation but closed it when Jerry Vancil, disappeared. The author has found no trace of Jerry Vancil (dead or alive) since his disappearance.  *A woman named Brenda came forward in 1991alleging she had been one of the first clients at Straight in 1976. She says the only drug she used before Straight was marijuana--twice--but because of her treatment at Straight, which included being restrained in a straight-jacket, she lost her self esteem and turned to heavy drug use.