SPOKESMAN-REVIEW Newsfiles on Rocky Mountain Academy (1994-1999)

Tuesday, July 19, 1994

BOY HANGS HIMSELF IN DORMITORY

Section: THE HANDLE  - Page: B3

Author: Kevin Keating Staff writer

A 16-year-old Rocky Mountain Academy student hanged himself in a dorm at the private school

Friday, authorities said.

The boy, who was from Richardson, Texas, was found by another student at the secluded Boundary

County school. The boy's name was not released.

He apparently tied a belt to a pipe on an overhead sprinkler system and hanged himself, said

Boundary County Sheriff Bruce Whittaker. He was found about 7:30 p.m.

Staff at the school for troubled teens tried to revive the boy and called for an ambulance. Whittaker

said the teenager was pronounced dead a short time later at Boundary County Community Hospital.

 

The death is still under investigation. Several reports said the boy may have been taking medication

for manic depression. Authorities would not comment on any details until the investigation is

complete. Richard Geiger, program administrator at Rocky Mountain Academy declined to comment Monday.

The private school specializes in teens who have had trouble at home or are drug and alcohol

abusers.

 

About 140 students, ages 13 to 18, are enrolled at the school, which commands a tuition of more

than $3,500 a month.

Students who have attended the school in the past include Barbara Walters' daughter and Roseanne

Arnold's two daughters.

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Monday, June 3, 1996

A 6-FOOT-5-INCH PERSUADER

`INTERVENTION SPECIALIST' WILL RETRIEVE

REBELLIOUS TEENS, TAKE THEM TO PROGRAMS

Section: MAIN NEWS

Page: A1

Author: By Julie Titone Staff writer

Illustration: Color photo

Caption: Armstrong

When parents are at the end of their ropes, they call Richard Armstrong to lasso their troubled teenagers and get

them to a camp or school.

He's an intervention specialist.

 

Part counselor and part detective, Armstrong and others like him are hired to get kids safely into programs where

they can be helped.

``One boy - we literally had to carry him out of the house,'' Armstrong recalls. ``At the car, he was crying. By the

airplane, he could walk. By the time we got him to the wilderness program, he gave us a hug and says, `I can do

that'''- meaning, he could handle going into the program.

Sometimes called ``transport agents,'' intervention specialists are not kiddie kidnappers. So say the consultants

who help parents find programs for their teens.

``It's not four big guys in black with handcuffs,'' says consultant Linda Shaffer of Sandpoint.

Some may rely too much on physical control, she acknowledges, because they don't know how to defuse tense

situations with words alone.

In most states, Armstrong contends, children can be taken against their will at their parents' request until they are

18. In Washington, only law officers can take someone over age 13 by force.

But police usually look the other way, Armstrong says. They are relieved that parents are dealing with the

problem.

Nine out of 10 times, parents take their kids to an emotional growth school or camp.

That's ideal, Shaffer says. ``But some are convinced it would be almost impossible without wrestling around on

the front lawn, without a scene at the airport.''

Armstrong can wrestle if need be. He's a solid 6 feet 5, studied self-defense and will restrain a teen who's hurting

himself or threatening someone.

Mostly, Armstrong talks. Mostly, the kids listen.

``I tell them, `I know you don't like this situation. I do understand. I'm a parent, and parents can make mistakes,

but you need to get a grip.'''

Armstrong, 46, has two daughters. He lives in the North Idaho woods, where he settled in 1979 after doing ``a lot

of Jack London things,'' such as mining in central Idaho and salmon fishing in Alaska.

In 1982, he was hired as a counselor for Rocky Mountain Academy. He stayed for seven years before working

with another wilderness program.

Then he went to work for himself.

``In 1990, no one else was doing intervention,'' he says. ``The only options then were to have them arrested or put

them in a hospital.''

Armstrong calls his business Boundary Lines, for the county where he lives and the limits that teenagers need.

He has retrieved kids from all over the United States as well as from Canada, Italy and Japan.

Armstrong will quote individual estimates for his services but won't cite an average figure. Costs vary a lot, he

says, depending on how long a job takes and whether he needs help.

Intervention specialists charge up to $65 per hour plus expenses, say education consultants.

Consultant Lon Woodbury recalls one who ``extracted'' a girl from a crack house where her boyfriend was the

ringleader.

``The police were talking about putting on bulletproof vests and storming the place,'' Woodbury says. ``He

managed to get her before things exploded and charged $5,000 - which, considering the skills required and risks

taken, wasn't an overcharge.''

But there are jobs Armstrong won't take.

``I don't go into strangers' houses and grab kids. That's dangerous. That's stupidity,'' he says. ``It's different if the

cops go first, if the parents are there.''

Armstrong is wary if parents don't want to be involved. One or both should be there to explain what's happening,

he says.

``Parents need to tell the child they are concerned about their well-being, to say `Richard is here to assist you in

getting there safely.'''

He counts on people to be upfront about what's going on in the family.

``Sometimes parents lie to me or forget to say something. So on the morning I'm going to their home to help with

their 17-year-old, they say, `By the way, my son got picked up last week on an illegal weapons charge.' ... What

was that, now, an Uzi?''

Armstrong describes his work as emotionally charged.

``When I do one of these high-intensity things, it takes me a while to recover.

``It's a tough time. It's a tough time for the kid.''

 

 

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Thursday, June 13, 1996

 

 

WILDERNESS SCHOOLS NEED SELF-POLICING

Section: THE REGION

Page: B6

Author: D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

 

Column: Our view

Wilderness therapy programs have had their successes.

For example, sweethearts Lee Cunningham and Anna Seymour of Bonner County, Idaho, owe much to the

Rocky Mountain Academy in neighboring Boundary County for helping them turn their lives around. Said

Lee: ``If it wasn't for that school, there's no telling where I would be. I learned a very good work ethic. I learned

what true friendship is about.''

Yet, a cloud hangs over such programs.

 

Four teenagers have died in the past five years while participating in survival-type therapy. Employees of a

Utah program will stand trial this year on charges involving the death of a 16-year-old during a desert outing

in 1994. The teen died from a perforated ulcer after allegedly being deprived of food, shelter and clothing.

Nearer home, a North Idahoan could face trial this summer on charges - including assault, deviant sexual

conduct and criminal endangerment - stemming from his operation of a ``behavioral growth school'' at

Anaconda, Mont.

Of course, managers of Inland Northwest wilderness schools don't like being lumped together with

controversial programs. Yet, they have themselves to blame for the problem. Few rules guide them. And they've

been reluctant to police themselves.

The rapidly growing industry would be wise to submit to a voluntary accreditation program - before an

incident attracts bureaucrats and cumbersome regulations. Some already do seek approval from organizations

such as the National Association for Legal Support of Alternative Schools.

Desperate parents should have an independent source to consult about a therapy program before they

refinance homes or raid college funds to pay the hefty tuitions. They deserve an assurance that their little

monsters won't be harmed, or worse.

These therapy programs fill an important niche for parents dealing with uncontrollable youngsters. Youths

from all over the country are flocking to some 20 regional programs to learn how to get along, how to stay off

drugs, how to study, how to know themselves.

In the process, the therapy programs have given the Inland Northwest an important economic boost. CEDU

Inc., which runs four programs for troubled teens in Boundary County, alone employs 280 people.

Now, however, Idaho has no rules for programs in which children stay nine weeks or less. Washington has

stricter licensing requirements but also many exemptions, including ones for boarding schools and seasonal

programs that last less than three months.

There's too much room for mischief.

 

 

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Wednesday, April 1, 1998

 

 

SUIT SAYS SCHOOLS FOR TROUBLED TEENS SET STAGE FOR

ABUSE

STATE REPORT SAYS ALLEGATIONS BY FORMER STUDENTS ARE

VALID

Section: THE HANDLE

Page: B1

Author: By Kevin Keating Staff writer

The parent company for three pricey schools for troubled teens near Bonners Ferry is being sued by two

former students for fraud, racketeering and battery.

The suit was filed in District Court on Tuesday. It alleges that Rocky Mountain Academy, Northwest

Academy, Ascent and their California-based parent company, CEDU Educational Services Inc., grossly

overcharge parents, and have ill-trained staff who verbally and physically abuse students.

 

Alleged abuses include one student's arm being broken by a counselor and several students being

punished by sitting on stools in the cold for as long as two days.

School officials referred questions to their attorney, David Wohlgemuth. He said he had not seen the

complaint and could not comment on it.

The lawsuit claims the schools' counselors are paid based on how long they keep students enrolled.

Counselors receive bonus pay if they can persuade parents to transfer their children into other schools or

programs run by the company, according to the lawsuit.

Programs can cost from $6,800 a month to $16,000 for a six-week outdoor course.

Much of the lawsuit stems from information parents and lawyers received about the school after a student

riot in January 1997. Five people were injured, including students and school staff members in Bonners

Ferry.

Boundary County law enforcement was called in to quell the riot. It launched an investigation of the school,

but no charges were filed. The riot was not reported to Idaho health and welfare officials. But after reading

about the melee in the newspaper, state Child Protective Services officials launched an investigation of

Northwest Academy, a rustic outdoor program.

``It is our belief that the cause of the riot was the result of frustration by students over mistreatment by a

number of staff towards these children,'' said a health and welfare report. The report is included in the

lawsuit.

CEDU charged former student Kevin Accomazzo's parents $30 to drive their son to the hospital after a

school counselor restrained and broke the teenager's arm, the complaint said.

According to reports by health and welfare officials - included in the lawsuit - the counselor grabbed

Accomazzo and put him in a bear hug to stop him from leaving a room. He wrestled the teen to the ground,

and they both heard a ``snap.''

In their report, health officials said the counselor laid on top of Accomazzo for 10 to 15 minutes before

sending someone for medical help. After the teen's arm was put in a cast, the doctor ordered him not to lift

anything heavier than a pencil.

But Accomazzo was put back to work at the camp, chipping ice, shoveling snow and hauling pots of water,

according to the lawsuit. His arm failed to heal properly. It had to be rebroken and a plate surgically

implanted, the lawsuit said. Weeks after the surgery, Accomazzo was forced to sleep in a damp, unheated

tent.

``It is our opinion that this injury should never have occurred,'' the report by health and welfare officials

stated. They recommended Accomazzo be pulled from the school and the counselor ``should not ... work

with children in any capacity at CEDU.''

Accomazzo's broken arm was not reported to state health and welfare officials as is required by law.

The school has a consultant, Rich Donavon, to make sure it complies with state requirements. Donavon, the

former director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, claimed the broken arm was an accident and

didn't need to be reported.

``During the previous two years we have made it clear to the administrators of CEDU, including consultant

Rich Donavon, that any suspicious injury needs to be reported,'' the health and welfare report said.

``Injuries such as that experienced by Kevin Accomazzo clearly should have been reported, along with the

findings from a medical examination.''

The school was also chastised by health officials for making students sit on stools in the cold as

punishment. Some students were allegedly placed on the stools for as long as two days. ``Allegations

regarding abuse and neglect by specific employees of Northwest Academy are found to be valid,'' the

health and welfare report said. A copy of the report was sent to state officials who license the academy.

Accomazzo and his parents also claim they were bilked for thousands of dollars. The Accomazzos paid

$16,000 for a six-week outdoor program called Ascent.

In addition to tuition, the family was charged $60 to $80 a month for laundry, and $40 for their son's ride to

the dentist. A van typically took six students to Sandpoint for a dental visit, a 30-mile ride. All the students

were charged $40 for the trip, according to the lawsuit.

``These charges are exorbitant,'' said the lawsuit filed by local attorneys Steve Very and Todd Reed, who

also is a deputy prosecutor for Boundary County. They asked a judge to bar CEDU from continuing to bill

parents for ``unconscionable'' sums of money and sending out false billing statements.

Claims made by Stanton Lewis, another former student who filed suit, are similar to those of Accomazzo.

The lawsuit alleges CEDU has breached its contract by not providing the education that was promised.

The CEDU program is one of the largest employers in Bonners Ferry. Some famous troubled teens have

attended the program, including children of Barbara Walters and Roseanne Barr.

 

 

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Sunday, September 5, 1999

 

 

TROUBLED HOMES

ACADEMIES FOR WAYWARD YOUTHS HAVE THEIR OWN

PROBLEMS WITH RULES

Section: MAIN NEWS

Page: A1

Author: BY SUSAN DRUMHELLER STAFF WRITER

Illustration: Color Photo

Caption: SHELTERED LIFE. During a break in classes, the boys at Elk Mountain Academy play a game of

volleyball on the court in front of the school building. Photo by Liz Kishimoto/The Spokesman-Review

Parents across the nation spend thousands of dollars to send their misbehaving teenagers to private

behavioral schools in North Idaho.

Ironically, some of those programs seem to have a hard time following the rules.

 

Just months after vowing not to increase their numbers at Elk Mountain Academy, owners Carl and Loretta

Olding have asked the county to allow the school to house up to 12 more students at their woodsy campus

below Scotchman's Peak.

And now, county and state officials are investigating Glacier Mountain Inc., a group home north of

Sandpoint that may be violating the terms of its group home license and county code.

Another group home for youths has expanded from Bonners Ferry to Sagle, Idaho, but doesn't have a

foster care license with the state for either facility, or a special use permit with Bonner County to operate a

school.

Neighbors of Elk Mountain Academy keep watch as that school now seeks approval for up to 36 students.

The teenagers at Elk Mountain come from all over, but primarily from California. Their parents pay $3,375 a

month to straighten them out and keep them from bad influences.

It's a family model facility, where up to eight boys live in each residence with house parents, some of whom

raise their own small children there, too. The biggest structure on campus, the Achievement House, has

living facilities on the top floor, classrooms on the second floor, and a gymnasium and wood shop on the

ground floor.

Students help build the buildings, as well as the Oldings' new garage/ guest house at their private residence

on the Hope Peninsula.

To make the students feel more at home, the Oldings hauled in tons of sand for a beach volleyball court -

perhaps the only beach volleyball court in the Cabinet Mountains.

These are not dangerous kids, the Oldings and their staff insist - despite the neighborhood rumors of gun

thieves and worse.

``We don't get crazies here,'' said Mark Rocha, a youth minister and Elk Mountain employee. ``We're talking

about youth. We're not talking about a nuclear reactor here.''

Education consultant Lon Woodbury sends a lot of kids to Elk Mountain - the type who ``when in a safe

environment, the decent kid comes out.''

He said that private behavioral schools have to launch aggressive public relations campaigns to overcome

the fear factor in the community.

``People assume they're criminals. Most of these kids aren't,'' Woodbury said.

But it's not so much the kids that concern the neighbors. It's the administration.

``Until they learn how to abide by the laws, they shouldn't have more kids there,'' said Jeannie Roach, one

of a coalition of neighbors near Elk Mountain.

Neighbors have a running list of violations at Elk Mountain: building dormitories without the county's

blessing or knowledge, exceeding its licensed capacity, housing students in incomplete buildings without

proper safety inspections, failing to test water and even a poaching incident.

Most of the problems have been resolved, but any trust between neighbors and the Oldings has vanished.

And some neighbors still grumble about the roar of Elk Mountain's dirt bikes in their peaceful outback.

``Who's kidding who?'' said Carl Olding in reference to one vocal opponent to the bikes. ``We'll never be

buddies.''

Elk Mountain recently was licensed by the state as a children's treatment facility, which allows for more

than 12 students. But the license still is on provisional status.

The school also persuaded the county to issue a conditional use permit that allows up to 25 students for

two years, when the permit will be reviewed.

But that permit didn't include the academy's Base Camp program, which houses as many as 12 additional

students for six to nine weeks in an unfinished cabin on the heavily treed mountainside above the main

campus.

It's those students that the school still needs permission to house. Two or three teens were up there this

summer, cooking up Campbell's soup for dinner and sleeping on bunkbeds without mattresses.

``They've flaunted the fact that they don't have to abide by the rules,'' Roach said of Elk Mountain. ``If they

get away with it, we'll wind up with 100 little schools around here that get away with breaking the rules.''

One little school under scrutiny is Glacier Mountain Inc.

Like the directors of many local teenage residential facilities, Glacier Mountain's directors got their start at

another behavioral school in the region.

``People learn how much money others are making, and they start adding it up on their fingers,'' said Brenda

Hammond, former director of the now defunct Eagle Mountain Outpost. ``But anyone who goes into that

business, to be successful, can't be in it for financial reasons. It's very draining.''

Olding started planning Elk Mountain Academy while working for less than $8 an hour as a counselor at

Eagle Mountain Outpost. He and his wife started their family-based group home in Clark Fork in 1993.

Their group home was allowed under Bonner County's zoning laws only after the county's legal counsel

agreed that attention deficit disorder qualified as a disability. Olding claimed that all of his students had the

condition.

Glacier Mountain markets to ADD support groups, according to Woodbury.

``Since when does a delinquent teenager qualify as handicapped?'' wonders Marty Taylor, Bonner County's

planner. ``I'd be interested in seeing more review of that.''

In Glacier's case, both Larry Bauer and John Baisden used to work at CEDU Family of Services, which

operates Rocky Mountain Academy, Northwest Academy, Ascent and Boulder Creek Academy in

Boundary County.

Baisden was CEDU's director of admissions from November 1994 until July 1995. Now he and Bauer operate

a group home in the Colburn area on Oliver Road.

Baisden was reluctant to discuss the business, which is under investigation by the state licensing arm of

Family and Community Services and by Bonner County Planning and Zoning.

Baisden said the home takes up to eight kids, but had no students as of the last week of August.

``We don't have any plans of being an Elk Mountain or a Rocky Mountain Academy,'' he said. Baisden

would not say how many people Glacier Mountain employs.

But according to an inspection on Aug. 10 by Jean Hughes, an environmental health specialist at

Panhandle Health District, the home had 12 teenage residents. She reported that the unfinished basement

was being used as a classroom.

According to Glacier's state license, it can have only eight residents. And because it lacks a conditional use

permit as a school, it cannot teach students there.

``We did do instruction,'' Baisden said. ``We're not going to do that anymore. We don't think that's the real

world. When they go home, they go to real schools.''

Glacier Mountain has provided inconsistent information to the county about the facility, according to a

letter from Taylor that was in Health District records.

Bauer has told Taylor that the students attend classes at the group home, but another letter about a week

later said they would attend public school. In the first letter, he stated an intention to obtain a conditional

use permit to become a children's treatment facility, which allows for 13 or more residents.

The Health District also is looking into the home's water and sewer systems. Hughes said the district could

not approve either in a letter to Jim Puett, a state licensing specialist.

Like Glacier Mountain, the operators of Northwoods Trailside School like to keep a low profile.

The school was founded in Bonners Ferry in 1993 and is run by former CEDU employees David Yeats and

Matt Fitzgerald. They have two homes, with up to four boys in each, in Bonners Ferry.

They recently started taking in boys at Fitzgerald's home in Sagle, too.

``We want it very small and very unobtrusive to North Idaho,'' said Fitzgerald, who left CEDU because of

philosophical differences. CEDU's schools have more than 100 students each.

Fitzgerald said they don't work with ``at-risk'' kids as much as those who their parents fear will fail in a

big-city atmosphere.

``We deal with kids who want to come here and like to be here,'' he said.

Northwoods has yet to apply for a permit from Bonner County to operate a school in the Sagle area. It is in

the process of applying for a foster care license, which allows up to six unrelated children in a home.

Northwoods isn't the only facility expanding.

Elk Mountain is moving part of its program across the border.

``To be at Elk Mountain is to be in a bubble,'' Olding said. ``How do you get loaded at Elk Mountain? If

anyone smarts off in class, they're out picking rocks immediately. They live in this surreal world where there

is no temptation.''

So Elk Mountain has spawned Elk Creek, 86 acres the Oldings just bought near Heron, Mont., where they

plan to build another home for boys who progress to their second year at the academy. Those students will

go to public school in Noxon, Mont.

The Oldings already have four students enrolled in Noxon, but for now the teens still live at the academy

north of Clark Fork.

Noxon High Principal Bob Goodrich has had students from other group home settings. Northwest Montana

seems to be a magnet for the behavioral school industry, he said.

One well-known school is the boot-camp style Spring Creek Lodge near Thompson Falls, which is expected

to soon have more students than the entire Noxon School District. Those students never leave the facility.

``It's one of the enterprises of Sanders County that's somewhat lucrative,'' Goodrich noted.

Elk Mountain's move to Montana was partially motivated by pressure from neighbors. Montana has fewer

restrictions on group homes and private schools.

``We get a lot of, `Well, we'll just move to Montana,''' said Puett, the Idaho state licensing specialist.

In Montana, Olding sees an opportunity to offer more services to students who aren't ready to leave the

support system that Elk Mountain offers.

He also has 86 acres to play with - plenty of room for a dirt bike track that won't bother anybody, he said.

``No matter what happens,'' Olding said, ``I'm going to continue to do this work, whether it's in Montana or

Idaho.''

 

 

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Saturday, October 30, 1999

 

 

FEDERAL JURY SIDES WITH WOMAN IN RAPE LAWSUIT

EMPLOYER ORDERED TO PAY $164,595; COUNTY HASN'T FILED

CRIMINAL CHARGES

Section: THE HANDLE

Page: B1

Author: By Susan Drumheller Staff writer

Illustration: Color Photo

Caption: Armstrong

An ``intervention specialist'' who delivers kids to private behavioral schools and camps in North Idaho was

ordered by a federal jury to pay a former employee $164,595 for allegedly drugging and raping her.

Twila Stephenson filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Richard Armstrong of Bonners Ferry, Idaho,

in November 1996, accusing him of slipping drugs into her drinks, then raping her.

 

Armstrong runs a company called Boundary Lines, which specializes in transporting teenagers from their

homes to private schools, such as the Rocky Mountain Academy.

Stephenson worked for Armstrong as a counselor from 1993 until April 1996.

The jury deliberated for four hours after a fourday trial in Coeur d'Alene.

Jury members determined that Armstrong raped Stephenson while she was unconscious, that he caused her

to be unconscious and that the conduct was outrageous.

``We were surprised by the verdict,'' said Stanton Rines, Armstrong's attorney.

The evidence included two taped confessions, said Craig Mosman, Stephenson's attorney.

``Somebody who commits those acts ought to be in prison,'' Mosman said.

Boundary County officials never charged Armstrong, despite the fact that Mosman and Stephenson filed a

report with police and offered to provide evidence, Mosman said.

Mosman said he never discussed the case with Boundary County Prosecutor Denise Woodbury, who was

not available for comment Friday.

Stephenson has left the state and now lives and works in New Mexico, Mosman said.

She claimed she was fired after the alleged rape when she confronted Armstrong about crushing sleeping

pills into her drink after she refused to have sex with him.

 

 

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Monday, May 24, 1999

 

 

SANDPOINT TRIES TO SERVE YOUTH

TOWN MEETING AIMS TO IDENTIFY CAUSES OF VIOLENCE

Section: MAIN NEWS

Page: A1

Author: By Susan Drumheller Staff writer

Recent school shootings in Colorado and Georgia, plus a string of bomb threats closer to home, have captured

the attention of adults in Sandpoint.

``It's really scary,'' said Sharon McInturff of Safe Homes/Parents Who Care, a parent support organization in

Sandpoint. ``The problems we have with substance abuse and violence, it's not just a school issue, and it's not

just a parent issue. It's a community issue.

 

``If we don't get a handle on it, we're seeing the outcome - it's the violence that's erupting in schools across the

states.''

Getting to the root of the problem is part of the reason Mayor David Sawyer called a town meeting for

Wednesday night at the Panida Theater.

The meeting, called ``Our Youth and Our Community: Coming Together,'' will give the public a chance to air

concerns about safety at school and other issues concerning youth, while at the same time exploring solutions.

``Our main concern is healthy kids,'' Sawyer said. ``If we don't do something like this, we're not going to have

coordinated programs and the relationship with youth in our community is just going to get worse.''

According to the most recent Idaho Kids Count profile, Bonner County has a higher percentage of high school

drop-outs, violent deaths among teenagers, teenagers not working and not in school, and children living in

poverty than the state average.

Idaho Kids Count is a state effort to track the status of children and each year publishes a county-by-county

report.

Turning around some of those statistics is the long-term goal that organizers of the town meeting have in mind.

The meeting grew out of concerns voiced to Sawyer during the bomb scares at Sandpoint High School. Sawyer

had just returned from a conference called Building Character Cities, that taught how to offer guidance to youth

in a society that doesn't offer much guidance, Sawyer said.

``There's very much a common thread across a wide spectrum across political, social and religious beliefs that

there is a lack of teaching values, and of mentoring values, to each other,'' he said.

In meeting with different youth workers and volunteers in the community, Sawyer came up with the idea of

holding a town meeting.

Organizers don't want it to become a gripe session, although they do expect some discussion about the way

authorities handled the recent rash of bomb threats. School Superintendent Roy Rummler and Sandpoint Police

Chief Bill Kice will be on hand to talk about school safety.

``It's not just to respond to all the recent events, but to see what our community can do to pull together for our

youth,'' explained Frederic Wiedemann, a psychologist and founder of the Unifying Fields Foundation, an

educational non-profit organization. Wiedemann will be the moderator of the meeting.

``I'm going to be there,'' said Rich Geiger, a parent of a Sandpoint high school student, and clinical psychologist

who works for CEDU schools. The Sandpoint-based organization runs Rocky Mountain Academy and other

schools for troubled kids.

``I'd like to have a community that's more responsible for youth,'' Geiger said. ``Teenagers need structure and they

need attention. There's far too many youth wandering around our streets in the middle of the day. That means

they're not structured and they're not involved.''

Geiger also has some concerns about the way the school district responded to the bomb threats, calling the new

security measures ``a reactionary Band-aid.''

``I moved to Sandpoint because I didn't want my daughter to have to walk by armed guards to get into school,''

he said.

If Sawyer's vision is realized, the high school would have little need for tight security measures in the future. He

hopes to bring the whole community together into a network that can work in concert to impart healthy values to

children and teenagers. The Town Meeting is just the first step, he said.

``We don't have a bandwagon yet,'' Sawyer said. ``If we can create a bandwagon more people will come to the

table.''

He mentioned Lewiston's Lewis and Clark Coalition for Families and Youth as an example of a community-wide

effort to help raise healthy, happy teenagers.

The Coalition was formed about 10 years ago and has successfully landed several grants for youth-oriented

programs.

``Our theme is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,'' Jay Ney, one of the founding fathers of the

coalition. Ney said one of the greatest accomplishments of the coalition was simply to raise awareness in the

community.

``The denial that some people have, that some things only happen in certain cities...people realized it wasn't in

another city, it was local,'' Ney said.

McInturff said a network in Sandpoint would go a long way to direct the efforts of the many splintered groups in

town.

``We need to get together and start working together,'' she said. ``We can do a lot more that way.''

 

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