By Claire Withycombe

The Bulletin

Three lawsuits filed in Crook County Circuit Court against the now-defunct Mount Bachelor Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for teenagers, and affiliated parties have been resolved privately, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Maria “Sam” Ruckwardt, an attorney for O’Connell Clark & Crew LLP, said Tuesday “the cases got resolved without court intervention.” Because of confidentiality requirements, Ruckwardt said she could not disclose whether the plaintiffs received compensation.

In total, 51 former students alleged mistreatment at the school east of Prineville, seeking over $48 million in damages from the Mount Bachelor Academy, its defunct owner, Aspen Educational Group, and CRC Health Group and CRC Health Oregon, controlling entities of the school, according to Bulletin archives. The first suit was filed in 2011 in Multnomah County while the second and third were filed in 2012. All three were subsequently moved to Crook County.

Court records show two cases were dismissed with prejudice — meaning the suit cannot be brought again — Nov. 17 while the third was dismissed with prejudice Sept. 16.

In a letter dated Feb. 6, 2014, Ruckwardt wrote to Crook County Circuit Judge Daniel J. Ahern informing him of “an agreement among the majority of the parties” to mediate the cases.

A state investigation concluded allegations of abuse at the school were founded, according to a November 2009 report by the Department of Human Services. The school closed that year in the wake of the investigation, which found students did not receive adequate treatment and were subject to sexualized role-play in front of peers and adults, sleep deprivation and extended “self studies” that forced students to undertake strenuous work projects and camp alone in inclement weather, according to the DHS report.

These practices formed an “emotional growth” component of the school’s curriculum that DHS found to be in violation of the school’s therapeutic boarding school license. Furthermore, the school did not provide sufficient services to students who needed mental health treatment, and in fact compelled students to re-enact traumatic experiences of abuse, according to the report.

In January 2013, Ahern ruled one of the cases could proceed after the defense argued it was brought forward outside the statute of limitations. In 2009, the state increased the age by which legal actions alleging child sexual abuse must be taken from 24 to 40.

— Reporter: 541-383-0376,

cwithycombe@bendbulletin.com

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