Fra Secret Prisons for Teens
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Checked October 18, 2010
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CEDU was a company, which owned several behavior modification programs.


CEDU was one of the pioneers of the industry based on outsourcing of your children's upbringing.

It was founded by Mel Wasserman. Sources varies but most state that the organization was started in 1967, when he bought property in the hills east of Los Angeles. Others stated that he actually began his work in the business in 1965, when he - at that time running a furniture store - started to take restless youth into his household.

CEDU was pronounced See-do. A motto did say: "See yourself as you are and do something about it.". However some claim that the name actually did stand for Chuck E. Dederich University named after the founder of Synanon. Before starting CEDU, Wasserman had sponsored children for another program - Synanon. However when Synanon turned into a cult, he started on his non-profit organization.

Old CEDU Period (196x - about 1990)[redigér]

The average time a student spent at a CEDU school was 2 1/2 years. The school year was 'year round'. The original CEDU program did not believe in use of psychological medicine. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1pm to 5pm (sometimes 6pm) students were forced to 'group therapy sessions' called raps. Raps, in this CEDU period were highly confrontational - at any given moment in a Rap there were could be between 1 to 15 students screaming at other students or, with their head pointed towards the floor, screaming at their own 'emotional issues' and/or crying uncontrollaby. During this period the faculty that facilitated these rap groups were essentialy 'self annointed' healers. Approximately 95% of the faculty had no accredation or training specific to intensive Gestalt based 'group therapy'. Today it would be called psychodrama <Ref>About the early years and the Herbalife connection</Ref>.

Expansion - RMA (Circa 1982)[redigér]

A small group of students and staff left Running Springs, CA campus for Bonners Ferry, Idaho to open a 'sister school', Rocky Mountain Academy (RMA). RMA's curriculum, philosophy etc. were a carbon copy of the original, CEDU RS. On rare occasion staff and students were transfered between schools. The staff generally transferred campuses for promotions while students were transferred because the staff felt a 'fresh start' was the best (and usually last) option for the student.

New CEDU period (1990 - 2005)[redigér]

Around 1990 the facilities began to accept that some of the detained teenagers could need medication.

Brown school period[redigér]


It closed in early 2005 due to financial problems <Ref>CEDU EDUCATION ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN ACADEMY, Press Release brought on the homepage of the industry marketing firm - strugglingteens.com</Ref> <Ref>CEDU Closing: Reaction from Running Springs Area</Ref>.

CEDU reborn[redigér]

Universal Health Services - claimed to be the third largest hospital management company in the United States bought three of the facilities. They did open late in 2006. It is not known how much of the old program structure, which have been preserved.

Facilites run in connection with CEDU[redigér]

Behavior modification facilities
Name Started Closed Reopened
CEDU High School, Running Springs, California 1967 2005
CEDU Middle School, Running Springs, California 1992 2005
Hill Top, Running Springs, California unknown unknown
Rocky Mountain Academy, Bonner's Ferry, Idaho 1982 2005
Boulder Creek Academy, Bonner's Ferry, Idaho 1993 2005 *
Northwest Academy, Naples, Idaho 1994 2005 *
Ascent Wilderness Program, Naples, Idaho 1994 2005 *

Hill Top[redigér]

Hill Top was located in Running Springs. It was for teenagers aged 18 and over.

Program structure[redigér]

Ideological and Therapeutic Underpinnings[redigér]

The therapeutic program started in the 1960's was based on the "tough love" template that was begun by Charles Dederich's cult Synanon. Group sessions at CEDU, referred to as "raps", were inspired by Synanon's "The Game". Other influences in CEDU's methodologies can be traced to Large Group Awareness Training seminars such as est and Lifespring. A variation of Lifespring was/is, in fact, used as the last workshop in the CEDU curriculum.

There are also many striking similarities in CEDU therapy to that of Primal Therapy and Bioenergetic Analysis, but it is at this point unable to be proven definitively as to whether Mel Wasserman actually borrowed directly from these practices.

Students also experience several other workshops throughout their stay. Seven of these are referred to as "Propheets", in which the general theme for the propheet is based loosely on the writings from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. Examples of this is Gibran's passage about Joy and Sorrow, which is used in the Truth Propheet, or his prose about children, which was used for the Childrens' propheet. The name of the workshops are obviously referential to said book. Mel Wasserman was quoted as stating that a propheet was to "Take the words of the Prophet and put feet to them." Propheets lasted a full 20-24 hours.

The other two workshops are multi-day events, the first one lasting three days, and the second one, based on Lifespring, six. The original nine workshops (Propheets) were named:

  • Truth Propheet
  • Values Propheet
  • Children Propheet
  • Dreams Propheet
  • I Want To Live Propheet
  • Brother's Keeper Propheet
  • Imagine Workshop
  • I & Me Workshop
  • Summit Workshop

- See main article Propheets (CEDU)

Daily Life[redigér]

Daily life at CEDU was rigidly structured, however, depending on the era, could differ in nature of activities (i.e. such as what days of the week raps were held), or what the phase/level system entailed. The manner of punitive measures also changed greatly over the course of the CEDU lifespan. (See links to lawsuits below.)

One template of the daily structure, from the 80s era, normally consisted of some form of manual labor in the morning, a four hour rap in the afternoon, followed by one hour dorm time, dinner, and then spending "social" time with other students in the evening. The days that did not have raps in the afternoon usually substituted those hours with some form of physical exercise or team sport.

Academic Life[redigér]

Academic life changed over the period of CEDU's lifespan. At one point, it was nonexistent, and detainees earned school credits for the activities they were forced to endure. (For example, one rap earned you a credit in "interpersonal dynamic workshops".) In the late 80s, the upper school students' daily labor (which normally consisted of supporting younger students at their family's/team's/group's/ work site) was replaced with academic classes. Many detainees did not graduate with high school diplomas and had to return to high school after attending one of the CEDU schools.

The Academics were based on a trimester schedule with an A.C.W.(Alternate Curriculum Week) at the culmination of each. The classes themselves were as small as the student body and enough work to keep the students occupied but not enough to learn any particular topic. This was prescribed as a means to keep the students focused on their emotional growth.

In reference to the first paragraph above, it is rumored that the academics were boosted up after a child of Barbara Walters was at Rocky Mountain Academy. As the legend goes, Barbara saw the structure of academics and withdrew her child and threatened to expose the school.

CEDU Lingo[redigér]

Main article: CEDU lingo

Like many cults and behavior modification facilities, CEDU employed a special, insular language that was only understandable to staff and students. Turns of phrase from popular culture which were appropriated by the program were also redefined to mean something else.

CEDU and Hollywood[redigér]

The first facility was located in California - not far from Hollywood. The busy life of the persons in the entertainment industry meant that some of the known celebrities had less time for their children and outsourced the upbringing to CEDU. In relationship with the closure of the facility as local newpapers stated <Ref>CEDU shutting down, by Dan Hansen and Susan Drumheller, Spokesman Review, march 25 - 2005.</Ref>:

Tuition at CEDU schools was about $5,700 a month. Actress Roseanne Barr and broadcaster Barbara Walters are among the rich and famous who have sent their children to the academies, according to a Spokesman-Review report in 1998.

Paris Hilton stayed at the facility for some months after her detention at Provo Canyon School until she turned 18 and could leave as a free person <Ref>Paris: Troubled Teen In Love With Her Reflection, Ron Mwangaguhunga, blogger on The Corsair quoting an article in The National Enquirer.</Ref>

A son of Rod Stewart and a young brother of Rob Lowe also had the unfortunate experience of being detained during their upbringing. The talk show host and actor Montel Williams detained one of his daugthers at there for unknown reasons.

Another person known to the public, who attended CEDU was Joe Francis - manager of "Girls gone Wild". He went to CEDU before going to University of Southern California. His parents were heavily involved with Herbalife. The founder of Herbalife - Mark Hughes was a wellknown name during the early years of CEDU.

Mark, then 19, was not with his mother when she died. Instead, having accumulated several drug busts, he was far away in the San Bernardino Mountains, at an institution that paved the way for his success at Herbalife.

CEDU, as the drug institute is called, was the brainchild of Mel Wasserman, a Palm Springs furniture store owner who had sponsored recovering addicts at Synanon, a drug rehab program, at its facility in Santa Monica. In the late '60s, as Synanon developed cult-like trappings, Wasserman founded his own center for troubled teens in bucolic Running Springs, west of Big Bear. Its goals included liberating the "spirit of the child" and creating "a safe and healthy environment for making new choices." Wasserman eschewed Synanon's confrontational approach to therapy.

News, articles[redigér]

1993: A 17 year old boy disappered from the Campus. He was never found <Ref>The Charley Project - John Christopher Inman</Ref>.

1994: A 14 year old boy disappered from the Campus. The family believes that he was abducted. He has not been found <Ref>The Charley Project - Blake Wade Pursley</Ref>.

July 15, 1994: A boy from Texas named Jon Avila committed suicide in one of the dormitories of lower Camelot, in a room overlooking a pond. The late Mr. Avila hung himself from the sprinkler pipe with a belt <Ref>Spokesman-Review excerpt</Ref>

1997: There was a riot by the detainees of as sister school in North Idaho, Northwest Academy. Five persons were injured <Ref>Suits allege suits at two schools, Community Alliance for the Fair and Ethical Treatment of Youth</Ref>.

2002: The facility was forced to pay $300.000 in settlement in a lawsuit to former client due to abuse <Ref>Rocky Mountain Academy to close; Inability to find leadership blamed (The Spokesman Review)</Ref> <Ref>CEDU Sued for Abuse and Fraud, International Survivors Action Committee</Ref>.

2004: Some parents started looking for their offsprings, who ran away from the facilities and was never found <Ref>Father endures 2-month search for missing son, International Survivors Action Committee</Ref>.

2009: A police investigation is conducted into the unsupervised presence of the convicted killer James Lee Crummel on the CEDU Running Springs Campus in connection with the two disappearences in 1990's <ref>DEATH ROW SERIAL MOLESTER CONNECTED TO CEDU, by Chuck Wyatt, Apenhorn News, November 13, 2009</ref>.


Spin-off facilities[redigér]

Main article: CEDU Spin-off programs

A number of facilities work on the basis of the CEDU concept involving participation in long LGAT sessions as part of the detention. They are often started by former detainees or staff members.


A documentary based on interviews with former detainees should be released in December 2008. A pre-view are posted on the Internet <Ref>Cedu Documentary Clip 1, homepage of Liam Scheff</Ref>.

External Links[redigér]

Info pages[redigér]

Survivor groups[redigér]

Message boards[redigér]

  • Forum: CEDU, subforum on the message board of Community Alliance For the Ethical Treatment of Youth(CAFETY)
  • Forum: Fornits forum about CEDU
  • Forum: Brown & CEDU Schools, subforum on the message board of Fight Institutional Child Abuse Network (FICAN)