MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Parents picked up hundreds of U.S. teenagers Saturday from northern Mexico after authorities closed down three schools for troubled youth, according to a U.S. consular official. About 538 teenagers -- the vast majority U.S. citizens -- were being returned home after authorities shut down Casa by the Sea in Ensenada, located on the Pacific coast about 60 miles south of San Diego, said Liza Davis, public affairs officer with U.S. Consulate in Tijuana.
See related: "Psychologist On Casa By The Sea" at http://nospank.net/r_hall.htm
Roughly 50 more teenagers from two other facilities -- Casa de la Esperanza in Ensenada and Genesis in Rosarito, about 15 miles south of the U.S. border -- already had left Mexico by Saturday after the schools were closed, Davis said.
"We anticipate by this evening to have all of the kids back in the U.S.," said Davis, speaking from Casa by the Sea.
Mexican immigration and health authorities apparently carried out a surprise inspection on Friday of the three treatment centers for teenagers with severe behavior problems.
Mexican authorities could not immediately be reached for comment and it was unclear exactly why the schools were shut down.
"At this point we don't have any substantiated cases of abuse," Davis said.
Mexican authorities "had heard that there were a couple of kids that claimed some level of abuse, which I'm not too sure I would believe," said Ken Kay, president of a Utah-based association that overseas Casa by the Sea and eight similar programs throughout the United States and Jamaica.
Kay, of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, or WWASPS, accused Mexican authorities of shutting down the Casa by the Sea without first attempting to investigate and verify alleged complaints.
"We're really at a loss right now to understand why the government would take such an irresponsible action," Kay said.
Many parents and alumni or such intensive behavior-modification schools say they change lives for the better. But the schools also generate complaints that students are strong-armed, brainwashed or scared into changing their ways.
A WWASPS member school in Costa Rica ran into problems with local authorities last year.
Cost Rica's child welfare agency presented a list of problems at the Academy at Dundee Ranch that needed correcting if the school was to continue operating. Official visits touched off two student rebellions that eventually forced Dundee to close.
A previous group that reorganized to become WWASPS had two member schools -- in the Czech Republic and Cancun, Mexico -- suddenly close after they became the subjects of legal investigations.
Kay said Mexican authorities allowed the staff of Casa by the Sea to stay at the facility and maintain control over the students.
But more than 60 parents attending a student-parent seminar were abruptly shut out of the facility when the inspection started on Friday.
Most the teenagers being repatriated from the schools in Mexico belonged to families in California and Arizona. But Davis said she met people who had traveled from Virginia, Wisconsin and Florida to collect students.
A handful of students from outside the United States included a British citizen and a girl from El Salvador, according to WWASPS.
About 20 students did not have proper paperwork to be in Mexico, and one staff member from Casa de la Esperanza was deported because of improper documentation, she said
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