WWASPS affiliated school issued substandard diplomas, negotiates settlement
By Kirsten Stewart
The Salt Lake Tribune, August 28, 2005

A New York troubled-teen boarding school with ties to Utah has agreed to stop issuing unauthorized diplomas and refund more than $1 million to parents under a negotiated settlement with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

The settlement comes after an 18-month investigation that, according to Spitzer's office, found the Academy at Ivy Ridge "was grossly misrepresenting its academic credentials." [Emphasis added.]

"The Academy at Ivy Ridge marketed itself to parents who were seeking a solution to their teens' behavior problems and who were willing to pay top dollar for the school's programs," said Spitzer in a prepared statement last week. "What these parents did not know was that Ivy Ridge's educational programs had not been authorized or approved by the State Education Department."

The probe also found that Ivy Ridge was not accredited as it claimed to be through the Boise, Idaho-based Northwest Association of Accredited Schools.

Ivy Ridge President Jason Finlinson said he believed the 280-student school to be accredited.

Finlinson said the settlement will allow him to "move forward, run a school, help kids and bring families back together." He has applied for accreditation.

Under the settlement, 113 graduates of Ivy Ridge who earned diplomas will each receive a refund equal to 15 percent of the total tuition paid to the school. Tuition at the school averages $50,000 per year and the typical student is there for 18 months.

Roughly 100 other students and former students who were near graduation may be entitled to receive similar refunds. In addition, the school will pay more than $250,000 in fines to the state.

Located in Ogdensburg near the Canadian border, Ivy Ridge is affiliated with the World Wide Association of Specialty Schools (WWASPS), a chain of seven behavioral modification programs run by businessmen in southern Utah.

The umbrella organization has come under fire in recent years for alleged physical abuse and immigration violations at its schools. Pressure from local authorities led to the closure of schools in Costa Rica, the Czech Republic and Mexico.

WWASPS President Ken Kay blames any controversy on the inherent challenge of rehabilitating youths with behavioral problems. "We do expect, however, that government agencies treat us fairly," said Kay. "We give options to families whose kids are out of control. We're very comfortable in the services we provide." [Emphasis added.]

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