Friday, May 27, 2011


CEDU / Rocky Mountain Academy Part 3

CEDU / Rocky Mountain Academy. A Wilderness Camp that was for Behavioral Modification, and for lack of any other words an American Cult for children. As I know some folks now that were part of this organization and they are just beginning to come forward the next few blogposts are dedicated to the children that survived CEDU. 

CEDU Educational Services, Inc., known simply as CEDU (pronounced see-doo), was founded in 1967 by Mel Wasserman and his wife Brigitta. The company owned and operated several therapeutic boarding schools and behavior modification programs in California and Idaho.The original CEDU High School website describes itself:

File:CEDU Logo.jpg
CEDU High is an emotional growth boarding school for adolescents who exhibit behavioral and learning difficulties. The curriculum has three cornerstones: The original CEDU Emotional Growth program; college preparatory academics; and an outstanding outdoor adventure program. Woven through this triangle is an enriching theme of visual and performing arts. CEDU High School is the original emotional growth boarding school. Since 1967, it has worked with teens and families to redirect negative behavior, teach vital life skills, create academic success, and reunite families


Their motto says: "See yourself as you are and do something about it", however some claim that to be a backronym with the name actually being an acronym for Chuck E. Dederich University after the founder of Synanon. Before starting CEDU, Wasserman had sponsored teenagers into Synanon. CEDU was started in 1967, when Wasserman bought property in Running Springs, California, east of Los Angeles. Some claim that he actually began his work with teens in 1965, when he (at that time running a furniture store) started to take restless youth into his household.

Mel Wasserman
 (1932 – April 28, 2002) was a businessman, entrepreneur and founder of CEDU Education.He was a pioneer in the Therapeutic Boarding School industry.

Wasserman grew up in Los Angeles, CA and attended Fairfax High School. Wasserman married his wife Brigitte in 1963, after having three children (Mark, Dana, and Stacy) from a previous marriage. They first lived in Palm Springs, CA and later split their time between Sandpoint, Idaho and Carmel, California.
He participated in Synanon. Wasserman and Brigitte helped found The Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County.

After starting work with troubled teens in his home in Palm Springs, CA, Mel decided to sell his furniture business and invest in a school to help teenagers.Success of the CEDU program was dramatic and it rapidly expanded into other specialized educational programs.Mel surrounded himself with educators and professionals and educated himself in the field of adolescent behavior. The philosophy he brought to CEDU Education was strict adherence to his set of principles, notably accountability and boundaries. He has been quoted as saying to students and parents, “Take away boundaries and bring in a sewer, a biker society. The magic is not in the building itself, it is in the setting of boundaries, a certain posture and a certain way we act inside them, and then we have something which facilitates what we are trying to do here.
Lon Woodbury former admissions director at CEDU and current independent education consultant had this to say about Wasserman. “Mel Wasserman was influenced by Synanon, and so used the confrontation model watered down quite a bit in the founding in CEDU.”
Alice Jackson a San Francisco educational consultant was impressed by what she saw at CEDU in the mid '70's. “I was first of all astounded by the magical personality that (Wasserman) had,” Jackson said. “I had great admiration for his dedication for these kids.”
In his tribute to Mel Wasserman, Dan Earle, founding headmaster of Rocky Mountain Academy and co-president of CEDU Schools, describes his time at CEDU as a “golden age of education”, during which "the idea of a holistic, integral education was born", with "an emotional growth curriculum running parallel to an academic, civic and wilderness curriculum". He believes that this education model was in line with the teachings of Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward Bound and John Dewey's views on education. Finally, Dan states "Three decades before the term “Emotional Quotient” would appear acknowledging the importance of emotions, Mel was pioneering the creation of an educational approach that would address equally the development of the individual’s emotional knowledge, as well as one’s intellectual capacity, civic participation, and personal responsibility." The success of Mel’s ideas for educating troubled teens at CEDU seeded the therapeutic boarding school industry.

Original CEDU period (1967–1985)
The average time a student spent at a CEDU school was 2½ 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 required to attend group therapy sessions called Raps. In this CEDU period, Raps 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 uncontrollably. Approximately 95% of the faculty had no accreditation or training specific to intensive Gestalt based 'group therapy' which was very popular during this time period.

 Expansion (1982–1990)

A small group of students and staff, including founding headmaster Dan Earle, left the Running Springs campus for Bonners Ferry, Idaho to open Rocky Mountain Academy (RMA). RMA's curriculum and philosophy were identical to the original, CEDU Running Springs. On rare occasions staff and students were transferred between schools. The staff generally transferred campuses for promotions, students were transferred because the staff felt a "fresh start" was the best (and usually last) option for the student
Around 1990 the facilities began to accept that some of the teenagers could need medications.

CEDU Education - Brown Schools (1998–2005)

CEDU education was sold to Brown Schools while it was at its peak in the market; all the schools were full and everything was going well. Two years into its ownership by Brown Schools, the staff turnover was extremely high, no one with any time or stability in the company was left, and CEDU Education went backwards. Former employees watched helplessly as the Brown Schools made management decision after management decision inconsistent with the CEDU philosophy of education and inconsistent with what was effective in helping struggling teens

In the news
1993: A 17-year-old boy disappeared from the Campus. He was never found.
1994: A 14-year-old boy disappeared from the Campus. The family believes that he was abducted. He has not been found.
July 1994 - Jon A. committed suicide in one of the dormitories of lower Camelot at Rocky Mountain Academy.
1997 - Five persons were injured in a riot at Northwest Academy.
2002 - CEDU Educational Services, Inc. pays settlement to former client on charges of abuse.
2004 - Parents search for their son who ran away from CEDU Running Springs.
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 disappearances in 1990s.

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