Bad education

Nation’s richest private boarding school rocked with creepy ex-gay scandal

The Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania was first established in 1909 and is the nation’s richest private school. It has approximately 2,000 students, ranging from Pre-K to through grade 12, who live in homes staffed by “house parents,” school employees tasked with teaching the students values. The cost per student is well over $100,000.

Adam Dobson is a former student at the Hershey School. Last year, he filed a lawsuit against the school accusing his house parents of forcing him to watch a creepy hour-long gay conversion video “as punishment” for being gay.

The video was titled One of the Boys and featured Sy Rogers, a leader in the ex-gay movement and key figure at the now-defunct Exodus International. In it, Rogers compares homosexuals to male prostitutes and adulterers.

After the video was finished, he was made to participate in “a campaign of prayer sessions” to try and change his sexual orientation.

“We would pray together to have God help me from being gay,” Dobson told his lawyers, adding that his house parents warned him of all the “terrible things that happened to other gay people.”

When Dobson first filed a lawsuit, Hershey School spokeswoman Lisa Scullin called the claims “an outrageous allegation and a practice the administration would never allow or condone” and adding that “any suggestion otherwise is a gross mischaracterization of our values and the environment on our campus.”

But newly obtained court documents seem to tell a different story.

The documents, which were made public this week, reveal that the school admitted in discovery that a copy of the video exists at the school and that it was shown to “at least one student,” but that they “don’t know” whether that student was Dobson.

The documents also name the two Hershey School house parents who allegedly showed the video to this unknown student. They are Deanna and Andrew Slamans. Deanna is the author of the 2013 self-published book Faith’s Pursuit: Understanding God’s Faithfulness in Suffering.

 

Dobson says he was forced to watch the video his freshman year. By his junior year, he was become deeply depressed and began having suicidal thoughts. After a failed suicide attempt, he was expelled.

Coincidentally, the school is also fighting a lawsuit filed by the parents of another former student, Abbie Bartels, who was expelled for having suicidal thoughts. She hanged herself two weeks after being kicked out.

Both cases are now being litigated in federal court in Harrisburg, and the plaintiffs are claiming negligence and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In an email to press this week, Scullin calls the latest reports on the case “unfortunate” and “biased” and said the whole thing is just an “inflammatory distraction.” She also walked back the school’s claim that a copy of the tape existed on campus.

“No such video is a part of any MHS curriculum or programming,” she says, “and neither the School nor its lawyers have ever said anything to the contrary. This former student has filed suit in federal court, and MHS will share the facts of the case at the appropriate time.”

Related: A sickening look inside gay conversion camps and how leaders have become emboldened by Donald Trump

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21 Comments

  • Jaroslaw

    Queerty – Love you guys 99% of the time but why you have to make a mountain out of mole hill is beyond me. This is hardly a “creepy ex gay scandal.” Some houseparents were overzealous for sure, and should be counseled and/or removed if they cannot comply with what is required of houseparents. I’m pretty sure attendance at this school is voluntary and at a cost of $100,000 per student, I imagine it has a stellar curriculum. So rather than sue, Mr. Dobson could have just left or pursued other remedies. Being forced to watch an hour long video and go to prayer sessions is far less than many many parents would require! And I’m absolutely sure that in institutions with 2000 students at any given time that have been around since 1909 there have been some untoward incidents. Not saying it is okay, but lets not give the impression everywhere but Hershey School is perfect.

    • James

      Thanks, Uncle Tom.

    • Hermes

      As a parent let me almost violently disagree with you on everything you just said. How DARE YOU? Was it you or your child??????????????????????????????????????????????? No it wasn’t. They may have the richest private school in America, but they are not alone in their price range. Brown School, for example is about 18K per year at the elementary level, so from Kindergarten through 6th grade that’s over 100K. I have friends who sent their children there, although we chose to move into a district we could respect instead for our young ones.

      Regardless – when you are paying, you read the school’s statements, you know their purpose, their beliefs, everything. ALWAYS. You “IMAGINE” it has a stellar curriculum? Well perhaps or perhaps not, the connections from schools like that one endure until death and are more valuable than any curriculum – we made the decision that since we support public education our choice made sense for us – particularly since we have good connections in Yale and to some degree in Princeton, so there will be choices later. BUT, reality – the school had house masters (or house parents I guess they called them) who were responsible for HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS who did not respect the parents’ religious views or the parents’ rights enough to request their input before showing an offensive and false film to a… let’s see Freshman… 14 probably, year old who was brave enough to be out. They attempted, literally, to brainwash a 14 year old – WITHOUT PARENTAL PERMISSION OR CONSENT, from a position of authority and a difference in perceived power levels. Let me point out that we say a 14 year old can’t consent to having sex, even with another 14 year old – and these … persons … working at a school that is the richest in the nation, took it upon themselves to FORCE one of the students to engage in what was essentially a brainwashing session. Under international law you can’t do that to a prisoner of war, say nothing of a 14 year old.

      Yes he should sue. Yes his parents should sue. The school failed its position of oversight when they were in receipt of an agreement for temporary custody (essentially what a boarding school has) for a child and acted against the child’s interest according to accepted science while in loco parentis. I question whether or not criminal charges are appropriate for the “house parents” – based in corrupting the morals of a minor – because morality is not an absolute, it is quantified by the parents, and these parents obviously did not approve.

      Hermes

    • MacAdvisor

      Jaroslaw, few 16-year olds being sent to wildly expensive boarding schools have much say in where they go. Thus, I suggest Mr. Dobson could not have left at the time and is only really able to seek redress.

    • stanhope

      James, don’t insult Uncle Tom as he had no choice. Jaroslaw is a douche.

    • Juanjo

      As an attorney who handles discrimination cases among others, I find your reasoning to be completely lacking. In the words of Billy Madison – At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  • Jaroslaw

    Also, the mountain/mole hill comment was about the title of the article. I do not know what school policies are towards students who attempt suicide, but I would personally not want to be responsible for that as an administrator so what are the choices short of expulsion?

    • James

      How long have you been a member of the log cabin republicans.

    • Mack

      Are you member of the White Supremacists too?

    • Brian

      The title is on point. Escorting a high school freshman (age 14?) into a private office to watch a film about converting sexual orientation through prayer = creepy. Multiple lawsuits = scandal.

      Your defense of this is also creepy, btw.

    • dwes09

      One would think (except of course for one who has little faculty for thought) that a school charging so much per student would maintain a medical staff skilled in both physical and psychiatric medicine. After all, even the lowly public schools have counselors there to deal with issues like suicide. The notion that somehow expelling students in need of help is a valid response for an uber-expensive boarding school is kind of (don’t know how to be kind here) dumb.

    • Juanjo

      Is there a contest today on who can post the most unbelievaby foolish, irrational opinion? Because you are definitle in the top 2 so far. Schools by law act in loco parentis with the students they are in charge of. This means depending on the local jurisdiction’s laws, they have some of the responsibilities and functions of a parent. There are very specific federal and state laws which apply to situations such as this and simply expelling a student likely violated those standards.

      I do agree with you on one thing. I would not want you responsible for caring for a goldfish, much less another human being. You obviously have menal issues.

    • captainburrito

      Policies to deal with students who need help? At that point even if they did commit suicide the record would show they were pro-active in dealing with it, rather than pro-active in causing inner turmoil with the ex-gay conversion tape. Not an administrator but these kinds of things seem rather elementary.

      That it takes 2 lives, lawsuits, media attention and a big fine for them to change shows they are not as stellar as others claim.

  • James

    I hope the guy gets millions from these chrixtian trash creeps.

  • lcandela123

    Jaroslaw does make a few points here. It does sound like this was a case of two overzealous house parents doing something not approved by the school. Else, there would be many more cases like this one at Hersey, not just this singular case. Also, having to watch a video and pray in one situation is hardly like the ex-gay torture cases we’ve all heard about. Certainly pales in comparison to the thousands of gay kids that are abandoned by their oh-so-Christian parents for being gay. America is overly litigious; people sue for absolutely anything.

    I see a lot of insults and name calling by some who don’t offer any calm rebuttal to Jaroslaw’s remarks.

    • bjohnmasters

      I’m thinking this could be where it starts. Some times, it takes the first person coming forward to convince others they should too. We’ll see if this is just the beginning.

      I do love how the school has now carefully parsed their statement about the existence of the tape. They went from…”yes, we own a copy of the tape,” to “No such video is a part of any MHS curriculum or programming,and neither the School nor its lawyers have ever said anything to the contrary.” Right oh there spokesperson. I agree, you apparently never said it was part of the “curriculum,” but you did say you owned one…and sounds like this was kind of “extra-curricular” activity anyways…but that is a distinction without a difference.

    • Juanjo

      What I see is Jaroslaw making assumptions based on his speculation. Nothing more and nothing less. But let’s consider his drivel. These “overzealous” house parents are employees of the school and were hired by the school to supervise students. An employer is responsible for the actions of his employees performed in the course and scope of employment even when the employee acts with negligence, intent, or malice. It does not matter whether the act is legal or illegal. In addiiton under state regulation there are typically very specific laws and regulations regarding the screening, hiring and supervision of people involved with children of whatever age. Even in private schools, there are regulations regarding the interactions between school employees and students involving matter of personal nature.

      A religious private school might allow certain religious instruction to take place by authorized individuals. I see nothing here to indicate whether this school is organized on such a level or not.

      The long and the short of it is quite simple. Jaroslaw is ignorant and making stuff up. Your defense is amusing but nonsense.

    • lcandela123

      Juanjo, no one is disputing the legal facts that you are making. We all know them. You are missing the point. The actual injury here, having to watch a one hour video and then pray, is so minor that it is silly to bring forward a lawsuit. I bet the judge just throws it out.

      You criticize Jaroslaw for making speculations. That’s what we all must do in blogs like this, when we don’t have all of the facts. We use our common sense to fill in the gaps. To me, it does seem reasonable that these two house parents acted without the approval or knowledge of the school administration, which they have repeatedly affirmed. The school has already agreed that this offense shouldn’t have happened. Now, if they had affirmed the opposite, that this act was standard procedure and will continue, then the lawsuit should be pursued.

      Shouldn’t we focus our limited energies on fighting real fights?

  • hanfrina

    … Thee Mormon “Church” continues to endorse/support “Aversion-Shock Therapy” for their willing LGBT Members. Used to practice this on-the-BYU Campus at thee Joseph Smith Jr. Living Center. (’60s-’70s) I personally knew several fellow Gay Students who went through this Barbaric “treatment.” There is much “Blood” on-the-hands of thee LDS “Church” for the many suicides-&-ruined lives through-thee-years. Glad I was Excommunicated for “Being Gay” after 15-yrs. membership-&-became a long-time “Gay Activist!”

  • He BGB

    Since god made gay people why would anyone pray to become straight? Seems like an insult to god. Or maybe it’s because this couple of straight folks are ignorant and afraid and just bigots! So change who you are so I can be comfortable? And we’ll think God made a mistake or you do it as a “choice”because everyone would choose to be gay because you get to be hated, ostracized, spit on, fired from your job and thrown out of your home not to mention the best benefits of not being able to visit your dying partner in the hospital or inherit your husband’s assets in his will.

    • He BGB

      This couple IS not are. Sorry. I try to proofread but miss one every now and then

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