Hacker group Anonymous targets Logan River Academy

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Nov. 11, 2013, 6:45 p.m. MST

 The hacker and activist group Anonymous is going after the troubled teen industry and zeroed in on a Utah school — the Logan River Academy — alleging abuse of children because of its alleged use of solitary confinement on its clients.

The hacker and activist group Anonymous is going after the troubled teen industry and zeroed in on a Utah school — the Logan River Academy — alleging abuse of children because of its alleged use of solitary confinement on its clients.

(Shutterstock )

LOGAN — The hacker group Anonymous reportedly has the troubled teen industry on its cyber hit list, zeroing in on the Logan River Academy on Monday in a campaign that asserts abuse of its underage clients.

A Twitter storm on social media with the hashtag "ShutLoganRiver" was active on Monday, drawing on allegations that the Utah school uses prolonged solitary confinement, called "development" time, as a way to punish noncompliance with school rules.

Anonymous is a loose and elusive online collective of people around the world who call themselves "hacktivists," responding at varying scales to perceived social injustices.

Logan River Academy issued a statement Monday denying allegations of illegal or unsafe conduct, calling the information being shared online "false, inaccurate and misleading."

"Students are not isolated, secluded, abused or mistreated in any way," the statement said. "To the contrary, students facing an acute and temporary crisis receive increased supervision and support during the crisis to protect them and others and to best provide for their well-being."

Participants in the Twitter conversation shared testimonials reportedly posted by family and participants criticizing the program.

"We actually chose to send our son to Logan River Academy after paying an experienced educational consultant who highly recommended it. The decision was the worst we have ever made," wrote someone claiming to be parents from Fairfax, Va. "We pulled our son after only five months, the last three of which were spent primarily in 'devo' (solitary)."

"I was a victim of this program. I was mentally tortured and (still) have a scar that will never go away," wrote one person who identified himself as a Texas resident.

On its website, the academy describes itself as having experience and success at helping youths 12-18 with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, anxiety and substance abuse issues, to name a few.

The group is urging that people demand AdvancEd drop the school's educational accreditation and is directing followers to put pressure on Logan Mayor Randy Watts and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to stop the use of methods it describes as abuse.

The campaign, which builds on a petition on change.org, describes a multibillion-dollar troubled youth industry that charges parents thousands of dollars of month for "treatment" programs that are carried out under little government oversight or scrutiny.

The petition appeared in early October, passing 200 signatures by the end of the month. From there it picked up speed and had about 870 signatures Monday night.

Utah, the change.org campaign said, is a state "where there is comparable lack of oversight and relevant legislation to safeguard vulnerable students in residential programs."

The troubled youth industry and its robust Utah presence has been the genesis of controversy for years, at times prompting calls for reform.

Nearly a decade ago, Utah licensing officials and watch-dog organizations were urging more oversight for these private programs to ensure that "discipline" doesn't amount to abuse.

Contributing: McKenzie Romero

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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1. Commenter88
Salt Lake City, Utah,
Nov. 11, 2013

Abuse is rampant in this industry. I've heard of many experiences where children have been subjected to treatment that would never be allowed in prison to convicted criminals. Sometimes these teens are not even troubled at all, except to have conflicts with overbearing and domineering step-parents. I know of teens sent to these youth lock up facilities by step-parents who authorized it through false complaints and legal actions in juvenile courts. All the details are sealed and it is remarkably easy to do. Further, the psychological damage of solitary confinement cannot be underestimated, especially at a young age. It is irreversible and is tantamount to torture.

2. DistantThunder
Vincentown, NJ,
Nov. 12, 2013

Most rational adults realize that any type of boundary setting can be perceived as "abuse" by dysfunctional teens. The industry is highly regulated. Notice the critics don't offer any alternative. They have no solutions of their own.

3. JBQ
Saint Louis, MO,
Nov. 12, 2013

I believe that this is an overreaction until proven otherwise.

4. PookyBear84010
Nov. 12, 2013

I harbor a high level of suspicion for Anonymous. Too often they behave in a rash way that puts people in danger or unfairly damages reputations and livelihoods. And of course, they are never around to take responsibility for any bad results. It's nothing but a digital lynching.

5. shamrock
Salt Lake City, UT,
Nov. 12, 2013


In fact, this industry is NOT highly regulated in Utah. The Utah Legislature bowed to pressure from the companies who operate these programs, and withdrew the sort of regulation that many other states have in place. The youth treatment programs must comply with certain health and safety regulations in order to obtain a license, but very little of the actual treatment program is regulated at all. That's why there have been so many scandals over the years in connection with these programs. Some of them are legitimate, but others are both inept and abusive.