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