Experts: School discipline was torture'

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jan 26, 2016

The ABC15 Investigators spoke to multiple independent experts about the abusive practices used at the DeSisto School in Stockbridge, Mass.  

For this video above, we interviewed a nationally-recognized teen psychiatrist, a leading author on the troubled-teen industry, and a prominent advocate for survivors of institutional abuse. 

Experts said the discipline discussed by Babeu and used at the school constituted “child abuse” and “torture”

SPECIAL SECTION: Abusing the Truth

None of the three have any ties to the DeSisto School or Babeu.  The experts (bios below) reviewed the results of a state investigation that found widespread abuse at the school. They also watched video of Sheriff Paul Babeu discussing the treatment of students. 

The experts said the discipline discussed by Babeu and used at the school constituted “child abuse” and “torture.” The experts also discuss the damage caused by these methods and the history of similar programs. 

We also recommend watching our main story and reading about the abusive practices used at the school before watching this video. Here are bios for the experts:


Maia Szalavitz

Maia Szalavitz is a journalist and author who has written extensively about the troubled teen treatment industry. Her 2006 book “Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids” exposed the ineffective and dangerous practices that occur in residential treatment facilities. Szalavitz’s book and research led to Congressional committee hearings and was used by the Government Accountability Office to conduct a national investigation into the abuse and death at residential treatment facilities.


Dr. Mark Wellek

Dr. Mark Wellek is a Phoenix-based psychiatrist, who specializes in the treatment of children and teens. He has been practicing for more than 40 years. Dr. Wellek is also the past president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry. He was previously interviewed by ABC15 in 2012 about the school. 


Jodi Hobbs

Jodi Hobbs is an advocate who formed Survivors of Institutional Abuse, an organization that works “to help those affected by abusive treatment in behavioral modification type programs.” Hobbs is a survivor of Victory Christian Academy, a youth treatment facility that once operated in Ramona, CA. According to Hobbs, VCA was raided and shut down by the FBI after scathing accusations of abuse were leveled against the proprietor.