The first part of this post is a letter that was submitted to the investigators. It was written to the Members of the Board of Directors of Straight, Inc. by parents who wanted them to know very specifically why they withdrew their daughter from the program. Notice not only their opinion of the staff members of the program, but also how they were instructed not to speak with the Hensons. Remember this is the same Henson couple who resigned from the Board of Directors very soon after Straight opened for operation and that was interviewed by a former client in 2001. The Hensons seemed to very clearly see what was going on in the very early days of Straight, Inc. and had no problems voicing their concerns.
Letter from Parents of Child in the Program Addressed To the Board of Directors and the Advisory Committee of Straight Inc.
February 20, 1977
Dear Members of the Board:
This letter is to inform you of the recent removal of our daughter —, from the program of “Straight” on January 20, 1977, and some of the reasons for this removal.
First and foremost in our minds at this time, is the most urgent need for a “drug rehabilitation” program for our children in this area. I also want it clearly understood that I am now and always will be grateful to —‘s foster parents, her oldcomer and the children on the program to whom she related. We feel all the credit belongs to them alone, along with —‘s own desires to become “Straight” and this is the reason she is straight today.
When we first made application for — to join your program, we were very desperate parents. We found Straight through a nun, Sister Mary. After talking to Helen Petermann, Jim Hartz, Carolyn Henson and a staff member, we were very impressed and decided to place —- on the program. It was not until a few months later that we realized that we had been lied to. Straight was not being run by the staff and its administration with love, empathy and sensitivity, but with cruel Gestapo tactics. They are as follows:
- Tying certain children’s hands over their heads to the top of the bed and their feet to the bottom
- Pouring ice water over their heads
- Taking girl’s clothes and making them run naked thru the house to the bathroom, when there were 18 and 20-year-old males in the house. (My daughter, —, refused to take a shower when she was at this staff members home, namely Marci Moore.)
- — was told to tell how she felt and when she did, she was put down for doing so.
- Being lied against by a staff members and then being put down for trying to defend herself.
- Name calling: such as calling the girls, sluts and whores.
- Punching, shoving and slapping of the boys on the program.
- Keeping a child up 40 hours without sleep. (I would not have tolerated such treatment but was told not to interfere.)
It finally came to a point when — would not relate and if she had a problem she called her oldcomer — She could not depend on or rely on staff, she hated the thoughts of going into the building and she would leave home in a good frame of mind and come home from the building deeply depressed.
I talked with Helen Petermann in her office about a few of these problems. After an hour, the final essence of the conversation boiled down to Helen telling me to “Accept the things we cannot change.”
The day before we withdrew — from the program, she had a “one to one” with Marci Moore and after 2 ½ hours of raking — over the coals, tearing her apart, the only thing they could come up with that — had done wrong was, the selling of donuts within the school building for her speech class without permission of Staff. It was part of her course and she was getting credits for this.
We talked with Ron Solannes, head staff, about this problem, but to no avail. Marci Moore had already talked to him.
Another complaint I would like to voice to the Board, concerns the conversation I had with Jim Hartz and Helen Petermann. I was informed by both of them to stay away from the “Hensons.” (Hap and Carolyn and Toni) Members of the Board were not allowed to associate with us parents on the program. They went on to say that, “People like the Hensons were nothing but trouble and they did not know what they were doing.” Also that we would be real sorry if we associated ourselves with the likes of them. By telling me these things, Helen Petermann said, “They were just trying to keep me from being hurt and degraded.”
I also remember another incident in which my daughter, —, was involved personally. She had been in an auto accident and had found out she was pregnant. Because of this accident, she was trying to abort. When Helen Petermann was told that –should be seen by a doctor, Helen’s first response was to get a scrub bucket and then went on to say, “That is all she needs, let her sit on that.”
On February 4, just 5 days after — had left the program, she was told by Debbie Solanes to call her if she had a problem or just wanted to talk. – called Debbie on the 14th of Feb and asked if she could sit in on a rap at the building with the kids. Debbie thought it was a great idea. The kids could see that — was still straight and strong as ever. Debbie then told — to call Mrs. Petermann. She did and in turn Mrs. Petermann referred her to Jim Hartz. His reaction was, “absolutely no.” She could not come in the building because she was back on drugs. — Again denied this and Jim said, “It did not matter whether she was or not because the kids thought she was.” — wanted to come in to show she was straight and possibly she might be able to help answer some question the kids on the program might have concerning how they may feel after they have graduated from the program. –was upset at Jim’s refusal especially since Debbie Solanes thought it was a good idea. I personally feel that this was a very selfish move on Jim’s part.
I could go on and on but I do not think it is necessary. I am positive, you, the Board members, have received my message. We would also like it understood that we were not talked into, urged or coerced by anyone to remove —- from the program.
After reading this letter I am sure it can be understood why we removed —-. We also feel that if we had not removed — when we did, she probably would have split. Later she told us that she had been thinking about running.
I hope this letter helps to enlighten you as to the way we feel Straight is being run. If this letter has helped just a little, then I am glad I wrote it. If you wish to contact me, I will be glad to answer any and all questions personally, Thanks you for your time and your attention pertaining to the subject.
Two Parent Reports from the 1978 Investigation of Straight, Inc.
Two parents who had formerly had children in the Straight program had consented to interviews with the investigative task force.
Mrs. — entered her two daughters in the program shortly after it started. She reported that both of the girls completed the program (the list supplied by Straight lists only one of the girls as a graduate.) Mrs. — felt very strongly that neither Jim Hartz nor Helen Petermann were qualified to conduct the Straight program. She stated that she had reported this and other matters to Dr. Garby and Dr. Leon Sellers in the hope that things could be improved, but that no change was forthcoming. She reported hearing of many instances where children were mistreated, lies and false stories were told about them, and malicious rumors were spread. She reported that the practice of “putting down” a client was conducted in a vicious and emotionally abusive manner. Jim Hartz and Helen Petermann reportedly practiced character assassination of parents who objected to any aspect of the program. She further stated that Helen Petermann’s previous experience with the Seed program involved intake only, and that she was personally fired by Art Barker. Mrs.— supplied the letter of resignation of Misters Henson, Chapin, and Anderson, as Board members, and a letter by the same three, criticizing Mr. Melvin Sembler for his actions as president of Straight.
Mrs. — supplied the following information:
She personally saw Helen Petermann kick a client, name unknown, very hard, in December of 1976. She stated that Helen Petermann was extremely crude and vulgar in her dealing with female clients. Mrs. Petermann was reported as frequently speaking disparagingly about some parents in front of the clients. Mrs. — reported that her daughters, —, was involved in actions that kept one of the female clients awake for approximately 72 hours. The girls involved would also take turns in seeing that the victim of this action was awake. Daughter — also reported to her mother a case where a female client was tied hands and feet to a bed as punishment for some activity. Marci Moore was reportedly the person who did this. Mrs. — feels that her daughter’s treatment in Straight brought about an attempt at suicide and subsequent psychiatric treatment. She also reported that — witnessed Mike S., a counselor beat up a client who insulted his wife.