Allynwood Academy plagued with abuse allegations

By Julianne Peixoto

August 11, 2014 Updated Aug 12, 2014 at 3:14 PM EDT

Hancock, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Allynwood Academy -- a boarding school for troubled teens -- will close at the end of the year, but not everyone is sad to see the school shutdown.

Formerly known as Family Foundation School, Allynwood will no longer be accepting new students, and asked all but 15 students to leave on Aug. 8.

The final 15 students will be staying through to the end of the year, and a group of former alumni couldn't be happier that the end is in sight for the school.

A group called the Family Foundation School Truth Campaign consists of a compilation of more than 100 alumni testimonials and focuses on publicly sharing their negative experiences at the school.

"They want us to say that people did things at the time that were wrong and I won't say that," said administrator Rita Argiros."What I will do is say that people used techniques and methods at the time that have been replaced, but they weren't incorrect at the time."

Argiros said methods, including the use of blanket restraints or forcing students to eat all of the food on their plates, have since been replaced, as socially accepted standards and regulations have changed.

"I was actually asked to wake a student up with a flood light, which actually burned the retinas of his eyes," said former student Jon Martin-Crawford. "They're still damaged today.

When Action News recounted the same story to Argiros, she denied that it happened.

Members of the campaign shared some of their memories with Action News.

"I don't know of any parent who would have wrapped their kid in a blanket, then duct-taped them and threw them in a closet for 5 hours in the 90's that wouldn't get arrested," said former student and founder of the Truth Campaign, Kenny Fingerman. "I don't know of any parent that would not feed their kid for two weeks until they ate vegetables on their plate in the mid 2000's."

Martin-Crawford said that it can take many years before a person comes to terms with abuse.

"It can take two, three years for the brain washing and the Stockholm Syndrome to wear off," said Martin-Crawford. "And by then, with the statute of limitations ... it would be very hard to make a legal case."

"Parents love their children dearly, the parents that sent their children here love them to no end," said Argiros. "Do you think that if I was routinely abusing their children and that there was, especially if there was physical abuse, that we would be here all these years?"

Argiros said the Truth Campaign likely has something do with with the school's declining enrollment and thus closure, but she said therapeutic schools everywhere have suffered financially because of their cost and the bad economy.