Thursday, June 30, 2005

Mel Riddile, Straight's former national clinical director, protested at awards ceremony

We have received word that on June 22, 2005 Melvin Riddile, Ph.D., the principal of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County, Virginia was presented an award in Williamsburg, Virginia for being the best principal in Virginia. But the ceremony was protested by a handful of Straight survivors. Dr. Riddile is the former national executive director of Straight, Inc. and during the early 1980s Dr. Riddile was the director of the Straight camp in Springfield, Virginia (in Fairfax County). For 17 years Straight, Inc. was one of the most destructive juvenile rehabilitation programs in the world. Straight stopped treating kids for addictions in 1993 and today is an internationally recognized think tank on American and international drug policy. Today it calls itself Drug Free America Foundation and its founder (who is the former chairman of the finance committee for the national GOP) Melvin Sembler is our Ambassador to Italy. While DFAF no longer treats kids for addictions, Kids Helping Kids of Cincinnati, Ohio does.

Kids Helping Kids was founded in part by Dr. George Ross who, like Dr. Riddile, has a Ph.D. in Education. Dr. Ross is Straight's former national education director. A few months after Straight had opened in Virginia, back when Mel Riddile was director of the Virginia program, a young Straight escapee named Fred Collins was awarded $220,000 by a jury in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia for being falsely imprisoned by Straight. Virginia authorities did not prosecute Dr. Riddile or anyone else for their roles at Straight, but state authorities in Kentucky tried to prosecute Dr. Ross for his alleged role of violating civil liberties at Possibilities Unlimited--another Straight-like program he founded in Lexington, Kentucky.

Straight-Cincinnati voluntarily closed in Ohio after state criminal authorities took it to court on multiple criminal counts. Today Kids Helping Kids continues to operate out of the old Straight facility. Recently some Straight survivors urged Dr. Riddile to speak out against Kids Helping Kids. They allege he personally knows "people who were involved with KHK." When Dr. Riddile refused to speak out against Kids, the Straight survivors passed out the following flier at the awards ceremony for Dr. Riddile. Here is a copy of the Riddile flier that was eMailed to us.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Straight's former national executive director represses right to free speech

A while back we reported on President Bush's visit to a Fairfax County, Virginia High School last January. Out of 24 high schools in that country we were not surprised that the Pres selected J.E.B. Stuart High because the principal at Stuart is Dr. Mel Riddile. Dr. Riddile is the former national director for Straight, Inc. and the former director of the notorious Straight treatment camp in Springfield, Virginia. Thirteen former clients from Straight-Springfield went on to commit suicide or murder. (See What caused the 1980 epidemic of juvenile suicides in Fairfax County Virginia? and Abuses at Straight-Springfield. Note that most of the data in these reports occurred after Dr. Riddile's term at Straight-Springfield.) We got our information for our previous report from an article on J.E.B. Stuart's web page that implied, by omission, that the President was speaking to the students at that high school. The President opened his remarks saying, "I want to thank all the students here today." Now we have learned that only 75 of the school's 1400 students were allowed to attend the assembly. Most of the audience was made up of adult Republicans sycophants. One student who planned to protest the President's visit was expelled from school. His story made it to NPR. Whenever Nancy Reagan visited a Straight camp recalcitrant inmates were restrained in anterooms so the repression of free speech at J.E.B. Stuart does not surprise us. story

Wes Fager's letter to Bill O'Reilly on biased reporting by St Pete Times

We know that John Couey probably killed 9 year-old Jessica Lunsford. We know this because, according to the Citrus County Florida authorities who are holding him, he admitted to the killing. But this confession likely will not make it to trial. Why? Because Couey kept asking for an attorney but the authorities failed to get him one. What's more, at least three others may have abetted Couey in his flee to Georgia before being captured but none of them have been arrested. The abduction and murder of Jessica Lunsford made national news and the subsequent botching by Citrus County authorities has been the subject of criticism by FOX News host Bill O'Reilly and by U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite. Not surprisingly the once mighty St. Petersburg Times stood by the incomptence of the Citrus County's Sheriff's Office and the prosecutor's office. And when the national media criticized Florida officials The Times jumped all over Bill O'Reilly. For example, on June 21, 2005 The Times editorialized, "In recent weeks, Fox television's minister of misinformation Bill O'Reilly has attacked these law enforcement agencies and the St. Petersburg Times for their actions. 'They're covering up something there,' he has blustered, while offering not a shred of proof to back up this absurd conclusion."

Like PumpGate these things are highly predictable. The abduction and murder of a little girl makes national news. When the authorities botch the investigation, if the local press fails to report the failures, the national press will. The Times blasts O'Reilly for doing its job and O'Reilly blasts back interviewing a former Citrus County assistant prosecutor. That interview is here.

This is not the first time O'Reilly has crossed paths with The Times, though he doesn't realize it yet. My email to Bill O'Reilly explaining this follows:

Dear Bill:

You don't realize it but the blotched Jessica Lunsford investigation is not the first time you've crossed paths with the Tash/Barnes St. Petersburg Times. In April you had Calvina Fay of the St. Petersburg-based Drug Free America Foundation on your program as an expert on the ease it is for one to get medical marijuana. You disagreed with Ms. Fay on the use of marijuana by talk show host Montel Williams to ease the pain he suffers from MS. In January Montel aired a segment about a ruthless, amateurish former juvenile drug rehabilitation program called Straight, Inc. Over 40 former Straight clients have committed suicide. Straight was founded by former finance chair to the national GOP and US Ambassador to Italy Melvin Sembler. Straight no longer treats kids for addictions and in 1995 changed its name to Drug Free America Foundation. Now people such as yourself are duped into calling on DFAF to defend national drug policy. And the reason you don't know any better is because The Times won't report on it because it is in Sembler's pockets and because a respected pediatrician and former Straight board was a medical writer for The Times.

Wes Fager