Ex-students say boarding school kept them in isolation boxes

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Iowa City (iowa) | Published: February 14, 2016 3:10:23 AM

A boarding school for troubled teenagers in Iowa that is being investigated by the FBI routinely kept pupils in small concrete "isolation boxes" for days or weeks and wouldn't let them out unless they sat in a specific posture for 24 hours, according to several former students.

A boarding school for troubled teenagers in Iowa that is being investigated by the FBI routinely kept pupils in small concrete “isolation boxes” for days or weeks and wouldn’t let them out unless they sat in a specific posture for 24 hours, according to several former students.

Six former students recently told The Associated Press about abuse they say they suffered while attending Midwest Academy in Keokuk, a city along the Mississippi River where Iowa borders Illinois and Missouri. They said the dark, cell-like punishment rooms were often filled with the sounds of students’ screams and motivational recordings piped in through speakers. Surveillance cameras and staff members kept watch.

“You spend your time pounding your head against the wall. You can’t sleep because there is a lot of noise. A lot of girls like to scream in there. You basically look forward to bathroom breaks and those moments when you can get out of your box,” said Emily Beaman, 17, of Wheaton, Illinois.

Beaman said that after weeks of isolation, she got out in July only after cutting herself with a bottle cap and begging emergency responders to place her elsewhere. She said an earlier escape attempt failed.

The students, who attended the academy between 2008 and last September, said they and their classmates mutilated themselves, hated the lack of activity and natural light, and lost weight due to small meals. Some said they were scarred by the experience months or years later.

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