Monday, October 6, 2008

GIRLS SCHOOL MAY FACE STATE PROBE

News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN) - January 1, 1993
Author: TANYA ISCH CAYLOR OF THE NEWS-SENTINEL
A girls boarding school in Kosciusko County may be investigated by state welfare officials, based on information turned up this week in a News-Sentinel interview with a student at the school.

On Tuesday, during a court-ordered visit with her father, a 15-year-old Hephzibah House resident said school officials yank the solid-food privileges of students who fail to memorize their weekly allotment of Bible verses.

The girl, Sarah, also said she had missed six months' worth of menstrual periods during her 10-month stay at Hephzibah House - a common complaint of women who have spent time at the home.

A state welfare official, informed yesterday of the girl's comments, said he planned to check with a physician to determine whether the situation warranted investigation.

''For us to become involved, we would have to have cause to believe that a child was in a situation that could seriously endanger his or her well- being," Tim Elliott, supervisor of the state's Child Protective Services Section, a branch of the Division of Family and Children, said yesterday.

Elliott is not permitted to reveal what information he may have collected on Hephzibah House in the past. But he was obviously familiar with the home.

If his discussion with a physician leads him to believe an investigation is in order, Elliott said, "we could have somebody up there within 48 hours."

Hephzibah House , on the outskirts of Winona Lake near Warsaw, was founded in 1971 by the Rev. Ron Williams.

Williams has referred all questions about Hephzibah House to Warsaw attorney Paul Refior, who was out of town yesterday.

In its literature, Hephzibah House is described as a boarding school for "troubled" teen-age girls.

House rules prohibit phone calls and visitors unless a staff member is on the line or in the room.

Mail is screened. Staff members accompany the girls at all times, even to the bathroom. Doors and windows are equipped with alarms to prevent escape attempts.

The "troubled" teens - many of whom come from independent Baptist churches as far away as Alaska - are typically enrolled for 15-month periods. They are told not to contact each other after they leave.

During Tuesday's court-ordered visitation, Sarah - whose father, Lucius, is trying to win custody of her - said Hephzibah House discourages alumni reunions because "two can get into more trouble than one."

Nonetheless, an alumni network of sorts has developed during the past few years. Its most-active members don't exactly have fond memories of their alma mater.

The most vocal of these women, a Cleveland resident named Karen Glover, in a 1991 letter to Kosciusko County authorities, complained of brutal paddlings, isolation from other residents and menstrual problems.

Now in her late 20s, Glover says she is sexually dysfunctional - a problem she attributes to psychological abuse suffered during the two years she spent at Hephzibah House in the early '80s.

''I was completely brainwashed," she told The News-Sentinel in an interview last year.

In 1985, after the Times-Union of Warsaw published an article critical of Hephzibah House , Glover wrote in to defend the home. As the years passed, though, her loyalty turned to scorn.

''I want to take Ron Williams down," she told The News-Sentinel last year. "I want to sit across from him in a courtroom and tell the world what a scum he is."

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