I'd like to thank Ms. Gleason and Mr. Wilson for exchanging worried looks within my view when staff were doing the many things I've talked about, though of course they could not break rank. For all I know I may be remembering wrong, they might have thought all was well. But in a world where gaslighting was the norm and nobody even thought anything was wrong (please see the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Obedience Study for explanations of this), they were beacons.
Now, don't get me wrong. Some of the teachers I liked; Ms. Gleason and Mr. Wilson remain in my mind as bright spots, people who actually did try to teach, despite being hampered by the structure, and despite the fact that they did nothing to stop the abuses I talked about in my main review. Others, though, were controlling and resented being questioned in any way. One incident springs to mind; I was planning to sing for the talent show. The standard procedure was for students to lip-sync over music playing in the background, and for the songs to be cut off at the three-minute mark. I however wanted to sing unaccompanied. I stated this very clearly. One teacher persuaded me to let her find and buy the song I wanted to sing on iTunes, and since I wasn't violently opposed to it, I agreed. During the rehearsal, though, I learned that although I could easily sing all three verses and choruses in three minutes, the iTunes version was too long. So I told my teacher that I wasn't going to use it. I then had to watch her being comforted by the other teachers, who told me that I had badly hurt her feelings. I suspect they wanted to make it into a teachable moment. Instead I was angry. I hadn't asked her to buy the song for me, and I had been polite in telling her why I wasn't going to use it. When I was forced to apologize to her, I was enraged. But I kept it down and threw things when I went home.
The level of academic rigor was absurdly low. Teachers in the Upper School knew no more about their subjects than the students, and in some cases they knew less. One of my teachers was a English major, and although they shuffled teachers frequently from subject to subject, she spent very little time actually teaching English.
Students who get through this with their confidence and sense of right and wrong intact are survivors. Some students wound up saying how much they loved it there, and how it was helping them. For some of them it may have been true--it was so far outside my experience that I can't speak to it. But I know that for others, it was a case of life being so hard, and being so helpless to do anything about it, that they identified with the school, because anything else would have been unbearable. I don't blame them.
Students who sit quietly and refuse to leave the classroom when they are told to "take space" are forcibly restrained and carried to isolation rooms. I was kept in an isolation room the entire school day for two days in a row because I refused to take my novels out of my hoodie pocket. No accommodations were made in the rules, and academics weren't even a second priority. Later, at a different school, my therapist commented scornfully that she had never seen an IEP so full of buzzwords as the one written there. I didn't know, because policy was that I wasn't allowed in the meeting and was never shown the IEP. While at Manville I felt had no more dignity and no more control over my life than a dog in a shelter.
At the time one of my problems was that sometimes I would get a "thing" about a person, where being close to to them caused me psychological agony. There was a certain staff member, the head of the Upper School. I got that way about him, very badly. When he was nearby, I was visibly in distress. I had a lot of nightmares, and dreaded going to school. I jumped when the classroom door opened. I wondered why I saw him so much, why he was always nearby, but dismissed it as paranoia.
Long story short, he admitted to my parents and team he had been following me around while I reacted that way. He claimed he had been trying to get me accustomed to him. I was visibly getting worse, and he didn't quit. And he didn't tell anyone. No one on my team, none of the other teachers. He kept it a secret. Once this was out in the open, he came in for no censure, and the last I heard he'd been promoted.
Thank G-d, I got out. I left after that one year, and in the six years since I've recovered a lot. With the help of therapists and the better environment at a different school, I fought my way back to the level of health I had been at before going to Manville, and then fought more until I had conquered most of my issues. I eventually got back to public school, and I’m now at university, majoring in psychology. Ironically, this has only highlighted the abuses at Manville, because now I know how far from “best practices” their policies are. As I write this, my heart is pounding and I’m shaking. Even now I haven’t forgiven that man, and I’m furious still at the people who stood by and said nothing and did nothing.
This school is horrible. Staff are not well trained, students are taught material that is 3-4 years below their grade level, and behavior methods include locking children up in isolation rooms. Children are also allowed to punch, kick, and attack other children.
Our son is a student in the Lower School and is finally thriving after flailing around in the public school system in our town. We are extremely happy with his progress as our son finishes his first year there this week.