Valleyhead, a school for girls, closes

Valleyhead, a school for girls, closes

There are 283 comments on the Berkshire Eagle story from Feb 26, 2009, titled Valleyhead, a school for girls, closes. In it, Berkshire Eagle reports that:

After 40 years of serving young women with emotional issues, the Valleyhead school has closed.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Berkshire Eagle.

sadfw

South Glens Falls, NY

#64 Mar 29, 2010
Matt Merritt is also rumored to have applied for the Lenox high Soccer coaching job. Something should be done.
Bridgette Waite

Derry, NH

#65 Apr 7, 2010
I used to be in Valleyhead I have been trying to get back in touch for 2 years now with no responce now i know why. i admit some of their techniques were not cosure for the kids that were there. I am going to join this group that is on Facebook, so that i can keep intouch with some of my friends!
LAURA KELLEHER

Powhatan, VA

#66 May 18, 2010
Mattie wrote:
I, too worked at VH - overnight - off and on 1996 - 1999.
No child was abused when I was around. I never heard anything or saw anything directly. There was not much that could be done with information reported after the fact, except to tell your boss, write an incident report, etc.
One problem VH had was hiring staff. In the late 90's most entry level staff was on making $8.00 an hour. You are not going to get a lot of college graduates with degrees in the field applying for positions with that kind of pay. Additionally, problems were caused in that male staff were often paid more than female staff.
Another problem was making the punishment fit the crime. Overt suicide attempts should not have been punished, there should have been therapy. BUT, any and all staff/student assaults should have resulted in crimminal charges being pressed. There are conseqences for actions and I firmly believe because of the abuse most of the girls had suffered, they KNEW it was wrong to hurt another person.
I still have the belief that residential care can help those who need it. Valleyhead may have been a casualty of making a profit. I don't think that was the initial goal of the family.
I was there from 96-99 as well and dont remember any abuse except for the other kds trying to beat up the staff.
dawn mcnutt

AOL

#67 Jun 11, 2010
i went to valley head 1990-1993i was there for family issures . now i am 33 years old with a husband and 3 kids but what they did to me at valley head change my life .i have a hard time living out in the world married to my john is hard sometime i do no way. i feel depressed. they really mest me up i hate them all for the shit the put me throw. i cant have sex with my husband with out being scared all the time. i love my fasmily but i need to not be scared of them . when i heard that valey head c;losed down i felt a little better i am not so scared of the world any more i can live the rest of my life happy thank you dawn mcnutt
dawn mcnutt

AOL

#68 Jun 11, 2010
I DO NOT KNOW WERE TO REALLY START .I WAS STUDENT THRER FOR 1990-1993 I SAW A LOT OFF THINGS THERE BUT I KEEP MY MOUTH CLOSED AND EYE CLOSED .WILL I WAS THERE THERE WAS A OLDS MEN STAFF WHO HAD SEX WITH A GIRL NAMED MELISSA IN THE IT WASNT STONE OR ROSEVELT OR SWIFT IT WAS THE OTHER HOUSE.I LOT OF THE GIRLS RUNAWAY SOME OF THEM WERE GAY.THERE WAS A LOT OF SEX STUFF GOING ON. THE STAFF REALLY NEVER LISTEN TO US. THE COOK WHO WORK THE TIME I WAS THERE SUCK SO MY PARENT SEND ME FOOD SO I WOULD GET SICK. GIRLS PEED IN THE APPLE JUICE SPITE IN THE FOOD. THERE WERE LOT OF FIGHTS. MY BACK GO OUT A LOT NOW. FROM THE STAFF SITTING ON MY BACK. WHEN MY PARENTS VISITED ME ONCE THE TOLD MY DAD HE COULD GIVE MY A HUG MY DAD NEVER HURT ME HE LOVED MY. WHEN I FIRST GOT THERE MY DCHF WORKER TOLD ME 3-6 MONTH TI COULD GET OUT WITH GOOD BEHAVIOR THE LIAR I WAS THERE FOR ALMOST 3 YEARS. BECACAUSE OF BEING THERE I WAS A AFRAID TO BE IN THE REAL WORLD I AM STILL SCARED BUT I LIVE WITH IT .IT SOMETIMES VERY HARD.WHEN I WAS IN THERE I WAS ONLY FOR ADHD ADD AND FAMILY ISSURES. WILL THERE I BECAME GAY,SELF ABUSED,SCARED, GOT IN FIGHTS,RAN AWAY,DEPESSED,THE PUT MY ON MEDS THAT I DID NEED.SO NBEING THERE REALLY MEST MY LIFE UP .WHEN I GOT OUT I WENT TO A GROUP HOME IN CONNECTICUT. I WAS SCARED AT FIRST BE I BECAME OK WITH IT .NOW I LOOK BACK AND I MISS ON A LOT OF STUFF IN LIFE THAT THEY TOOK AWAY FROM MY MY CHILDHOOD IS WAS 13 WHEN I WENT IN AND 16 WHEN I LEFT VALLEY HEAD. THERE IS ONE GOOD THING I MET MY BEST FRIEND JANET MYES THERE. SOME OF THE STAFF WERE OK BUT WHAYT I SAW THERE WAS NOT FOR ME. I NOW LIVE IN WASHINGTON MARRIED 5 YEARS HAVE 3 KIDS I AM A CHRISITIN I LOVE JESUS WITH OUT HIM I PROBABLY BE DIE FROM DEPRESSED FROM BEING IN VALLEYHEAD IF EANY ONE REMEMBURS DAWN DIBELLA WRITE AT [email protected] thank you and to all the girls around when i was there sorry nfor the the shit there put you throw. i hope your lives are better god bless you all
Lori Shapiro

Virginia Beach, VA

#69 Jun 19, 2010
KJWW wrote:
<quoted text> No thank god I only spent two years in Valleyhead and I learned alot more then I should have. I couldn't go back to public schools because I was I so far behind my age group. I endup taking night classea and some college classes to get my diploma and I still don't if I got it, thats how mess up things got. I now live out in Michgian with my 2nd husband. I'm now 50,and have 1 daughter and 3 grandbabies tthat ive back east. If you really want to hear about the school give me a number that I can call you on.
I spent 2 1/2 years there,
fortunately it wasn't that bad,but it wasn't a picnic either.I have
Aspergers Syndrome and have been a"loner".They wanted me to interact more,but there weren't that many girls that I had anything in common with,4 out of 40 maybe.I got my diploma in
Va Beach,and am in my late 40's now.Lori
Lori Shapiro

Virginia Beach, VA

#70 Jun 20, 2010
I was there 2 1/2 years June 19,1978-December 6,1980.It was starting to go downhill then,in 1980.
Fortunately,I never experienced the traumatic things described in previous comments,but my
opinion of the Merrits is the same.I hope Vt.
closes the Bennington School as well.Lori
Lori Shapiro

Virginia Beach, VA

#71 Jun 20, 2010
Brian wrote:
Dear Grace. I am not sure which cognitively distorted rose colored glasses you look out of? but i worked there for two years. Their financial records, investigations over the years, The kids there were financially exploited by Matthew Merrit Its called misappropriation of funds,Willful Denial, Over medication, There have been so many complaints by staff and parents that the FBI and a whole group of Private Investigators (some that worked there) Hint and it was all a collaborative effort with Special Investigators from dys,occs,dss(mutistate level). this has been a long time coming and was well worth it. Are any of you really surprised?? Money can only protect you for so long. I wish all the best to the survivors of valleyhead,desisto and many other crappy residential school across this country.
-M-
I hope ypu're not putting the Devereux Foundation on the
"crappy" school list.I attended Devereux Rutland Mass campus,prior
to Valleyhead,and Devereux is far superior.Matthew Merrit was
"loco" at the time I left(Dec 6, 1980)I was there at "V" 6/19/78,
thru 12/6/80.The Commonwealth of Va. pulled me out,and I graduated
High School in Va Beach,6/13/82.I am not sorry that "V" is closed,
however.Some of the stories in the comments,make it sound like
an "Insane Asylum".You can contact me if you wish, at [email protected]

Since: Jun 10

Virginia Beach, VA

#72 Jun 21, 2010
roberta wrote:
i left there in 1989 the day i turned 18 i made ms merrit give me my walkin papers.. to this day i still suffer from bipolar disorder i still have nightmares especially about fires i am afraid of fire after being there when one of the students tried to kill everyone when she set the mansion on fire while we were all asleep.. it was miserable.. we lost everything..our lives were never the same. we couldnt see our families packages werent being given to us they just disappeared i was there up until i was in high school i cant get records from there and i have been trying to get the records since i was 20 years old they dont have them is what i was told well if anyone knows where i can get the records please let me kno if anyone knows where i can find ms dawn gay let me know please
Was the fire in 1987? I heard about it from a former Staff,
who was there 2 months (April-June,1980)I would have nightmares too,I'm afraid of fire as it is.Lori [email protected] June 19,1978-December 6,1980.

Since: Jun 10

Virginia Beach, VA

#73 Jun 21, 2010
Postscript;I was given Dilantin,a seizure medication due to staff error on my first day.It
made me "sick as a dog".Incident date;June 19,1978.
Lori
Lori Shapiro

Virginia Beach, VA

#74 Jun 22, 2010
Mattie wrote:
I, too worked at VH - overnight - off and on 1996 - 1999.
No child was abused when I was around. I never heard anything or saw anything directly. There was not much that could be done with information reported after the fact, except to tell your boss, write an incident report, etc.
One problem VH had was hiring staff. In the late 90's most entry level staff was on making $8.00 an hour. You are not going to get a lot of college graduates with degrees in the field applying for positions with that kind of pay. Additionally, problems were caused in that male staff were often paid more than female staff.
Another problem was making the punishment fit the crime. Overt suicide attempts should not have been punished, there should have been therapy. BUT, any and all staff/student assaults should have resulted in crimminal charges being pressed. There are conseqences for actions and I firmly believe because of the abuse most of the girls had suffered, they KNEW it was wrong to hurt another person.
I still have the belief that residential care can help those who need it. Valleyhead may have been a casualty of making a profit. I don't think that was the initial goal of the family.
I am a
adult with Aspergers Syndrome who attended VH from 6/19/78-12/6/80.
I serve on an ad-hoc committee that helps intellectually/developmentally disabled adults "speak up for themselves".I also believe that institutions are no longer an
acceptable setting,if community supports are available.The agency
I'm with,Hope House Foundation,has similar staff hiring problems,but
we don't hire anyone,unless they have a "spotless"history.We also
provide services to our "people in their own homes/apts".Lori
former staff

Mechanicville, NY

#75 Jun 22, 2010
Heather N wrote:
While a lot of crappy things went on, I highly doubt that there was sexual misconduct running rampant, as is cited in several above postings.
Yes, there was the occasional staff/female liaison,but those were rare and ALWAYS found out.
For the most part, I enjoyed VH. Well, as much as one can. It was situated in a beautiful area, and while we were certainly limited in our freedoms, it wasn't overall Hell.
Sure, there were times when things weren't fair, and yes, I believe there should have been more pay for the staff, better psych care and even better monitoring.
There were, however, a few good times... at least for me.
Before I left, I was the oldest girl there. I graduated by myself.
After I left VH I came back to visit a few times. I remember Jennie Happel. I taunted her to no end while I was there, then when I left I developed a conscious.
I came back to visit her a few times. I even brought my pet bird to visit.
I don't believe that VH was as bad as people claim it was, but as I didn't live their life, I'm in no position to tell them they're wrong.
For some, I'm sure, it very well could have been Hell.
I graduated in 95, so the issues of the mansion was well before my time. All I can say about the Merritt children is that I sincerely hope the abuse cited above did not take place. If it did, however, I am truly sorry for the pain their victims went through. Sexual abuse has NO business EVER occurring.
I did get to know Ellen pretty well during my last year there and after my release.
I came to respect Ellen. I truly believe her heart was in helping us, despite and IN spite of ourselves.
She always struck me as a patient, caring woman.. with one hell of a temper if you were unwise enough to invoke it.:)
Perhaps it's due to my psych hospitalizations that I'm not on the 'down with VH' kick. I suppose I simply got used to limited freedoms and reconciled myself to it.
All in all, I know that weather or not the residents there want to admit it, VH DID, indeed, help us to become who and what we are today.
I recently heard that Jennie Happel passed away. Is this true? Does anyone have details?
I also heard that Sue Obrien(former nurse) was killed in a car crash. Anyone know any more?
former staff

Mechanicville, NY

#76 Jun 22, 2010
dawn mcnutt wrote:
I DO NOT KNOW WERE TO REALLY START .I WAS STUDENT THRER FOR 1990-1993 I SAW A LOT OFF THINGS THERE BUT I KEEP MY MOUTH CLOSED AND EYE CLOSED .WILL I WAS THERE THERE WAS A OLDS MEN STAFF WHO HAD SEX WITH A GIRL NAMED MELISSA IN THE IT WASNT STONE OR ROSEVELT OR SWIFT IT WAS THE OTHER HOUSE.I LOT OF THE GIRLS RUNAWAY SOME OF THEM WERE GAY.THERE WAS A LOT OF SEX STUFF GOING ON. THE STAFF REALLY NEVER LISTEN TO US. THE COOK WHO WORK THE TIME I WAS THERE SUCK SO MY PARENT SEND ME FOOD SO I WOULD GET SICK. GIRLS PEED IN THE APPLE JUICE SPITE IN THE FOOD. THERE WERE LOT OF FIGHTS. MY BACK GO OUT A LOT NOW. FROM THE STAFF SITTING ON MY BACK. WHEN MY PARENTS VISITED ME ONCE THE TOLD MY DAD HE COULD GIVE MY A HUG MY DAD NEVER HURT ME HE LOVED MY. WHEN I FIRST GOT THERE MY DCHF WORKER TOLD ME 3-6 MONTH TI COULD GET OUT WITH GOOD BEHAVIOR THE LIAR I WAS THERE FOR ALMOST 3 YEARS. BECACAUSE OF BEING THERE I WAS A AFRAID TO BE IN THE REAL WORLD I AM STILL SCARED BUT I LIVE WITH IT .IT SOMETIMES VERY HARD.WHEN I WAS IN THERE I WAS ONLY FOR ADHD ADD AND FAMILY ISSURES. WILL THERE I BECAME GAY,SELF ABUSED,SCARED, GOT IN FIGHTS,RAN AWAY,DEPESSED,THE PUT MY ON MEDS THAT I DID NEED.SO NBEING THERE REALLY MEST MY LIFE UP .WHEN I GOT OUT I WENT TO A GROUP HOME IN CONNECTICUT. I WAS SCARED AT FIRST BE I BECAME OK WITH IT .NOW I LOOK BACK AND I MISS ON A LOT OF STUFF IN LIFE THAT THEY TOOK AWAY FROM MY MY CHILDHOOD IS WAS 13 WHEN I WENT IN AND 16 WHEN I LEFT VALLEY HEAD. THERE IS ONE GOOD THING I MET MY BEST FRIEND JANET MYES THERE. SOME OF THE STAFF WERE OK BUT WHAYT I SAW THERE WAS NOT FOR ME. I NOW LIVE IN WASHINGTON MARRIED 5 YEARS HAVE 3 KIDS I AM A CHRISITIN I LOVE JESUS WITH OUT HIM I PROBABLY BE DIE FROM DEPRESSED FROM BEING IN VALLEYHEAD IF EANY ONE REMEMBURS DAWN DIBELLA WRITE AT [email protected] thank you and to all the girls around when i was there sorry nfor the the shit there put you throw. i hope your lives are better god bless you all
Chances are, if staff were "sitting" on you back, you must have had some pretty dangerous behavior. It would be nice to hear you take some accountability for your actions.
Lori Shapiro

Virginia Beach, VA

#77 Jun 24, 2010
kkww wrote:
To the girl who called me a lair get facts the strait, in the 70's the Merritts lived the Mansion and their kids on the same floor only seperated a door no locks. The parents had their bedroom downstairs off the kichen!!
I thought they
lived in the "green house" on the hill above the "mansion".Did
that change after 1982 or something?Lori
Ruth S

Phoenix, AZ

#78 Jun 26, 2010
I WAS A FORMER STUDENT THERE...THE FIRST YEAR WAS QUITE SHOCKING TO ME. It took some time to get used to the routine and the other sick students there. To be honest if you weren't sick you would not have been there at all. So, now as an adult; I look back at the events that may have gone on... well, as any business goes there were some mistakes, and some things done right. I was able to receive the counseling I needed and an education. My main two goals for graduating.
I don't blame anyone for what should or should not have happened. Yes, as a teen I was miserable there- what teen with emotional disorders is a happy one.I was an angry teen at the world. Vallyhead just happened to be the place where I was placed to get a grip.
I just want to thank all the Merrits for the chance to heal. Vallyhead was there when I needed to get help.
Ruth S

Phoenix, AZ

#79 Jun 26, 2010
Lori Shapiro wrote:
<quoted text>I spent 2 1/2 years there,
fortunately it wasn't that bad,but it wasn't a picnic either.I have
Aspergers Syndrome and have been a"loner".They wanted me to interact more,but there weren't that many girls that I had anything in common with,4 out of 40 maybe.I got my diploma in
Va Beach,and am in my late 40's now.Lori
Lori: I don't know if you remember me... I was mostly the quiet one...find me on facebook. I was there from 1987-1990. I was one of the few out of the country students. Ruth Steen
Lori Shapiro

Virginia Beach, VA

#80 Jun 27, 2010
Ruth S wrote:
<quoted text>
Lori: I don't know if you remember me... I was mostly the quiet one...find me on facebook. I was there from 1987-1990. I was one of the few out of the country students. Ruth Steen
Ruth,I left VH in late 1980,so I was long gone before you began your
term as a student.I was there from 6/19/78-12/6/80.I am 48 now,
I don't know how old you are.I am not on facebook,my dad doesn't think those sites are safe,If you want to continue communication,
use [email protected] please don't give this e-mail address
out,as I am trying to avoid virus's and spam.Lori
Unknown

United States

#81 Jul 8, 2010
I'm trying to find a teacher by the name of John Martin, he tought at Valleyhead in the late 80's. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this amazing teacher, please email me all info at [email protected]
Grace

AOL

#82 Jul 24, 2010
These comments read like a run on of lies, exagerations and false accusations. Some of you paint a very colorful picture of abuse, torture and criminal activity. The truth is far from what is being described by most. Having worked at Valleyhead for many years and being a person of honor and integrity I must say.... What the heck are you talking about. Yes, I am sure there were times that things did not go they way they should have, welcome to the real world and any "institution" that takes care of adolescents with special needs. I am witness to so many incredibly wonderful things that happened at Valleyhead. Things like, girls changing their lives and learning to love themselves enough to not try to hurt or kill themselves. Girls who developed a positive sense of themselves and therefore believing that they were capable of doing great things. Girls who learned the value of taking responsibilty for thier actions and not blaming others....therefore able to see that they alone determine their future. I remain in contact with many girls, or shall I say women. Many of these women are doing as well or better than most. The road to recovery is not without pain and struggle, resisiting the adult guidance is part and parcel of being a teenager. Please try to be more honest about your experence. Don't blame others for failing to meet your goals. There was a lot of love, hope and possibilty at Vallyhead. Individual people make mistakes but this does not represent the whole truth. The Merritt's dedicated 40 years to building a place that would give young women a place to heal, grow, change and move into the world with confidence. While working there, I must say i sure met many staff and like the world, there were many that were amazing compassionate generous and talented people. Oh yes, there were also those that were lazy, disgruntled, unmotivated and sometimes even mean -- the latter group was not who we wanted and in most cases did not last long once expsed.
Now, let me ask...The FBI, really... how dramatic can you be. The school was not closed down contrary to what has been written. If you did your research you would find that there was no outside state or federal agency closing Valleyehad down.
To all the former students who write here, look inside yourslf again and be honest, take responsiblilty. I am not saying that every experience was a good one.... did anyone go thru their adolescent experience without ups and downs, misguided anger, feeling put upon or misunderstood by adults..? Well that's it for now, can't wait to hear how this is recieved.
Phann Try

Troy, NY

#83 Aug 9, 2010
I remeber valleyhead, i use to remeber all the goods days and some are bad days.

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