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.

Since: Jul 13

Boston, MA

#251 Feb 11, 2014
I seriously think that the Merritt's deserve everything the get. Born a thief, die a thief. Finally payback time. Matthew will die in jail. His son in law may get up to 10 years or more of time. Serves them all right for the way us Valleyhead girls were treated by them as well as by the staff members.. When I was there, the staff were no good for that type of job. Amongst drug addicts and ex-cons, Merritt was running a racketeer joint in two states. Now they all have to pay the piper.

Since: Jul 13

Boston, MA

#252 Feb 12, 2014
DCF are Monsters wrote:
The Merritts and others like them will never go to jail long enough, if they go to jail at all, and never pay back anywhere near what they actually stole. And they couldn't have go away with for so long without others looking the other way. Police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors, and boy scout leaders protected and shielded the pedophiles among them allowing abuse and molestation of children for decades. The church protected and shielded pedophile priests for decades while allowing the exploitation, abuse and molestation of children for decades. Institutions in the business of exploiting children have always attracted immoral sadistic cretins who preyed on children, while others looked they other way.
Yeah. I know. Matt was only arraigned 18 month of prison time . I feel he should get 20 years for what he did.
Kimberly

Belfast, ME

#253 Feb 28, 2014
I was at VH around 1986-1988. I don't remember any abuse going on. I was a runaway a few times and remember that my punishment was a closer eye on me and an orange outfit to wear. I was there for many issues-I had spent a lot of time in psych hospitals and VH was my last stop. I never did graduate from there-I ran away while on vacation in Maine. If anyone remembers Bambi Fournier let me know-she was my bff there and miss her tons. While I was there 2 friends and I planned on running away together-I woke up the next morning and found they left without me. 2 days later they were killed in a truck accident-the driver fell asleep totaling his 18 wheeler. These deaths were no fault of the Merritts. I remember not liking It there but I was young, scared, dealing with mental health issues, and my own family didn't want me. So I was full of anger and hate. I remember a few staff-the lady who always ate carrots her skin was orange-I loved her. I was there when the big mansion burned down-I was on an outing with a few girls and a staff member-we were out bowling-a cop pulled us over and told us we couldn't go back to VH because there was a fire. No the fire didn't happen during the nite-it was about 7 or 8 pm. The student wasn't trying to kill us she was mad at the staff about being there at VH. After the fire the Merritts eventually found us a new campus to live on. I'm so sorry for the girls that said they were abused-if it happenend something should be done. I personally didn't see the Merritts hardly at all while I was there. I hope to hear from some friends.
DCF and Other Monsters

Hope, ME

#254 Feb 28, 2014
Children will never be safe as long as there are Monsters who profit off children. As long as exploiting children is disguised as helping children, children will suffer, and MONSTERS will profit. And the MONSTERS will celebrate with wine and cheese, in extravagance. And children will suffer!
Marianne Smith

Stevensville, MD

#255 Mar 3, 2014
Rebecca wrote:
I'm reading all this with tears running down my face, and a rage fueled vile in my throat. I had managed to keep this nightmare at bay for years in my normal everyday life. But for nearly 30 years, I still dreamed bad stuff. Valleyhead, the Merritt family, and most (not all) of the staff were masochistic, ill-trained, completely unprofessional, and managed to exacerbate the pre-existing PTSD that most of us suffered. I am GLAD that hell-hole burned. Fire should be cleansing, but apparently the nightmare continued when they re-built. At least Donna Abbott was gone. Fire was too good an end for that drunken miserable wretch. Hope she's got her own special place in Hell. Hope her nasty sister goes with her. For anyone who doubts, think about this: Why else would a perfectly normal soccer mom, with 3 great kids, husband, life in the suburbs, and overall success, be writing this? The Merritt family and their abuse still lives in very dark, hidden places in us. I was there when Jodi jumped out the window. I heard Ms Donovan say some nasty shit to her. And she wasn't the only one.Instead of getting her help, they ostracised her, and shamed her. I helped her bathe and wash her hair. Not them. We were there meal tickets, and they dined very well at our expense. Reunion? I won't even drive into Lenox. I have family there, but have to see them in Lee or Stockbridge, because the thought of entering town gives me heart palpitations. If I got to see Steve Weslowski again, I might go. He was the best staff to ever grace that place. Michelle Sweet was kind. There were maybe 2 others who were human, but the rest....they STILL show up in my bad dreams. Someday maybe we'll all find some peace. I hope.
I was a student from Maryland in the 80,s for two years. I am the reason that Maryland and Virginia pulled all their girls out of that hell-hole. They tried to lie to the state of Maryland and got busted. They gave Joanna the matches to burn the place down. The school was run by evil.
Marianne Smith

Stevensville, MD

#256 Mar 3, 2014
I was sent to their school because I had a genius IQ and had emotional problems. The state of Maryland believed the lies that this school told. There was no horseback riding or cross-country skiing. They stole my account money for shopping, cut my electric blanket when there was no heat at all, and I almost died of pneumonia. I witnessed many girls being abused and having sex with male staff members. The education was the only part that made sense. they abused the Swift House girls terrible and Joe the cook served mice infested meals. The staff used to tell us that we were sh*t and worth nothing. The school was run by child-abusers who hired child-abusers. I helped get all the girls from Maryland and Virginia out of that horrible place. I am still proud to this day that I stood up to them and got flown out the very next morning. My name used to be Marianne Scheller when I attended Valleydread. I pissed them off so bad that they put up warnings to the other students after I left. I saved many girls from ever going to that horrible school.
Marianne Smith

Stevensville, MD

#257 Mar 4, 2014
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 kitchen!!
I was there in the middle 80's and I know this was still happening then. You are not a liar. These people were evil.
DCF and Other Monsters

Hope, ME

#258 Mar 4, 2014
Marianne Smith wrote:
I was sent to their school because I had a genius IQ and had emotional problems. The state of Maryland believed the lies that this school told. There was no horseback riding or cross-country skiing. They stole my account money for shopping, cut my electric blanket when there was no heat at all, and I almost died of pneumonia. I witnessed many girls being abused and having sex with male staff members. The education was the only part that made sense. they abused the Swift House girls terrible and Joe the cook served mice infested meals. The staff used to tell us that we were sh*t and worth nothing. The school was run by child-abusers who hired child-abusers. I helped get all the girls from Maryland and Virginia out of that horrible place. I am still proud to this day that I stood up to them and got flown out the very next morning. My name used to be Marianne Scheller when I attended Valleydread. I pissed them off so bad that they put up warnings to the other students after I left. I saved many girls from ever going to that horrible school.
"child-abusers who hired child-abusers" State approved, and government funded greedy child-abusers. As long as the government allows evil monsters to profit of the misery of children, greedy government funded monsters will exploit children, and children will suffer.
Staff

Pella, IA

#259 Mar 11, 2014
I worked at three places in the course of many years. Valleyhead, Hillcrest and Kolburne. Hillcrest was the worst during that time, Kolburne was the best.

No child was ever abused by a staff member when I was around. No male staff ever snuck into a room at night. The one time the door opened at night and an unfamiliar night shift worker tried to go down the hall, I stopped him. I always wondered since he couldn't get to anyone in my building if he went to another.

I was educated and I had experience. Time and time again I watched as they hired men and women off the street who had no business working there. They were a danger not only to the students, but to staff.

Once staff were given their first raise, they became a monetary liability. Someone could be hired to do their job for cheaper. Eventually, if you weren't a suck-up or friends with the right people, you could be driven away.

I was always appalled at the lack of money kids were paid for chores (although most girls were capable of doing better work than they did). I couldn't believe how cheap and useless the activities were. One time, kids that needed them were given new sheets and comforters. I thought that was fantastic...only to find the state was charged for it. The food was just plain horrible...but the kitchen conditions were sanitary.

I couldn't believe any DCF or state could possibly pay more than $100K a year for the awful living conditions these kids were housed in. As many as four kids to a room and community bathrooms. No air conditioning and the heat dropped to an ungodly temperature at night..

Staff that reported other popular staff were often threatened and forced to quit. Sadly, many staff needed the paycheck, needed the overtime, needed to support their family. I'm glad I never directly saw or heard anything, I'd hate myself today.
Mattie

Pella, IA

#260 Mar 11, 2014
I hadn't been back to this page since my original post. It did make me smile to see some familiar names. Crystal L. you were the only time in my life I got to play "tooth fairy" and you almost caught me because I had collected so much change from the staff for that one tooth!
As I read through the responses I am saddened by some of the insults and call-outs I have read.
I'm not claiming to be an expert on the history of the school, but I believe from roughly 1969 - 1987 it was one large building and the entire Merritt family lived there as well. Mom, dad, six children. A student set a fire and the building burned to the ground. It was rebuilt as four separate houses, Stowe, Roosevelt and Anthony were named after famous women, Swift was Mama Merrits maiden name.
While I was there, they opened Walker Street house for six months. When I was leaving for the last time, Swift was being remodeled to add kids in the basement. When I stopped by in August of 2002, Walker Street House was again open and the girls had at least one dog that lived in the house!
I didn't see any of the sexual abuse, but I firmly believe it happened with no fewer than 12 male staff members. As was mentioned earlier in a post, I do not know if Randi Sabitini had sex with Brian Zuccolo, but she was a child, he was an adult. IF it happened, the onus of bad behavior is on him. It does not make her a "slut".
I still believe there are some instances where these types of institutions are needed. Think of extreme cases who run through foster parents, who are run risks, who are overly sexualized (for reasons that are not their fault, those who benefit from structure, from having school and therapist on site.
I've worked in a house type environment. One staff to four clients. This was in a neighborhood. There were no temper tantrums, no running away attempts, no self abuse, staff abuse. No public meltdowns. The clients could still be mouthy and noncompliant, but they knew the limits - and consequences. To use a stereotypical term - these kids were low-maintenance.
rebecca

Philadelphia, PA

#261 Mar 12, 2014
Mattie wrote:
I hadn't been back to this page since my original post. It did make me smile to see some familiar names. Crystal L. you were the only time in my life I got to play "tooth fairy" and you almost caught me because I had collected so much change from the staff for that one tooth!
As I read through the responses I am saddened by some of the insults and call-outs I have read.
I'm not claiming to be an expert on the history of the school, but I believe from roughly 1969 - 1987 it was one large building and the entire Merritt family lived there as well. Mom, dad, six children. A student set a fire and the building burned to the ground. It was rebuilt as four separate houses, Stowe, Roosevelt and Anthony were named after famous women, Swift was Mama Merrits maiden name.
While I was there, they opened Walker Street house for six months. When I was leaving for the last time, Swift was being remodeled to add kids in the basement. When I stopped by in August of 2002, Walker Street House was again open and the girls had at least one dog that lived in the house!
I didn't see any of the sexual abuse, but I firmly believe it happened with no fewer than 12 male staff members. As was mentioned earlier in a post, I do not know if Randi Sabitini had sex with Brian Zuccolo, but she was a child, he was an adult. IF it happened, the onus of bad behavior is on him. It does not make her a "slut".
I still believe there are some instances where these types of institutions are needed. Think of extreme cases who run through foster parents, who are run risks, who are overly sexualized (for reasons that are not their fault, those who benefit from structure, from having school and therapist on site.
I've worked in a house type environment. One staff to four clients. This was in a neighborhood. There were no temper tantrums, no running away attempts, no self abuse, staff abuse. No public meltdowns. The clients could still be mouthy and noncompliant, but they knew the limits - and consequences. To use a stereotypical term - these kids were low-maintenance.
. The Merritt's lived in their own house by the time I got there in '82. They had previously lived in mansion... I believe in the '70's. And it was a mansion! Beautiful. 12ft ceilings, crown moldings, huge bedrooms. Music room was enormous. The Swift house was where the housed the slower & handicapped. It was a dump. I used to get paid $1/hr to sit there and keep the peace when they were short staffed.
phann try

Baltimore, MD

#262 Mar 12, 2014
I went to valley head when I was 16 years old. And I will always remember that places nightmare. I always remember that the all the means staff did to me. They all Don't understand me what I am going thought in real life. But thank god I'm happy I'm out there but remember one things I was there for reason to get help. But some staff don't help me with my problems. But I know in my heart I make poor choices but peoples make mistakes in real life they moved on.
Just me

Rochester, NY

#263 Mar 15, 2014
Perla wrote:
Wow I just found out tyt. Valley head closed I ran away from there I also got sexualy abused so that's why I ran from there and I was succesful.. No one belived me still no one belivea me.. There was a staff from there she told me that I was worth nothing thank god that they closed it I think her name was gail :( I ran from there 2005 I was only there 2 months
Why didn't you report it to the police? And you might as well OUT the person that did it.
Just me

Rochester, NY

#264 Mar 15, 2014
Lori Shapiro wrote:
<quoted text>There is a page on Facebook.Valleyhead Alumni.
or https://www.facebook.com/groups/Valleyheadgir...
Just me

Rochester, NY

#265 Mar 15, 2014
Lori Shapiro wrote:
<quoted text>Valleyhead Inc I don't think you can post links,but Valleyhead Alumni allows it.
You can post links.
Just me

Rochester, NY

#266 Mar 15, 2014
Crystal Lansing wrote:
I went to Valley Head when I was 10yrs old . One night I was just sitting in my room and a girl had came and threw something in my room . It was a condom I didnt know what it was I had never seen one so I told the staff and they talk to the girl but right after I went back to my room the girl followed me and beat me till I was bleeding on the floor I heard the staff close by but no one stopped her till I was chocking . Ive watched a girl and a very old man who was supposed to be a staff member haveing sexual realaions esspeacilly when we went on outtings like camping . Ive been placed in the padded rooms . They were horrible rooms One was just a square room with a tiny window on the door .The other room was rectangle and had plastic windows on one wall t. It was horrible torcher being in the rooms and if it was meal time and they didnt feel like feeding you you went without food no matter how hungry you were . I was beaten almost everyday by the older girls . I watched a girl slit her wrist ( thankfully she didnt die ) I remember watching one of the male staff rape the girl in the room across from me . I remember some of the staff members were good people but alot were bad . Sometimes I still have nightmares an hear girls screaming for help . Im very happy the torcher has come to an end . I saw many disturbing things that still mess with me today.Thank God they closed that horrible place down finally no one deserves that EVER .
I remembered the condom incident, that was carissa rivera who did that.
Teri

Crystal River, FL

#267 Mar 21, 2014
I was JUST talking about this horrid place to my husband. I was a so-called "student" there in the early 80's. When I was there girls were killing themselves and the staff were physically abusive. My own mother witnessed a girl named Michelle being beaten in the main house office. That was the day I was freed. I had run away for the second time and when i came back my pants and shoes were taken away. I was allowed to keep my pajamas and socks, only I didn't have pajamas so the day I was freed I was wearing a football sweatshirt, socks and a blanket wrapped around me. Something not right with that. The Merrits son was a staff there just before me and the girls would tell me if you wanted drugs to sleep with him and you would get it. I didn't so this personally but I knew girls who had. The thing is, if it weren't for the girls I don't think i would have made it myself. We stuck together no matter what.
Am I happy this place has closed? More than you will ever know because knowing no one else has to endure a place like that is quite comforting. I miss all my friends I made there and know they all struggle because I know i do.
Teri

Crystal River, FL

#268 Mar 21, 2014
lynn j wrote:
I went there in 1979 to 1982 made a few friends. Hate that school.
Lynn if you ever read this I was there when I was 12 or 13 or so, that would have been 1982-83 area. I don't remember peoples last names but there first names, Barbara, Tina, Robin (aka pig-an affectionate nickname)Michelle, Mia, Judy, Cooper, Lee, Linda Labonte (don't ask how I remember her last name) are who I can think of off the top of my head. The only staff name I remember was Miss Courtney, a short, skinny redhead that was more like a guy than a lady. I lived in the main house, the mansion and the Merrits lived up on the hill in the green house, you could see it it fine from the main house. We used to go to the carriage house for school and there was a house in between for the more trusted students but I can't recall what it was named. Like six girls lived there. I was in all sections of living quarters in that house from the little two bunk room at the top of the stairs to the big rooms with the fireplaces that house 6-8 of us. They never gave you much by way of allowance for all the cleaning you had to do for it, it wasn't enough to buy a pack of smokes and YES we all smoked there in one room towards the back of the house adjacent to the kitchen area. I've seen some pretty bad things there and tho it has never left my mind (as you can see I am here) but I never let it rule me to where I would have nightmares or things of that nature. No it wasn't a good setting or situation and was based on pure lies...I laughed when I read someone write about the promised cross country skiing...I remember this also and that my time there would be short, 3-6 months. After I was signed in and left there I was informed at my first meeting that I would be there for a minimum of 4 years...it was like a sentence or something. Anyway, I am going to walk away from this Valleyhead shit now but before I do I just want to say that I am grateful it is closed down and that the main house is now gone. That does make me feel like there is some kind of closure, however, it was to long in coming to that and so many girls had to go thru alot there over the years and the years to come have accounts that definitely escalated and I can't imagine how far it would have gone.
Nancy

Dalton, MA

#271 Mar 22, 2014
I'm sure many of the staff have moved on to lucrative careers. Many administrators in education and law here do. IF, you are the proper candidate and carry the right tools. Now this depravity has extended "Legally" into public school curriculum etc under the guise of tolerance.
The stories for decades to come are already horrifying apparently, just with this school alone....
Meg

Narragansett, RI

#272 Apr 4, 2014
I was also a student at this horrific school. I was there transitioning from the first building to the newer houses all the way down Reseviour Rd. I am apauled that it took this place so long to be shut down. The abuse....ohhh the abuse....I remember that Darren the cook had many sexual relations with the girls there including myself. He was in the first building that I remember. I also remember one of the staff having a sexual relations with a girl named Dody Bigolo. I remember having bruises all over my body as well from Charles Merritt from trying to restrain me and another girl because we were trying to get away from that horrific place! I really wonder what has become of this Merritt Family. They will get what they deserve when the time is right if they haven't already. They will be judged by God in the end! If so many of us are explaining what happend there when we were students, and so many of us are sharing our horrible experiences, sum 25 years later.....that should really out way anything else.

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