Is Scientology breaking the law?

Allegations of child neglect by Scientology

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Low Priority for Child Welfare

by Adeline Dodd-Bova

I left Scientology two years ago. I had been a teacher and word clearer in Scientology schools, including Delphi, for three years. I loved the children and was very dedicated to my profession. It was personal observation that provided me the first clue that Scientology placed a low priority on the welfare of children. A co-worker and I began to notice certain neglect and occasionally even abuse among the children we taught. We observed that many Scientology parents climbing the "Bridge to (their own) Total Freedom" assumed almost no responsibility for their children. Children often came to school with little or no food. Children, aged 3 and 4, had to pack their own lunches -- when they could find any food at home to pack. You can imagine what their lunches consisted of. Busy parents who were working and doing courses rarely had time to shop. Some children arrived at 7:30 a.m. and at times did not leave until 6:30 p.m. They often had been shuffled from house to house after school and had litfie sleep. This seemed to us to be a direct contradiction to the regimen the parents rigorously observed for their own Scientology auditing [counseling] and training to be well- rested and fed prior to session or course time.

Having observed these contradictions, I began to regain my ability to think critically again and mentally began to leave Scientology. I continued teaching. At this time I taught at Basic Education Center, a "special" school with the best of both worlds: a mixture of Scientologists and "real people." I believed I could teach there and be safe with my newly re-acquired ability to think for myself. After all, this was a non-religious private school, an equal-opportunity employer. I could have a private life with the freedom to think what I wanted.

But after being at Basic Education Center only a few months, my grand illusions were shattered. Although the school was not publicly connected to Scientology, it used Hubbard's methods. The children there also suffered from blatant parental neglect. I saw situations which got reported to the school's principal, but, in truth, the Department of Social Services should really have been called. One eight-year-old appeared to have been sexually abused; another child suffered, without handling, for dyslexia. One child wore the same clothes for two weeks. No one took notice of his lack of personal hygiene -- his parents had separated and the child had to fend for himself. All of the children I mention were in the same class of only 15 students. Another child exhibited extxemely disruptive and destructive behavior, including violent physical tantrums and swearing. He often disturbed the whole school. The "remedy" for this child was to have him sweep up around the school.

These were the children of dedicated Scientologists. Students' files revealed previous teachers' statements of incidents of physical and sexual abuse. All of these cases were reported to the principal. The reports were "handled" by Scientology alone. Teachers dared not report these crimes on their own outside the school for fear of losing their jobs.

But even by keeping quiet, my position was not made safe. The cult's practice of "Suppressive Person Declares ," still alive and active after all these years, brought the situation to a head.

I was "declared" at the end of February, 1991. I joined the ranks of those honored individuals and I am proud. I wonder if people are aware how little one needs to do in order to have the title of SP bestowed. In actuality, one need only know the right people. The news of my new status, persona non grain, spread rapidly. My life changed quickly. At first I was told my declare had no bearing on my teaching position and that I was a well- respected and cherished employee: what I did on my own time -- associate with the Cult Awareness Network -- was my personal business. As a matter of fact, my employer, the principal, preferred not to know anything about it.

But then the Sea Org [a special Scientology branch] officials came to the school carrying documents. Perhaps they applied a bit of intimidating pressure. I was asked to resign quietly and I was promised everything, references beyond my dreams, a position in another school and money -- if I did. By this time, my continuing to teach in spite of the "SP declare" had become a matter of principle to me. I declined their offers to cover up the situation and was promptly and illegally fired. The principal read me a set of puny excuses for my dismissal -- something about being in an adversarial position toward the school. I was told to speak to no one and to leave immediately while the classes were away on a field trip.

My employer's husband, a policeman, "escorted" me off the premises. I was given neither compensation nor recommendations.

My civil rights had been violated and I was mad as hell! I engaged help and I complained to the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment. They found my case did warrant a charge of religious discrimination against the school. Fearing the scandal might become public record, the school agreed to a monetary settlement in exchange for my not pursuing a civil suit. Simultaneously, the school was the subjectof investigation for illegally operating day care facilities. The Basic Education Center was closed July 3, 1991.

There is some justice. But the predicamentof all those neglected children is not resolved. Their plight continues to haunt me. Will there be justice for them?

This article first appeared in The Informer (Issue 5, September 1991, 9-10), a publication of former Scientologists).


This page was last updated on May 8, 1999.