24 Mar 2011

Australian school with strong link to Scientology receives government money but not all is spent on students

The Age - Australia March 24, 2011

School denies Scientology deal

byJewel Topsfield

A MELBOURNE school linked to the Church of Scientology spends among the lowest per student in Australia despite receiving thousands of dollars in government funding.

Yarralinda School in Mooroolbark has also come under fire for obscuring its affiliation with Scientology, in a flyer that spruiks the school as a ''no homework school''.

My School website reveals Yarralinda School spent $3727 per student in 2009, despite receiving $6171 per student in combined government funding and $4609 per student in fees.

Victoria's independent schools spend an average of $15,201 per student, while government schools spend an average $10,178 per student.

However, most of Yarralinda's income - $7765 per student - was allocated to paying off debts, according to My School.

A former board member at Yarralinda, Paul Schofield, who resigned in 2009, alleged the school's debt repayments were so high because the school had taken out a mortgage to lend money to the Church of Scientology for its headquarters in Ascot Vale.

''I was livid the school had been left with this debt in order to fund the Scientology building,'' he said.

The Australian Education Union called on the federal government to investigate the use of government funding.

''The government is providing recurrent funding for very specific purposes, and it appears this funding is not being used for the purpose of education,'' president Angelo Gavrielatos said.

Yarralinda principal Christel Duffy refused to comment on why the school's spending per student was so low.

''Any debt the school has is directly in relation to the school and there is no debt in relation to the Church of Scientology,'' she said.

Ms Duffy said the school used Applied Scholastics teaching materials based on the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986. Its patron is Scientologist Kate Ceberano.

''We do not teach any religion at Yarralinda School nor do we attempt to ask any children or their parents to join or study any religion,'' Ms Duffy said.

She said the school's promotional flyer included a logo indicating it is part of the Applied Scholastics network.

Mr Schofield said Applied Scholastics was a ''Scientology front group''.

''The name of Ron Hubbard and Scientology is absolute poison [so it is] policy to say the school has nothing to do with Scientology, which is absolute crap.''

In its promotional flyer, titled ''Local kids love no-homework school!'', Yarralinda promotes its ''official no homework policy'', its ''traditional phonics-based teaching methods'' and its ''highly personalised learning programs''.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who has pushed for Scientology's tax-free status to be scrapped, condemned the lack of disclosure on the flyer, questioning what the Church of Scientology has to hide from parents.

''Will federal funds in effect be used to recruit new members to the Church of Scientology, which has got a shocking record of harming individuals who get caught up in its web?'' the senator asked.

A spokesman for Schools Minister Peter Garrett said: "A full briefing on these matters has been requested from the department.''

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  1. Drugs education link to Scientology church

    KIRSTY JOHNSTON, Auckland stuff February 19, 2012

    A controversial Church of Scientology drug-awareness programme has received government funding to spread its unorthodox views through schools and community groups. In the past six months, drug-free ambassadors linked to the church have circulated 130,000 drug education booklets around New Zealand, paid for in part by the Department of Internal Affairs' Community Organisations Grant Scheme. The ambassadors claim at least 18 community groups – including their "partners" the Maori Wardens – plus at least seven high schools, endorse and use the materials. Advice offered in the pamphlets is based on research by Scientology's controversial founder, LRon Hubbard, who did not believe in medical drugs or psychiatry but instead in purging oneself of painful experiences to gain immortality.

    Ross Bell, executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, warned that the group's information was flawed pseudo-science and could prove harmful to youth. "This kind of quackery should not be in our schools – we are talking about young people's lives," he said. "Drug and alcohol issues are complex and therefore we need well-qualified, proper, evidence-based support advice and information." Bell said Scientology's views on mental health were not based on science, and had been discredited "time and time again" in the countries they worked in.

    Other critics, including former Scientologists, say the drug-free ambassadors are also a front group aimed at recruitment which does not openly disclose its ties to the church. The group, which has various aliases, has also come under fire overseas, including in Australia where its links to the government were described as "worrying". However, the Church of Scientology New Zealand says its anti-drug group is not aimed at recruitment, instead wanting only to arm young people with factual information about drugs.

    "We promote good educational materials on the drugs in use on the streets that people of all ages can relate to and decide for themselves whether or not to start using," said Mike Ferriss, head of Scientology in New Zealand. He said the booklets were based partially on Hubbard's teachings, plus using local statistics and information. Only some of the money came from government, Ferriss said. The International Association of Scientologists also made a grant. "As a group we believe that something effective can be done about any problem and it does not have to cost a lot of money."

    Several groups of Maori Wardens, which are mainly volunteer organisations funded by the taxpayer, have partnered with the drug-free ambassadors. One of the group's leaders, Rita Peters, is a warden, a Scientologist and an ambassador. She spends much of her time handing out the booklets in places like Otahuhu and Mangere in South Auckland. Mangere ward leader Thomas Henry said he talked with the group after its members consistently approached him with their pamphlets. He said drugs and alcohol were a problem in South Auckland and there was a need for the material. "For us, it was free information. We don't have money to pay for these resources so we were thankful that we were able to have a relationship with them," Henry said.

    Figures show that during 2011 the Church of Scientology New Zealand, a registered charity, listed its income for 2010 as $1.2 million. Drug-Free Ambassadors, also a registered charity, had an income of approximately $6700, of which $6500 was grants. Green MP Kevin Hague said any funding given to a group that was a front for the church should be stopped.
    "In the case of someone who is struggling with drugs, they are very vulnerable. So their exploitation by the church for their own ends is despicable."

    read the rest at:


  2. Group with Scientology ties tutoring kids in Colorado public schools

    By Eric Gorski, The Denver Post August 7, 2012

    Six years ago, a group called Applied Scholastics International won state approval to tutor low-income students from struggling public schools.

    The group touts its so-called study technology as "the breakthrough that undercuts why people are illiterate."

    The materials were developed by "educator and humanitarian" L. Ron Hubbard, the group explained in its application to the Colorado Department of Education.

    Hubbard is better known as a science-fiction writer who went on to found the Church of Scientology.

    Since 2008, three Colorado public school districts have given more than $150,000 in federal money to Applied Scholastics to provide tutoring to nearly 120 students, a Denver Post review found.

    Students from the Denver, Jefferson County and Aurora public school districts received tutoring from the group.

    Jeanette Banks, executive director of A Plus Educational Center in Lakewood, which provides tutoring in Colorado under the Applied Scholastics name, said the content is secular.

    She said the group has no relationship with the Church of Scientology and does not promote any religious path.

    But critics question the material's worth or characterize it as an attempt to indoctrinate children and lend credibility to a fringe religion.

    The organization is at risk of being removed from the state's list of approved tutoring providers but not because of any ties to Scientology.

    The state's most recent annual review of all providers found that Applied Scholastics failed to be effective in increasing student performance. The group was put on notice that if that happens again, it will no longer be eligible to take part in the program.

    Applied Scholastics International says it tutored children through government-backed programs in a dozen states last school year, up from four in 2006.

    In response to questions from The Post about the group's connections with Scientology, the state Education Department also will begin monitoring the program to make sure it is following protocol, said Nazanin Mohajeri-Nelson, a department program evaluator.

    "The program as it's described in the application does not appear to be religiously driven, but what's actually being implemented is the part we need to investigate," Mohajeri-Nelson said.

    Paid with federal funds

    As part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools missing certain benchmarks must offer free tutoring to eligible children from providers approved by the state and selected by parents.

    Districts use federal Title I money to cover the costs. Religious groups are eligible to participate in Colorado, but all instruction must be "secular, neutral and non-ideological."

    Applied Scholastics' 2006 application to the state includes testimonials from public- and private-school officials, proposed reading passages and a cover letter identifying the group's advisory board — including movie star and prominent Scientologist Tom Cruise.

    The state approved the group's application to provide math and reading tutoring in 2006, then reapproved the group in 2010.

    Mohajeri-Nelson said a committee reviewed the application and concluded that the material met standards and appeared secular.

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    Theory criticized

    In its most recent application, Applied Scholastics proposed working with students in kindergarten through eighth grade individually and in small groups, charging $45 an hour per student — about average for providers, records show.

    Student activities include standard approaches — such as flash cards and using dictionaries — and more unusual tactics such as modeling in clay to better visualize subjects.

    Hubbard identified three "barriers to study," including a "lack of mass," or the absence of the actual object described by a word. Students as a result tend to feel "squashed, bent, sort of spinny, sort of dead, or bored," Applied Scholastics teaches.

    Ben Kirshner, an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Education, said Hubbard's theory about barriers to study has no scientific or empirical foundation.

    The theories range from common sense to "stranger claims about what happens physiologically when one is confused," said Kirshner, who reviewed Applied Scholastics material at The Post's request.

    He also said evidence of student growth provided by the group does not appear to have been compiled by an independent entity or have any record of publication or peer review.

    According to its most recent tax forms, St. Louis-based Applied Scholastics International took in about $1.3 million in revenue in 2010 from its education and literacy programs.

    The group reported working with 248 public schools — a significant increase over the previous year's 74.

    Calls to the organization were not returned.

    Banks, of the Denver-area Applied Scholastics center, declined an interview request but agreed to answer questions by e-mail.

    She said Applied Scholastics has tutored 118 students since 2006 — local districts reported 116 — and is "delivering the program exactly as it was approved by the state of Colorado."

    Banks pointed to Applied Scholastics literature calling Hubbard's approach, developed in the 1960s, "a wholly secular technology for use by any person in any field."

    The Church of Scientology and its members "have been extremely assistive" to Applied Scholastics, the group says. Banks, a Scientologist, said three of the group's 13 tutors in Colorado are church members.

    "Legitimizing" church

    David Touretzky, a Carnegie Mellon University research professor who has written critically of Scientology, describes study technology as covert religious instruction.

    He said terms in the tutoring also are found in Scientology, including "misunderstood words." Hubbard taught that failing to grasp the meaning of one word in a passage can completely upend learning, causing students to feel "blank" or "washed out."

    "They are setting the stage for kids to be good little compliant Scientologists," Touretzky said. "The whole point is to get to where they can say, 'Look, the state of Colorado is paying us to use Scientology tech.' It's all about legitimizing Hubbard and the church."

    Banks said such critics "do not understand the first thing about study technology."

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  4. continued from previous comment:

    State OKs providers

    Compared with other tutoring groups in Colorado, Applied Scholastics is a minor player. More than 8,100 students received tutoring in 2009-10 — and only 25 used Applied Scholastics, records show.

    Aurora Public Schools — which has paid Applied Scholastics $81,434 to tutor 61 students since 2008 — was unaware of the group's ties to Scientology, district spokeswoman Paula Hans said.

    On-site coordinators monitor all tutoring, she said.

    Hans, like officials at the other districts with an Applied Scholastics presence, emphasized that the state, not districts, approves providers.

    None of the districts reported any concerns from parents about the program.

    Under federal guidelines, states also must measure the effectiveness of tutoring programs and cut off groups found to be failing for two straight years.

    For a period, Applied Scholastics did not tutor enough children to make an assessment possible, said Mohajeri-Nelson, the program evaluator.

    But the numbers were large enough to conduct a review in 2010-11. It found Applied Scholastics students did not improve in reading or math as much as a comparison group of students.

    On July 17, the state notified Applied Scholastics it would be removed from the program if next year's review finds similar results.

    The state's additional monitoring of Applied Scholastics will involve interviewing the group, tutors and district officials, Mohajeri-Nelson said.

    The organization will need to reapply in December if it wishes to continue to provide tutoring in the program.

    Scientologists' community involvement was spotlighted in June at the grand opening of a high-profile new church in downtown Denver.

    The church long has been controversial, criticized as a moneymaking scheme that exerts excessive control.

    Banks said Applied Scholastics' study technology has a sole purpose: teaching people how to learn.


  5. Scientologist warning on kinder tests

    by Vince Chadwick, The Age March 4, 2013
    A group with links to the Church of Scientology is targeting Australian kindergartens to warn that new health checks will put children at risk from psychotropic drugs.

    The federal government is expanding its health checks program, performed by GPs, which ensures children are ready for school by assessing their wellbeing and development.

    But the group called the Citizens Commission on Human Rights said these checks could lead to psychotropic drugs being prescribed.

    The group warns that common drugs used for hyperactivity, anxiety and depression could have the side-effects of hallucinations, weight loss, stunted growth and heart problems.

    Letters have been sent to the directors of kindergartens across the country in the past year. Fine print beneath the group's name reads: ''Established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.''

    The material sent by mail includes a 90-minute documentary on DVD and two letters outlining the group's concerns that children may unnecessarily be prescribed life-threatening medication.

    Some kindergartens have reportedly shared the DVD and information with parents, but one kindergarten director in Melbourne said the campaign preyed on people's greatest vulnerability: concern for their children.

    Catherine Waters, director of JJMcMahon Memorial Kindergarten in Kew who received the letter last week, said she saw it ''as further deceit on the part of this cult to gain influence in society''.

    One letter states: ''There is no question that children can have problems and need help. However, the wholesale screening of children, the labelling of their behaviour as a mental disorder requiring the prescription of a mind-altering drug is placing Australia's children at risk.''

    But a spokesman for Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler said much of the material was wrong.

    The Medicare-funded Healthy Kids Check began in July 2008. An extra $11 million over five years is now being provided to expand the check to assess speech, sleeping patterns and social engagement in children between 3½ and five.

    ''It is not mandatory and it is not a mental health check,'' the spokesman said.

    Shelley Wilkins, executive director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights in Australia, said it was an independent, not-for-profit organisation, staffed by volunteers - not all of whom were Scientologists.