2019: Livermore Valley charter schools update

In a connected post, I have summarized the financial aspects of the charges against the owners of the charter schools. April 28 2019 I was contacted by Eric Dillie (see comment-area below). As you see below he claimed that the entire case had been politically motivated. I started looking into the matter and found his version of event in a blog post:

Captured from Dillie’s Medium blog

In the case of the People of the State of California v. Eric Dillie, Brock Van Wey and Randy Taylor the following charges were laid before the court:

  1. BROCK VAN WEY did, in the County of Alameda, State of California, on or about January 28, 2016, commit a MISDEMEANOR, to wit: ASSAULT AND BATTERY,

  2. BROCK VAN WEY did, in the County of Alameda, State of California, on or about January 28, 2016, commit a MISDEMEANOR, to wit: CRUELTY TO CHILD BY ENDANGERING HEALTH,

  3. Eric Dillie, Randy Taylor did, in the County of Alameda, State of California, on or about January 29, 2016, commit a MISDEMEANOR, to wit: FAILURE TO REPORT CHILD ABUSE,

This was not the first time Livermore Valley Charter that had been involved in a case of child abuse. In 2014 Jason Quero was charged with molesting two students at the school. The judgement in that case was six years prison and the school and Tri-Valley Learning Corp. received two law suits against them because of it.

Not long after the alleged assault in 2016, a 17 foreign exchange students were “bullied, intimidated, mocked, and used profanity toward, or witnessed such behavior,” by Principal Eric Dillie, Brock Van Wey and Nina Stoien,” . LVJUD brought up all of the other violations by the school.

  1. 13 notices had been sent by the county,
  2. foreign exchange students were overcharged,
  3. forcible transfers of foreign exchange students,
  4. using the Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory name illegally for marketing purposes in China (here and here),
  5. fiscal mismanagement,
  6. delinquent financial obligations,
  7. irregularities,
  8. problems with accreditation,
  9. lack of transparency and integrity,
  10. lying to county officials, and
  11. failures to comply.

What surprises me is how much white collar crime people get away with before getting the police involved. These are not small sums we are talking about. The new school year was chaotic and confusing. After the accusations of overspending, Mr. Dillie left Livermore for another charter school in September.

In 2017 the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) published its reports regarding the handling of the Tri-Valley schools. It is, at the very least, questionable that former CEO of Tri-Valley, Bill Batchelor, began a new charter school in the same building as Livermore. The story of Livermore basically stops with its bankruptcy June 2017.

In the case of the court case regarding assault and failure to report, March 27, 2018, Mr. Dillie signed a “No Contest” plea and April 17, 2019, the plea in 2018 was set aside and a “Not Guilty” plea reinstated.

#meetoo in student exchange industry

In his article of February 2, 2018 Andrew Binion, journalist with the KitsapSun, writes about 73 year old Larry Iversen who was sentenced to five days in jail for abusing a 17 year old student.

According to the court, Iversen did not use any “power to persuade or coerce the teen”. The student was an exchange student with Rotary’s youth exchange program over which Iversen was Youth Exchange Officer for East Bremerton Rotary and also worked to establish safety guidelines for exchange students in USA.

In these #Meetoo times it shouldn’t be too much to ask that judges see things for what they are. At least Rotary International had the decency to ban Iversen from any and all Rotary clubs.

Her host family discovered the relationship, but not until the exchange student left their family. They had lent the exchange student their smart phone. On it they found nude photos of the exchange student along with messages to and from Iversen. It may well be that the student intended that the predatory  behaviour be discovered as no attempt had been made to delete the pictures that were found on the phone.

CIEE false marketing

Too often, host families are not given enough information about what it means to be one. The sending organization tends to promise too much in their marketing. My experience with most of the organizations is that they are glorified travel agencies and like travel agencies, their level of service depends on the guide/local coordinator you get. This review was found on YELP.

I believe in international education, but I do not recommend the CIEE high school summer abroad program. I had a very negative experience regarding the treatment of my child and several other students in a 2017 summer program in Europe. I was dismayed by the condescending and unhelpful interaction I experienced with the high school abroad support team staff based in Portland, ME. If you are considering this program for your child, please go beyond the glossy webpage, rosy reviews, and the lure of scholarship opportunities at your child’s high school and ask lots of questions. Ask for the full names and email and phone information of the local CIEE staff overseas as well as of the support team in Maine. Try to contact them. Ask for the contact information of other participants’ parents in case of emergency. Try calling the 24/7 emergency number in the evening. Ask if your child will be sharing a room with another exchange student or living in a house full of exchange students. Know that there are many high school study abroad programs to choose from

Abuse

Since its founding in 2005, CSFES has been contacted by students who have been abused. Each and every year. Only a tiny amount of  exchange students who are abused contact us. We know there are many more who need help. At least that is what this study from 1999 shows. I have found no other research regarding abuse against international exchange students.

Anyone can be abused. There is no way to tell who is an abuser by the way they outwardly look or act. Abusers look just like you and me.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse includes pinching, pushing, grabbing, shaking, smacking, kicking, and punching. In 2016 we had a case where the exchange student was beaten so bad he had to go to the Emergency. He was surprised by his host-mother and host-brother, taken out back and beaten. Due to surprise and shock, the student had not been able to defend himself. The host-brother’s fists (nothing else) were marked by the beating. Unfortunately, the exchange organization representative deleted the pictures the exchange student had taken with his phone showing what he looked like. In spite of written documentation of the damage to him, the exchange student was blamed and returned to his parents.

Report physical abuse and tell your parents. ALWAYS tell your parents, take pictures and send them as soon as possible.

Sexual abuse

In 2017 Miami Dade Herald reported on the case of the sexual abuse of at least 12 girls. The predator married two of his victims and had started the process of manipulating the another. The exchange organization, CCI Greenheart, that had placed 11 of the girls, apparently did a background check on the predator but had not found his record of sexual assault from 1985. This predator is far from the only exchange student case that has come to the attention of media.

In most cases, sexual abuse does not go this far. It all depends on how good the abuser is at what they do. Unfortunately, it also  depends on the exchange organization taking the students seriously. In the above case, CCI did not. When that happens, many students give up.

As soon as you hear people tell you that you should keep whatever happens to yourself, contact your parents. ALWAYS keep your parents up to date about what happens to you and what your days consist of. I have worked with some of the students and families who are sexually abused. Sometimes the exchange organization works with the student. Other times, we have to fight to get the student to safety. Most of the time chance plays a part in whether or not CSFES, or other similar organizations, are asked for help.

Emotional abuse

This is the kind of abuse we see most often. Emotional abuse can happen on its own or together with other kinds of abuse. If you are sexually or physically abused, you will, most likely, be emotionally abused. Realizing what is happening can be difficult. Manipulators know how to gradually trap you. Some of the situation can be:

Day by day your situation worsens. Every day you are blamed for something or told that you are not good enough. Nothing you say or do makes things better. You feel the old you disappearing into a miserable person.

Blaming you for what they do. The abuser might say something like “If only you were better behaved, this would not have happened.”

You might be treated as a servant rather than a family member.

You might be kept from having contact with new friends, your family or friends at home or other adults in the area. We often hear exchange students tell us that their coordinator asks them to keep the situation to themselves.

Humiliation seems to be popular. One student told us about her host mother who would say embarrassing and untrue things about her to her friends. That kept her friends away. Others have told us about host-parents or coordinators who spread rumours.

Threats of self-harm happens. One student spoke of a host-mother who depended so much upon their talks that she said she would die if the student was not there. The student stayed longer than was good for them, but fortunately they were able to move.

Telling you that you are ungrateful for your “lovely host-parents who were kind enough to welcome you into their home”. Especially host-parents who are friends with the coordinator can cause trouble. In most cases, the exchange students gets blamed for everything that happens.

Threats of being returned to your home. Another favourite. Particularly exchange organizations use this threat. They might even demand that you sign a document where you are blamed for the situation.

When the exchange student is the abuser

This does happen. Not very often, but when it does, the abuse can be any of the above. Again, tell the exchange organization right away.

Should you be an exchange student?

Many factors determine whether being an exchange student is a good choice. No matter which exchange student option you choose, grades, finances, health, diet, religion and politics all influence your ability to fit into a new culture by yourself.

Alone

The most important factor involved in making your decision is that you must realize that once you have left home to travel to a new destination you are all by yourself. Everyone in your new culture will judge you based upon the cultural rules they understand.  No one really cares about the rules you grew up with. Not your host family, not your international coordinator and not the school you attend. Usually people will cut you more slack than their own young people, but theirs are the rules you must learn. Even if the people you live with are related to you, you will still be judged by the cultural rules that apply to their family.

Grades

The schools you attend will be in a completely different language. All of your subjects are in a different way to what you are used to. The grading system might be a bit different. You need to have AT LEAST a C average to even consider going. A higher grade point average makes adjusting easier. If you have a D or F average, you need to forget about going or work hard to change it.

Finances

No matter how you travel as an exchange student, it will cost you. A lot of money. Travel fare, passport, visa, tuition, housing, food, pocket money, clothing, vaccines, and so on. It all adds up. If you travel with an exchange organization, they will take care of the plane ticket to your destination and getting you a representative. In some instances your fee goes up because they pay the host family for having you. Even if you travel with an exchange organization and the host family is free, you still need to pay for passport and visa, pocket money, any special dietary needs, travel to the airport, clothing and so on. If you estimate using at least 10 000 Euro/USD all together, you have a starting point. How will you get that money?

Sometimes stipends are offered in the host-country or by the country you are travelling from. Your parents could be well off. Maybe you need to save up to it. If things turn bad, you risk losing all that money. Especially if you travel with an exchange organization. Are you willing to take that risk?

Health

Any country you travel to demands that you be of good physical and mental health. Some countries require vaccines. You will have to do a physical, pay for insurance and answer lots of questions. Remember to be honest. Allergies, ADHD, Aspergers, dietary requirements, diabetes, epilepsy, and so on. Be honest. It could go very bad for you if you lie.

If you struggle with PTSD, eating disorders, depression or anxiety, it is likely that your mental health problems will increase. Why? New food, new cultural rules, new family rules, and so on affect mental problems. In rare cases I have heard of people becoming better, but in those cases their home family situation has been far from ideal.

If you are travelling with an exchange organization, and have informed them about allergies or other sensitivities, you still risk being placed in a family you shouldn’t be. How would you deal with that?

Diet

Vegans and vegetarians have a harder time being placed. Particularly vegans. You will most likely have to buy and make your own food. Can you handle living with a family that eats meat. Most families you end up with do. If your religion has particular dietary requirements, how will you handle that?

Religion

Many students struggle with this aspect of life, particularly if they end up in a place that has the opposite view of theirs. Sometimes the conservatism is so strong that it becomes abusive. Whether that conservatism is Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jewish or any other choice out there, ending up in a belief system contrary to your own requires a lot of an exchange student. Will you be able to keep your mouth shut and remain polite? Too many Muslims are placed into conservative Christian families who try to feed them pork products. How will you handle an abusive situation?

Politics

New cultures mean new political points of view. Who is to say that yours is better than theirs? They won’t think so. Will you be able to refrain from criticising people who have wildly different political views?

These are some of the things you need to think about before you choose the exchange student life. It could end up being an amazing year but might also end up being terrible.

Speak Holding (Lars Wollebekk) Denmark forcibly dissolved

All of Lars Henrik Wollebekk’s business interests in Denmark have been forcibly dissolved. Speak Holding ApS was dissolved October 2017. That bankruptcy affects quite a few other companies that Lars Henrik Wollebekk.

Speak Holding ApS was listed as owner of Language Education (Denmark) ApS – commonly known as Aspect High School Denmark. Language Education has been dissolved.

Speak Holding ApS is listed as owners of ELG: European Language Group, Sarl. ELG has been dissolved.

Speak Holding ApS also owns/owned Language Education Norge AS, Speak Norge AS (and through them Speak Education Denmark).

ELG owns/owned Speak Education UK while Lars Wollebekk owns Combank IT Systems, Advisory Board ApS and Speak Education Nordic AB directly just as he was listed as the owner of Speak Holding.

The links to ELG USA, Advisory Board ApS and Speak Education Nordic AB no longer work.

Lars Henrik Wollebekk
  • Speak Holding ApS – Dissolved
    • Language Education ApS, Denmark (Aspect High School) – Dissolved
    • Language Education Norge AS (Aspect High School)
    • Speak Norge AS
    • ELG: European Language Group, Sarl – Dissolved
      • Speak Cultural Exchange UK Ltd.
  • Speak Education Nordic AB
  • Combank IT Systems
  • European Language Group, USA
  • Advisory Board ApS (Zaruben Capital ApS)

Unsanitary conditions

Exchange student life brings with it many challenges. Some you can work through. Some you can live with. And some you must do something drastic about. Changing your host family ought to be OK, part of the learning process of dealing with new people and new cultures. Exchange students are youngish when they are thrown into a completely different culture with rules they do not understand. Host families are supposed to help the exchange student understand the cultural do’s and don’ts.

A common problem is the one described below. Exchange students are NOT in a country to be free labour for the host family. Chores are to be expected, but not being treated as an unpaid worker. As some of the advice at the link states – talk to your exchange organization, your teacher, the school that sent you there or the person in charge of your stay. Most of all talk to your parents about the situation.

In the below post there is one thing that is more of a cultural matter than the host-mother being against the exchange student. There is massive focus on doing well in school in Japan. Comments on the need to choose something more intelligent would usually be meant as wisdom. Exchange students have to remember that cultures are different and they would do well to study their intended culture before they go there. Especially adult-child relationships.

“I will be in Japan for an entire year. I have been here for a month and I have been very unhappy with my host family. They seem to think that I came to Japan only to clean their house and change my personality completely. Here is the thing, they are dirty, 15 years older than my own parents, busy, and confrontational. I cant deal with it anymore. I have cried so many times and its all because of something that one of them said to me or my host father lying about me or something like that. I want to be happy and whenever I even THINK about my host family I feel like crying. I dont want to stay with them any longer or else I will turn into a bad person. My host father is a lier and my host mother thinks that I shouldnt seek my dreams and that I should become a different person. Everyone knows that I want to be either a singer, model or actress but she had the nerve to say, “I dont think you should seek talent Krys, I think you should do something more intelligent.” I need help.(Yahoo answers)

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