Tag Archives: #ArkansasUSA

2008 Jun 17: Lawmakers question foreign exchange procedures, legislation in the works

Posted on 17 June 2008

LITTLE ROCK – An attorney for a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that places foreign students in Arkansas high schools told lawmakers Tuesday he had no problem with the state having some oversight of firms like his, including a registration program.

At the request of Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, legislative committees met to consider whether the state should oversee placement of foreign exchange students after Madison fielded complaints last year that some of the students were being placed with families ill-equipped to take care of them.

“I have no problem with a registering,” said Jeffrey Allen, attorney and board member of Education First Foundation of Foreign Study, told a joint meeting of the Senate Children and Youth Committee and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs.

Companies that place foreign exchange students with U.S. families are regulated by the U.S. State Department. California requires all companies active there to register with the California attorney general’s office, while Minnesota and Washington require the companies to register, but with some other state agency. Arkansas has no registration requirement.

When the Legislative Council approved Madison’s study proposal in December, the State Department was investigating complaints about placement of foreign students in Arkansas by Allen’s firm.

Earlier this month, after repeated problems with Education First, Fayetteville High School decided to no longer accept students provided by the company. The following day, the company fired the Fayetteville family hired to host the students during the school year.

The federal investigation into Education First and its Fayetteville coordinators centered on allegations that exchange students stayed at the homes of their coordinators, which is prohibited by federal regulations.

Allen acknowledged Tuedsay that four of the 87 foreign students his company brought to Arkansas last year were placed in difficult host family environments.

“We bring 2,700 kids, teenagers, into the United States every year, there are going to be issues,” Allen said. “Our job is to minimize them and to respond to them when they occur and to respond to them appropriately.”

Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith, who suggested the screening process the company used to hire regional coordinators was flawed, said the state would be watching.

“So if you all have made errors or mistakes, what we’re interested in is that you revise your procedures and processes so that those same errors don’t occur again,” she said.

After the meeting, Madison said she plans to develop legislation for the 2009 regular session that would give the state some oversight of the placement companies, including a registration requirement.

During the two-hour meeting, Leigh Hudson, a counselor at Fayetteville High School, told lawmakers she got to know each of the four troubled foreign students last school year and each was upset and emotional over the problems they faced with their host families.

In one case, a student, who was Lutheran, was forced to go to the host family’s non-denominational church and was told she would lose her cell phone and computer privileges if she did not, Hudson said. Another student was upset because her host family’s home smelled of sewage because of plumbing problems, she said.

Also, several students lived with Gerald and Sherry Drummond, regional coordinators for Education First, against federal regulations. The company fired the Drummonds this month after Fayetteville High quit accepting foreign students through the company.

Matt Smith, Education First’s director of operations, told lawmakers Tuesday that after the problems with the four students the remaining 83 in the state were questioned and were determined to be happy and comfortable with their host families.

Smith estimated as many as 20 percent of foreign exchange students have to be moved to another host family during a school year because they are incompatible.

The Drummonds were invited to testify at Tuesday’s meeting but did not attend.

 

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2007 Dec 9: Exchange group gets probe after teens complain

2008: Agency dumps coordinators of foreign teens

2007/2008: Highly religious exchange family

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2014: Gerald and Sherry Drummond currently work for (CASE) Culture Academic Student Exchange South Central Region

Investigation of EF Education programme in Arkansas

By Rob Moritz, Arkansas News Bureau,

Posted on 21 December 2007

LITTLE ROCK – The Legislative Council on Friday endorsed a proposal to study placement of foreign exchange students with host families in Arkansas.

Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, said she proposed the study after receiving complaints that some foreign exchange students were being placed in homes with families ill-equipped to take care of them.

Madison also noted recent reports that the U.S. State Department was investigating complaints about where a Massachusetts company had placed some foreign exchange students arriving in Arkansas.

That investigation, involving the Education First Foundation for Foreign Study and its Fayetteville coordinators, involves allegations that exchange students stayed at the homes of the coordinators.

Federal regulations prohibit employees of a foreign exchange company from serving as both a host family and area supervisor for a student.

Madison’s proposal asks the Senate Interim Committee on Children and Youth to study the issue and report its findings to Legislative Council.

“Some parents came to me about problems they’ve seen in Northwest Arkansas,” Madison said Friday, also noting problems she heard of in Clarksville and Hot Springs.

In Clarksville, Madison said, a student from Korea was placed with a family living in low-income housing. The student would write home asking her parents for money to help feed her host family, she said.

“At that point, she asked to be moved to another family and representatives from the company set up a table outside a Wal-Mart to recruit her another family,” Madison said. “They found her another family and this time the male of the household was arrested on a drug charge.”

The State Department, which currently has oversight authority, does not have adequate staff to oversee the foreign exchange program, Madison said. California has enacted a law that gives its attorney general’s office some oversight authority, she said.

The California law requires any person or group that arranges the placement of foreign exchange students in California elementary, junior high or high schools to register with the attorney general’s office before making the placement.

Copyright © Arkansas News Bureau, 2003 – 2006


EF Education First Arkansas

2007 Dec 9: Exchange group gets probe after teens complain

2008 Jun 03: Agency dumps coordinators of foreign teens

2008 Jun 17: Lawmakers question foreign exchange procedures, legislation in the works

2005: Conviction of sexual abusers of exchange students USA

This article by Wright and Aratani addresses the problem of background controls and the need for exchange organization to take their exchange students seriously when they complain. Finally, exchange organizations (sponsors) had to keep a record on sexual abuse cases. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t. The entire article can be read at:

Washington Post

By Robin Wright and Lori Aratani | August 12, 2005

Andrew Powers of Germantown admitted to sex offenses. (Montgomery Co. Police Dept. – Montgomery Co. Police Dept.) Yet the rules could not have prevented three cases of abuse now in the courts.

Gaithersburg High School biology teacher Andrew Powers sneaked into the bedroom of the 17-year-old German girl living with his family in the middle of the night last December and tried to get her to perform oral sex, according to a police affidavit. When his wife wasn’t home, Powers also “frequently” roamed the house naked in front of the student, the affidavit adds. Powers, who has resigned, is to be sentenced next week after pleading guilty to second-degree assault and fourth-degree sexual offenses. His attorney declined to comment.

The host father of a 16-year-old German girl in Plainwell, Mich., was charged in April with installing hidden cameras in her bedroom, first under her blankets, then in a dollhouse, to capture her naked. Dale Lacoss will be sentenced this month after pleading guilty to distributing the image of an unclothed person and possession of child sexually abusive material.

And this week, the coordinator for foreign exchange students in Sherwood, Ark., was charged with first-degree sexual assault for rape of three male European exchange students over the past year. In one case, during his wife’s absence, Doyle Meyer Jr. held a slumber party for students, provided them with alcohol and then masturbated one of the minors against his will, according to the police affidavit. The student was reluctant to file charges until he heard about others Meyer allegedly molested.

Meyer could not be reached for comment.

Foreign students are among the most vulnerable minors because they usually do not know U.S. laws, are unfamiliar with customs, are dependent on host families or sponsors, don’t know what to do when abused or are afraid to act, according to Lt. Frank Baker of the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, who has been involved in the Michigan case.

“For a predator, this is the ideal situation,” Baker said.

Frank Swiderski’s abuse of a 17-year-old Vietnamese exchange student was detected in 2003, when an Eastlake, Ohio, police officer lectured to the boy’s health class about sexual assault. The student asked if the practices by his host father — nude massages, fondling and forcing him to shave Swiderski’s pubic hair — were normal. … At Swiderski’s home, police found photos of nude boys — many of whom appeared to be exchange students and some pictured with the former high school teacher — that dated to the 1970s…

Most cases reported in recent years involve host parents or personnel with sponsoring agencies.

In March 2004, California social studies teacher Peter Ruzzo was sentenced to three years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old German student living in his home. Ruzzo told the victim “when he saw her foreign-exchange photo that he considered it a challenge, even before she got here, to have sex with her,” …

The State Department decided that publishing the regulations was worthwhile even if they do not eliminate the problem. …

Some groups, such as Bethesda-based Youth for Understanding, have been doing background checks for years. YFU uses the Internet to do a name check of all host family members. But Reed Rago, YFU’s director of development, conceded that the system is not foolproof.

Because there is no database, “we’re going to make our best effort to find out one way or another,” he said. …

In 2003, David Goodhead of Riverside, Calif., pleaded guilty to abusing a 16-year-old Danish student living with him during a trip to Yosemite National Park. Goodhead was sentenced to 36 months’ probation and a $1,500 fine.

In July 2004, Rotary Club exchange student coordinator James Anthony Dillon was sentenced to 30 months’ probation, with 18 months’ home confinement with an electronic monitor and a $2,000 fine, for three acts of molestation of a 17-year-old European student. As in many cases eventually reported, an American third party went to authorities.

2007 Dec 9: Exchange group gets probe after teens complain

BY ROBERT J. SMITH
Posted on Sunday, December 9, 2007

The U. S. State Department is investigating complaints about where a Massachusetts company places foreign-exchange students arriving in Northwest Arkansas.

The eight cases involve Education First Foundation for Foreign Study and its Fayetteville coordinators, Gerald D. and Sherry A. Drummond, said Stanley Colvin, director of the State Department’s office of exchange coordination and designation. Six of the eight cases involve students attending Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville Christian School or Mission Boulevard Baptist School. The others attended schools in Northwest Arkansas but now live in Camden or Kentucky, Colvin said.

The complaints center on the nonprofit firm’s failure to find appropriate homes for some students before they arrive, as well as on how and where the Drummonds place the students.

“This is sloppy work,” Colvin said of the foundation’s operation in Arkansas.

The State Department is investigating whether Cambridge, Mass.-based Education First, better known as EF Foundation, violated a federal regulation by allowing some students to live in the Drummond home without assigning another EF employee as a supervisor, Colvin said.

Federal regulations require foreign-exchange companies to “ensure that no organizational representative act as both host family and area supervisor for any exchange student participant.” “If there was an emergency and she had to remove a child from a home and keep the student for a one-night kind of thing, that’s not a violation,” Colvin said.

It wasn’t clear last week whether EF Foundation had assigned a separate supervisor.

Sherry Drummond, 53, refused to answer questions about the allegations of students and host families.

“It hurts me too much, because I’ve put so much into this,” she said.

She deferred to EF Foundation spokesman Ellen Manz, who requested that questions be sent by e-mail. She didn’t respond to those queries.

MADISON’S QUESTIONS The State Department investigation — expected to be complete in a few days — began after state Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, received complaints from host families and foreign-exchange students about EF Foundation and the Drummonds. The students and their current host families in Northwest Arkansas told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week how foreign-exchange students lived in what they considered unclean, unsafe homes and how they felt disliked by Sherry Drummond when they stayed with her. They also complained that the Drummonds improperly served the dual role of host family and organization representative for several students, making it awkward for the students to voice their concerns.

Rikke Stoyva, a Fayetteville High School student from Norway, didn’t care for emphasis on religion by her host family, John and Jill Foster. The family attended nondenominational church services three times a week in West Fork.

Stoyva, who is Lutheran, lived with the Fosters for three months, then was moved to Camden, where she’s attending Camden Fairview High School. She is living with EF representative Leigh Horton, Horton said Friday.

Colvin said he’s also looking into complaints that foreign-exchange students sat at tables at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market and in front of a Wal-Mart trying to convince shoppers to allow other students into their homes. “It’s not appropriate, but it’s not a violation of the law,” Colvin said. “It may be an indication of underlying regulatory violations. Why were they down there doing that ?” It’s been a difficult year for foreign students at Fayetteville High. In September, student Marije Stam of the Netherlands repeatedly came to school upset and crying, she said, until counselors helped her move from the Drummond home.

“I did not feel like a guest, or at least a family member,” said Stam, 17, who lived in the Drummond house for a month and is now staying with Russ and Mara Cole of Fayetteville.

“I do not know how to express my feelings at that moment, but in my country, I would say [Sherry Drummond ] made me feel like a dog,” she said.

Mara Cole, along with Madison, spent much of last week spurring the State Department to investigate EF Foundation, the Drummonds and how the company operates in Arkansas. They sent statements from students and host families to Beth Melofchik, a State Department educational- and cultural-exchange specialist, describing what they say EF and the Drummonds did and failed to do. “I think we have an extra-special obligation to bring these foreign-exchange students to our country and to take good care of them, and I don’t think that’s happening here,” Madison said.

SCHOOL CONCERNED Fayetteville High teachers and counselors said they’ve had frequent issues with the Drummonds and EF Foundation placements. They’ve complained to officials in the foundation’s headquarters about the Drummonds and believe the organization did nothing in response. “I only hear about the bad [situations ], and there are several each year that are miserable for the student, and the placement in the homes get changed and the students have to be moved,” said Anne Butt, the high school’s college adviser for nine years.

Butt said she took a German student into her home four years ago because EF Foundation put her into a Springdale home she disliked.

Lesli Zeagler, a Fayetteville High counselor, said there are few problems with the international students attending the school who are brought to the United States by Rotary International. Not true with EF Foundation, she said. “With EF, I’ve experienced students who are scared, who seem to be malnourished, and they seem to be isolated,” Zeagler said. “The problems go back years, but we’ve never had a group of students who have been so vocal about it.” Doug Wright, a Fayetteville High counselor, was the counselor at Elkins High School last year. Among the nine foreign-exchange students at that school, five came to the States with the help of EF Foundation.

One EF placement was an Asian girl put in a home where the host parents were going through a divorce. The woman moved out and the man was left behind with the student, Wright said. The school reported it to EF Foundation and the girl was moved to the wife’s home, said Becky Martin, Elkins High School principal.

That instance, however, isn’t part of the State Department investigation.

“There were some questionable placements in Elkins,” Wright said. “I can’t think of a non-EF kid who had a problem.” Boglarka “Boszi” Palko, a national history champion in Hungary who’s attending Fayetteville High, found herself in an awkward situation when she arrived at the Springdale home of Bobby and Sue Hawkins on Aug. 4.

Palko, 18, said she was never happy in the small house, where she was asked to live with the Hawkinses and their 17-year-old daughter. Cousins and grandchildren also regularly spent the night.

Family members smoked inside the house. Palko said she had instructions to put toilet paper in the trash can rather than flush it. That plus cigarette smoke made the house smell bad, Palko said.

Palko said Hawkins family members described her as “overeducated” and as a “present” for their daughter. Bobby Hawkins, a close friend of the Drummonds, told Palko she’d need to understand “redneck English” to survive in the home, Palko said. Palko said she also was accused of having a sexual relationship while she lived in the home. She denies the accusation. Sue Hawkins invited a Democrat-Gazette reporter to see her Oak Street home last week then wouldn’t allow him inside. The tan-colored house was well-kept on the outside.

Palko lived eight days in the Hawkins home, then was moved to the 41-year-old, 2, 100-squarefoot Drummond home near Lake Sequoyah. In order to move, she had to sign an EF Foundation “behavioral agreement” that described the Hawkins home as “suitable” and that the problems she’d encountered were her fault.

“Sherry hated me,” Palko said. “When you speak with someone, you can feel it.” She was moved five days later to the Fayetteville home of Dave and Brenda Servies. Sherry and Gerald Drummond visited the home to check it out, and family members passed a criminal-background check, which is required by the State Department. Palko said she’s been content in the Servies home. She’s visited local stores, loves Northwest Arkansas Mall and made her first trip last week to a Hobby Lobby crafts store. She’ll travel with the Servies as part of a Christmas trip to Florida. “I’m talking about what happened with the other people to protect the next kids from this,” Palko said. “It won’t be good for us to talk, but I can protect the next ones by letting people know.” DUAL ROLE Among the most troubling issues in Arkansas are the stories of Gerald and Sherry Drummond serving as host family and EF Foundation representatives, said Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for the Safety of Foreign Exchange Students. The 2-year-old watchdog organization monitors foreign-exchange organizations.

Having a different EF Foundation representative serve as a supervisor doesn’t protect foreign-exchange students, she said.

“What neutrality does that provide the student when she has a concern about her host father or host mother ?” Grijalva said. “Is that not a recipe for disaster ? It’s a disgrace.” Grijalva also expressed concerns about Stoyva, the Norwegian student placed in the Fosters’ home who’s now in Camden. The EF Foundation handbook says “we are not trying to change the student’s beliefs or convert anyone to a new faith.” Efforts to reach Stoyva in Camden were unsuccessful. Horton, the EF representative in whose home Stoyva now lives, refused to let her come to the phone Friday, saying she’s a minor. School officials and state Sen. Gene Jeffress, D-Louann, refused to ask Stoyva to return messages.

“She’s doing wonderful now,” said Jeffress, a retired Fairview teacher who went to check on Stoyva last week. “She’s in a better situation now. She conveyed that to me.” John Foster said his family didn’t try to change Stoyva’s beliefs and that the family knew of her Lutheran upbringing. He’d communicated with her by email before she came to the States about the family’s frequent visits to Unity Covenant Church in West Fork. The family attends church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. Stoyva knew what to expect, Foster said. “I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” said Foster, 28, a Fayetteville police officer assigned to work at Fayetteville High. “We felt like we gave Rikke a good home. “ Church was the only place we saw her smile at all. If loving your child and trying your hardest is something bad, then we did something wrong. We tried as hard as we could to make it work.”

EF FOUNDATION Madison said she was told by an EF Foundation employee that the Drummonds are paid $ 300 to $ 400 for each foreignexchange student placed in a family’s home, including their own. The Drummonds received $ 12 per student, per month, for verifying the students are doing well and helping with difficulties they encounter, Madison said. Grijalva said most foreign-exchange student companies pay $ 400 to $ 750 for each student who is placed in a home. Host families aren’t paid.

The payment is a small portion of the $ 5, 000 for six months or $ 10, 000 for a year that the students pay EF Foundation to come to the United States.

Around 30, 000 exchange students come to America annually, said Colvin of the State Department’s exchange coordination office, adding the State Department investigates about 200 complaints each year. About 20 percent involve students brought to the United States by EF Foundation, Colvin said.

As part of its investigation in Arkansas, Colvin said the State Department could reprimand the company and require it to write a corrective-action plan to ensure it doesn’t violate federal regulations. A more severe penalty could involve shutting down the corporation or limiting how many students it can bring to the United States. Colvin sent a letter Thursday to the EF Foundation describing five media accounts and complaints last week regarding the organization. “This is not a pretty picture,” he concluded in the letter.

John Hishmeh, director of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, is familiar with the complaints coming from Northwest Arkansas. The nonprofit council monitors and distributes information about exchange programs. “Things go wrong, and you have to figure out if it’s a catastrophic failure or a single thing that went wrong,” Hishmeh said. Connie Williams, a counselor at Springdale High School for 35 years, said it’s wrong to “pinpoint” EF Foundation as problematic because she’s had difficulty with other companies, too. Eight foreign-exchange students are attending the school this year, she said.

“I’ve never particularly had trouble with EF, but I’ve had trouble with another agency,” Williams said.

Brad and Sarah Campbell, who are hosting a German student in their Fayetteville home, fear problems with foreign-exchange companies in Northwest Arkansas could have long-term consequences.

“These are high-achieving kids who were selected to come here,” Brad Campbell said. “They are diplomats. They want to know what it’s like in America, and they invest a year of their life to be here. We owe them a good experience. Their opinions of the U. S. are being formed.

“We’re not saying you have to be millionaires to have these kids, but you do have to have a solid foundation. A lot of the households aren’t solid. They are disruptive and filled with turmoil.” FOUNDATION FACTS

Education First Foundation for Foreign Study, founded in 1979, is the country’s largest foreign-exchange company. More than 100 companies bring students to the United States, said John Hishmeh, director of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel. The council has certified about 70, including EF Foundation. About 30, 000 foreign-exchange students travel to the United States each year and few report problems, Hishmeh said. EF Foundation brought 3, 712 students from more than 40 countries in the year ending Sept. 30, 2006, according to the foundation’s most recent federal tax filings.

The foundation’s income tax exemption submitted to the Internal Revenue Service last February reported its 2006 revenue was $ 10, 047, 865.


Student Fayetteville

Christian fundamentalist host-family

(by Ragni Trotta)

While the U.S. Department of State actually had the power to investigate the student exchange companies, little seems to happen with the continued violations of several sponsoring organizations. In an interview with the Arkansas Democratic Gazette in December 2007, Stanley Colvin commented on complaints about EF Education and its Fayetteville coordinators, Gerald D. and Sherry A. Drummond. The U.S. State Department began an investigation after Arkansas State Senator Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, received complaints from host families and foreign-exchange students about EF Foundation and the Drummonds. The students and their current host families in Northwest Arkansas told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette how foreign-exchange students lived in what they considered unclean, unsafe homes and how they felt disliked by Sherry Drummond when they stayed with her. They also complained that the Drummonds improperly served the dual role of host family and organization representative for several students, making it awkward for the students to voice their concerns. Rikke Stoyva, a Fayetteville High School student from Norway, didn’t care for emphasis on religion by her host family, John and Jill Foster. The family attended nondenominational church services three times a week in West Fork. Stoyva, who is Lutheran, lived with the Fosters for three months, then was moved to Camden, where she’s attending Camden Fairview High School.


Consent agenda

2007: Exchange Group Gets Probe After Teens Complain

2008: Agency dumps coordinators of foreign teens

2008: Lawmakers question foreign exchange procedures, legislation in the works