Boston public school students subjected to unlicensed ‘cult-like’ counseling for 15 years, report trauma

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For 15 years, students at a Boston high school were reportedly subjected to cult-like “counseling,” some of it racial in nature, by an unlicensed woman who, for all intents and purposes, appears to be a quack.

The woman, Jenny Sazama, ran a youth advocacy program called Youth on Board, and for 15 years her organization was contracted to manage the Student Advisory Council, a high-level board that advises top officials in the Boston Public Schools.

But it turned out that Sazama was more than just a youth advocate. She was also a zealot member of The International Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, an international group that promotes so-called Reevaluation Counseling.

Speaking with The Boston Globe this week about his experience being subjected to this bizarre “counseling” when he was a sophomore, one former student, now-21-year-old Keondre McClay, had nothing positive to say about it.

“McClay said he was pressured by the head of a district-sponsored youth advocacy program to attend an overnight retreat in Newton, where white adults asked the black teenager to wrestle out his emotions on a gym mat with them. They said it would help him purge his trauma from experiencing racism,” the Globe reported Wednesday.

“McClay fled to his room. Jenny Sazama, the program leader, and other retreat participants chased after him. For more than an hour, he recalled recently, they hugged him on his bed and entreated him to return to the group ‘counseling’ session while he hid under the covers screaming, ‘Please leave me alone!'” according to the Globe.

As far as McClay is concerned, what happened was an assault.

“I was, for lack of a better word, assaulted,” told the Globe.

But he wasn’t the only one.

“The sessions continued for at least 15 years, with little oversight by the Boston Public Schools, which hired Sazama as an outside contractor to run the council. Sazama, who holds no credentials to provide mental health care, is a lifelong devotee of RC and a leader in the international organization that promotes it,” according to the Globe.

And now, much like critical race theory, RC has gone viral among so-called “progressives,” who – as a reminder – purport to be believers in science.

Yet RC seems to go hand in hand with odious, anti-scientific ideologies like Scientology. In fact, Sazama reportedly collaborated with the founder of Scientology back in the 1950s. And so it’s no surprise that she reportedly distrusts conventional mental health and psychiatrist medication.

“There is no such thing as a psychological ‘disorder.’ They are not real. There is no such thing as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It is terror. The ‘disorders’ are made-up names that describe distresses, and their purpose is to sell drugs for profit,” she said in a 2006 speech, according to RC’s official website.

Like those who practice Scientology, Sazama was also allegedly abusive and manipulative.

“The students said Sazama manipulated them, using her knowledge of their personal issues to get them to attend meetings and, at times, regional RC gatherings with adults from outside the school district, without fully informing their parents. McClay said Sazama even occasionally paid his cellphone bill to get him to attend these retreats,” the Globe reported.

“Students said Sazama often blurred boundaries by sharing her own struggles to a degree that made some students uneasy. And they described the counseling sessions as traumatic,” according to the Globe.

Not until last March did the dam begin to break when a local high school senior who represented students on the Boston School Committee, Khymani James, resigned from his post, and he and five of his peers delivered an explosive press conference calling out Sazama for operating what they described as a “cult.”

In response to their allegations, BPS reportedly commissioned an outside investigation, and following the conclusion of the investigation this week, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius dropped its ties to Youth on Board and Sazama.

Sazama has denied all wrongdoing, even as she’s reportedly been fired from Youth on Board.

“In a statement … Tuesday, Sazama, who is no longer employed by Youth on Board or its parent organization, Youth Build USA, said the former’s relationship with BSAC ‘has been highly successful and nationally recognized for more than two decades,'” Boston.com reported.

“It’s unfortunate to see it come to an end under these circumstances. I hope that the students of Boston will continue to have a voice in how the schools are governed. I have spent my career fighting alongside them for their right to be heard,” she reportedly said.

The official website for the RC movement also lists “racism,” “women’s liberation” and “climate change” as issues that concern its members, suggesting very strongly that it’s a left-wing organization.

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Vivek Saxena

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