Ken Kay: Where is the President of WWASP Now?

In the Netflix documentary, ‘The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping,’ the experiences of numerous individuals who endured their time at the Academy at Ivy Ridge are showcased. The film also sheds light on the organizational framework of the entity overseeing various such programs for teens. These programs, spanning globally, fell under the umbrella of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP). The documentary delves into the role of its president, Ken Kay, offering insights into his approach and interactions with the children within the program.

Who is Ken Kay?

Ken Kay initially served as a night staff member at the Brightway Adolescent Hospital in St. George, Utah, where Robert Lichfield was also employed. When Lichfield departed from the hospital to establish the Cross Creek Manor, an adolescent behavioral modification program, Kay followed suit. His professional journey in the troubled teen industry started as he took on the role of founder and director at the Brightway Hospital Unit. The program closed down in 1998 due to allegations of inadequate care and abuse. Following this, he transitioned to the position of superintendent at Browning Distance Learning Academy, a homeschooling curriculum company owned by Lichfield, only to serve there for two years.

Subsequently, in March 2000, Kay was promoted to WWASP, where he was assigned various roles. As spokesperson, he took on the responsibility of defending its programs amid a growing number of lawsuits and allegations related to child abuse, mistreatment, and neglect. Several of the programs such as the ones in South Carolina and Costa Rica closed down. In 2002, he issued a statement expressing his staunch support for the work they were conducting. He said, “Carolina Springs Academy was not required to license as a Residential Treatment Facility as originally told. After officials were adequately educated in their purpose, they were licensed as a Child Caring Facility… The program referred to in the Czech Republic stemmed from a disgruntled employee’s unhappiness with the workplace.”

Kay also added, “Children in the population of students that are dealt with in emotional growth programs, at times, are very manipulative and will do nearly anything to convince their parents to take them home so they are able to continue their negative behavior as before. This behavior must be expected and understood. Allegations of abuse MUST be investigated. We are very supportive of that. Where we do not believe fairness is always represented when the student’s complaints are found to be truly false and the investigators turn their focus on a witch hunt to find fault with the school that generally is not able to be substantiated.”

However, in 2004, when news broke about a suicide in the Spring Creek Lodge program in Montana, Kay released a public statement that rid the organization of any possible responsibility concerning the same. He asserted that the girl in question had been considered “high risk” upon entering the program itself, meaning there was a high possibility something like this could occur, yet her loved ones allegedly pushed for her to enroll. Kay concluded his statement by highlighting that this incident was a first in the history of the program and emphasized that, up to that point, the program had proven beneficial for over 3,500 students.

Ken Kay Carefully Avoids Media Attention Today

In the subsequent years, as lawsuits against the organization multiplied, Ken Kay found himself implicated in many of them. Numerous parents of children enrolled in the programs filed lawsuits against key figures, including Kay, especially as he was WWASP’s President. Notably, in 2004, he became a defendant in a case brought forth by a single Florida mother, Sue Scheff, and her organization Parents Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.™). Scheff alleged sexual abuse and other illicit activities within these programs. In 2007, journalist Thomas Houlahan filed a case against Kay and others, citing numerous reports of abuse and neglect.

We should also mention that Jay Kay, the son of Kay, held a position as the director of Tranquility Bay in Jamaica, which faced intense scrutiny upon its closure due to reports of abuse. Since then, and since the closure of the WWASP programs as a whole, it appears as if Kay has deliberately maintained a low profile to avoid media attention. Some unverified allegations and rumors have suggested that a few WWASP high-profile individuals continue to operate similar programs under different names in various parts of the world. However, it remains uncertain whether Kay is involved in any such endeavors, and not much is known about his family either.

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