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Schools, Programs, & Visit Reports - Dec, 1991 Issue 

Pine Meadows School
(916) 359-2211
French Gulch, CA.
Executive Director: David Hull
Lon Woodbury's Visit: June 13, 1991

The school is located on a 556 acre former cattle ranch in Northern California. The site originally contained a large Wintu Indian village. In the last half of the 19th century, gold hunters were all over it during one of California's gold rushes. Touring the site, history seems very close with old buildings and other relics of by-gone eras evident.

The optimum size is 41 boys and girls (Ages 11-17), that are more fragile and more damaged than most Special Purpose Schools, and tend to be more acting-in rather than acting-out. The approach is strongly clinical, and the staff feels they can handle any medical problem necessary. Treatment includes many non-verbal methods such as Art therapy.

A strong element of the treatment is the use of the outdoors as a healing tool. The students spend much of their time in outdoor recreation, or raising farm animals such as horses, cattle, sheep and pigs. The school takes advantage of many outdoor opportunities, with the pinnacle experience being the fire-fighting crew. Membership on this crew is earned by demonstrating responsibility and consistency, among other habits, and membership is coveted by the students. The crew is called on to fight forest fires in the area. This is hard work, but extremely satisfying. There are 10 students on the fire crew, no more and no less, and a tremendous amount of healing occurs. I was lucky enough to watch a practice session/demonstration while I was there. The discipline, efficiency, and speed in which the students built a fire trail was impressive. In my past, I helped pay my way through college by fighting Idaho and Montana forest fires in the federal Forest Service. I wish I would have had this crew to work with instead of some of the knuckleheads I did have to work with.

Every student has an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The school either develops one or uses the one developed by the student's home district. Also, each student is assigned a therapist upon entering the program. Using the outdoors, IEPs, individual counseling, group dynamics, telephone family therapy, and a level system, the overall approach is what they call a Behavior Management System. The school has small academic classes with 10 children or less per class.

Pine Meadows is licensed and accredited by the State Department of Education as a Non-Public school, in the Special Education category, for the severely emotionally disturbed. There are regular in-service training sessions for the staff. If the one I attended is any indication, the sessions have meat in them and would be helpful for career development.

Copyright 1991, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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