Sunday, February 23, 2020

OYAN's Racism, Ableism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Abuse, Sexual Assault, and more

One Year Adventure Novel is a writing curriculum aimed at homeschoolers. Their official site is oneyearnovel.com

Please note: These are firsthand witnessed incidents, there may be more involving other students that we have not uncovered. We have been trying to gather information and witnesses quietly to avoid any issues with the Schwabauers. Many of us were close friends of theirs until we strayed too far from the narrow path of evangelical Christianity, and/or came out as not straight or cis.

We have removed names for the sake of privacy. Adult alumni are also being referred to as students, as they were at the time of most of the incidents described below. If you would like to interview anyone about any of the issues listed here, or find additional information about OYAN, that can be arranged as long as anonymity is guaranteed in any articles or other publications based on the data we've collected. Please keep in mind that nearly all of the incidents in this file happened to minors, some to very young adults, in many cases while they were separated from their parents at one of the workshops. The information contained below is true to the best of our knowledge, and much of it is documented in screenshots from Facebook and the official OYAN forum.

Contact oyanalumni@gmail.com if you have any questions, or want to contribute your own experiences to this document.


History

The curriculum launched in 2007 with a live local class by Mr. Schwabauer, with his wife in full support and often attending classes to assist. The online forum started early 2008.

Workshops are held at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. The first summer workshop (no age limits) was June 2010, and there has been one every year since. The first winter workshop (for 18 and older) was January 2013, and there has been one every year since.

The OYAN Facebook group was started by a student after the first workshop in 2010, and was managed by that student for multiple years. After a certain point, they felt the need to step down (some reasons for which are detailed below) and the Schwabauers took control, Mrs. S in particular.

OYAN was originally exclusively within the homeschooling community, and while they do have some non-homeschooled students at this point, the homeschoolers are the majority (and all issues mentioned below about parents are regarding the parents of homeschooled students).


Student Endangerment

Student who was coughing up mucus was asked to stay in the Bell Center at MNU when they had been informed they could return to their dorm (by the same staff member). The student was also in psychological distress. Student (a minor) was also left alone when coughing up mucus.

Student (a minor) with SPD and an ear infection was made to attend a concert, resulting in physical and mental trauma (the student needed to attend an in-patient mental health facility for a week-long program after the incident).

Students ‘safe space’ had been locked and was not accessible.

Mrs. S later pushes all blame onto the staff member, and does some victim blaming on above two points (screenshots available for this).

Student was left alone during a PTSD-induced panic attack. More specifically the student’s friends were forbidden from accompanying them and were forced to continue attending the event that had caused their friend’s PTSD incident.


Homophobia/Transphobia

Most LGBT students feel unsafe in OYAN spaces, and uncomfortable sharing LGBT stories on the forum due to hostile culture. A student felt the need to remove an LGBT story from the forum before it was forcibly removed, due to hostile culture.

This is compounded by the open homophobia of many of the straight students, who are never moderated or discouraged in any way from behaving in that way. (See Poorly Moderated Online Forum section for more information).

Mrs. S editing profiles covertly:
  • Removed “feel free to pm me about LGBT stuff” from a student’s profile.
  • Removed student’s signature stating that they were ace/bi and told student to remove LGBT content from their posts.
  • Deleted a posted comic from a student with two male characters kissing.
  • Student banned for repeatedly replacing the deleted LGBT content on their profile.
  • Most of these actions were taken without talking to the students in question, forum data showed Mrs. S visiting the profile and then these items mysteriously disappearing. The warning in the second incident was given after the post had already been edited.

Students were accosted on OYAN Facebook page for posting coming out stories with no intervention from moderators including Mrs. S. This is especially telling, given that she and many other students openly praised another student who posted to say they were trying to “control” their sexuality and make themselves more straight.


Ableism

Various ableist remarks about mental health made by Mr. S, including joking about having a mental illness that he did not have.

Mrs. S promoted an ableist analogy of mental health, with the implication that ignoring your problems will eventually make them go away (and the implication that students were causing their own issues by focusing on the wrong things). She also claimed during the 2018 Ableist Chain of Events listed below that she was fully supportive of students with issues because she had helped people get their medication and sat with a few students during their anxiety attacks. However within the same discussion she repeatedly attempted to lay blame for the student’s poor experience on the student, not the staff member.

At least one student was bullied into a suicide attempt on the forum, and it was not reported by anyone at the time. When told about the incident, the Schwabauers' response was not concerned or upset, but rather a defensive statement that “they could not be everywhere on the forum, and what did you expect them to do.” (See Poorly Moderated Online Forum for more details)

Student emailed ahead of time, requested, and was granted accommodations that were never able to be used, and not properly fulfilled.

2013 - Guest Speaker Mark Wilson made derogatory comments about depressed kids in a tangent during his lecture, essentially denying the reality of depression, triggering panic attacks. An entire row of students stood up and walked out. Given that this happened in 2013, Mark’s exact wording is no longer certain, but the idea he communicated was that depression is all in your head, and depressed teenagers are a fad.

Mrs. S tried to make students go back in but they refused and eventually she stopped insisting. No official apology was ever offered, and Mark was never publicly censured for his behavior. Mark is a very old friend of Mr. S, and has been involved in some way at nearly every workshop. One student reported this incident to their parents, who angrily contacted the S’s looking for answers and/or apologies. They brushed the parent off and nothing was done.


Food

Students were functionally starved by poor catering choices. During the Summer Workshop, underage students are not allowed to leave campus without their own parent or guardian (and most parents do not attend, while leaving with a different adult is not allowed). However the catering options did not account for most food allergies, celiac disease, etc. This caused students with dietary restrictions to barely eat for an entire week to avoid harming themselves. They were allowed to bring some food, but only things that did not need to be refrigerated. Also, some underage students were discouraged from asking adult students to bring them fresh food from off campus.

Apparently an inept attempt was made in recent years to add some dietary options. They were very poorly labeled, unhealthy-looking and made students concerned about food poisoning.

According to attendees without dietary issues, the normal food is also of extremely low quality and gives them the same concerns, with some reporting feeling ill after eating. One student mentioned that the single gas station meal they were able to get during that time was the best thing they had eaten all week, if that gives a better idea of the quality.

This is despite students having to pay extra for cafeteria fees. The amount increased significantly over the years, to well over $10 per meal, and should more than cover healthier food options. It is true that students can opt out of the meal ticket, but if they are minors that drastically limits their options.

For the Winter Workshop, the meal ticket was included in the price (non-optional) and the location was much more remote than the Summer Workshop. Thus, even though students at Winter Workshop are adults, they were still limited to an even lower quality of food than the Summer Workshop (many students attended both and can vouch for the comparison).

During a recent Winter Workshop, the catering staff left for New Years and one of the attending parents made some kind of “tasteless and disgusting” soup for the attendees instead. No apology was made to the students, it was treated as a normal thing to do.

The food quality, high prices, and lack of options have been mentioned to the Schwabauers several times, but very little has changed.


2018 Ableist Chain of Events (screenshots available for most of this)

One student in particular specifically told “Jane D” (the staff member) that they had PTSD and needed to avoid the concert. They were forced to attend anyway. Once this caused the student’s PTSD to act up badly, “Jane D” allowed them to wait outside, but made their friends return to the concert, isolating them (see also: Student Endangerment).

Student messaged “Jane D” on Facebook about this incident later, and received an extremely gaslighting faux-apology, and later made a post in the OYAN Facebook group about wanting to leave OYAN based on the previous incidents.

On June 19th, another student tagged the Schwabauers beneath that Facebook post to get their perspective (since the only official response so far had been from “Jane D”). Both of them, but primarily Mrs. S, then proceeded to gaslight, victim blame, and became extremely angry and defensive. After a certain point, they stepped back and allowed their more devoted students to do the work for them without attempting to stop it. Please note that the student who tagged them has a chronic illness and was attempting to be an advocate for another disabled student in this instance. This was declared by the advocating student and thus was known by the Schwabauers and everyone else participating in the conversation. This did not change their approach at all.

Later, they deleted the student’s original post completely. When asked, they implied that they were unhappy with the comments left on it, and thus wanted to get rid of it. Given the content of the comments, we believe this to be a direct attempt to silence any dissent on the page. An exact quote: “It was producing misunderstandings and assumptions by people who don’t have all the information. As well as accusations based on those misunderstandings and assumptions.” The Schwabauers had previously said the same thing about misunderstandings and assumptions in their attacks, despite receiving the information from a firsthand account from the victimized student in question (thus implying that the student was lying).

Several weeks after this incident, the disabled student who tagged the S’s was secretly banned with no warning.

Please also note that the student with PTSD needed a week of in-patient therapy after this incident (see above section on Student Endangerment)


Predators/Assault

Please note: This is far from a comprehensive list of sexism and predatory behavior in OYAN, but these are the two most notable offenders we are currently aware of.

"Monster"
  • Starting around 2010, targeted and sexually abused a large number of underage girls over a the entirety of his time with OYAN, through the OYAN forum and other messaging platforms. This included sexual language and roleplay, pictures, and video. He was 17-18 during this time and targeted girls younger (in some cases much younger) than himself. At this point we are not aware of the full extent of his victim count, but we believe it to be over 15 people at the lowest estimate.
  • “Monster” also made a point of touching many of his victims during the 2011 Summer Workshop, including kissing at least one underage girl 3-4 years his junior (he was 17 at the time).
  • In 2011, a group of his victims got together and petitioned the Schwabauers for his removal, and he was eventually banned from the forum shortly after the 2011 Summer Workshop. No announcement was made of the reason for his banning, and students who inquired about it were not given any information. This directly led to at least one student continuing to talk to him online, and caused them to become one of his victims as well.
  • “Monster” was then permitted to attend the 2012 Summer Workshop despite the Schwabauers knowing full well what kind of risk he posed. At this time, he was 18 years old. He then physically assaulted one 12 year old student (non-sexually) and sexually harrassed and assaulted a slightly older student.
  • After repeated complaints, he was ejected from workshop, but not until the last day. The student who made complaints believed the only reason they were taken seriously the final time was because they became much louder about it. Student was also gaslit during the first attempt at a complaint.
  • “Monster” was allowed access to the online Facebook group after these incidents but fortunately was removed after his presence was detected by one of his previous victims and another complaint was made (Note: at this point, the OYAN Facebook group was still being run by a student, who was also unaware of what had happened due to the lack of information sharing).
  • Multiple current OYANers will still speak in his defense, and/or allow him access to non-official OYAN groups. Common defenses are that “it’s bad to gossip about someone’s past” or “you need to forgive and give them a chance.”

"Creep"
  • Despite strict no-contact rules (which were aggressively enforced in most cases), "Creep" did a lot of hugging female OYAN students during the workshops without their assent. He was not stopped.
  • He also snuck into a female student’s dorm to leave her a gift, and tried to walk another female student back to a dorm despite her not wanting him to.
  • On the OYAN forum and facebook groups, “Creep” did his best to get close to any hurting girls for the purposes of “helping” them. He constantly pushed boundaries and used emotional abuse to continue “feeding” off of them.
  • Note: “Creep” does have some form of developmental disability (which he seems perfectly aware of and consciously uses as a shield), which (ironically, given the Ableism section) may have caused administrators to respond ineffectively, but given the previous response to “Monster” it’s not certain that this was the reason for the issue not being addressed.

Misc. Issues

Gaslighting/Sexism/Emotional Abuse/Cultish Behavior/Tyrannical Fundamentalist Parents/General Unprofessionalism/ Racism

Poor communication has left left students isolated and distressed. Many students admit that they continued attending OYAN in hopes that this would improve (and because options for creative homeschoolers are already limited), but this was not the case.

Despite marketing to secular students and students of all faiths, OYAN pushes Christianity and holds bias against non-Christian students and even against students who are Christian but non-fundamentalist; this is false advertising (we believe this is to increase their witnessing pool, they deliberately present as less biased to reach a wider audience).

On a related note, Mark Wilson (mentioned above in the Ableism section) has often openly mocked nonreligious students in his lectures. He is a college professor in Oregon and apparently enjoys baiting his non-religious students in his classroom, and bragging about it to the mostly religious audience at the workshops.

Students who do not fit the fundamentalist mold in their writing either by choosing a disapproved genre (such as horror stories) or topic (such as LGBT characters) tend to be quietly shunned, and are more likely to be denied leadership positions as they age.

Also related: the usual rampant sexism of fundamentalism is present here as well. There is the general attitude that women should be subservient to men in relationships, that “boys can’t help themselves”, as well as girls engaging in “not like other girls” shaming against their own.

It should also be noted that the disabled student who was secretly banned after the 2018 ableist incident was female, while male students who have offended have had gotten away with far more before being banned (see “Monster” for the most glaring example). Recently, a transgender student was banned from the adult forum without warning or reason.

Students are blamed - by other students - for their workshop experience being poor, and pressured to fix the problems themselves instead of expecting the Schwabauers to do it.

In general, there is an attitude of veneration towards older students (especially ones in favor with the Schwabauers) and this has led to some cult-like semi-hero-worship behavior in addition to the usual cliquishness that crops up in teen and young adult environments. Furthermore, no attempts to change this attitude or reduce cliquish behavior have ever been made by the Schwabauers. In some cases, they even seem to encourage it when it protects them from criticism.

Specifically, they seem to be perfectly fine with a culture that promotes idealizing and idolizing the “oldie” students who have their favor, because it shields them from negative behavior and teaches the younger students to begin behaving in the same cult-like way.

Fundamentalist parents tend to pull the heaviest weight when it comes to policy changes for OYAN and the workshops. Parents who are not favorites of the Schwabauers in this way are sometimes even outright ignored or brushed off (see the Mark Wilson incident under the Ableism section for more information.)

"Mrs. Bossy" 
  • Extremely fundamentalist mother of a couple students who was at one point very active in the Facebook group in particular. (She is the most extreme of several OYAN moms who do their best to run OYAN and change its policy to be as fundamentalist as possible).
  • Constantly insulted young people, including for merely being young, and then demanded that they respect her.
  • Actively attacked teens and young adults who were friends of her sons for any disagreement with her particular worldview. This means anyone who was gay, or LGBTQ+ affirming, or didn’t believe in hell, or followed a different religion, etc.
  • When Robin Williams died, she castigated people for mourning and explained what a nasty atheist he was and how he was burning in hell.
  • She was extremely anti-Muslim, constantly spreading false and hateful propaganda.
  • After a student (who was then still moderating the OYAN Facebook group they had created) put their foot down and demanded that she stop verbally and emotionally abusing the other students, she tried to emotionally manipulate and gaslight the student for doing so.
  • She then publicly spread lies about the student, and blocked the student after they produced screenshots to disprove her, and then continued to slander them and complain about how unfairly she was being treated by a mob of “dark depressed teenagers on the internet.”
  • The student’s public stand against “Mrs. Bossy’s” bullying elicited no sympathy from the OYAN staff, who pressured them to stop talking about their issues in public and give up admin control of the group. Their quote: “I saw little concern from the adults for the consistently terrible behavior [“Mrs. Bossy”] had engaged in. Some of the kids backed up those of us she targeted, but the adults and most of the loyal kids tried to hush it up. I ultimately took a break from the group, and they never let me back in.”

Essentially, the workshops are run like a church potluck or family gathering (with the lower quality standards that implies), but it is billed as a professional gathering and the students are charged large quantities of money to attend. This disconnect seems to allow the S’s to cut corners in many places while not apologizing and discounting the students' concerns.

We have many reports of attending adults behaving inappropriately towards younger or underage students, including bullying, being openly judgmental and controlling towards students, and coercing the Schwabauers into draconian “no touch” policies (including forbidding a student from comforting another student with anxiety issues by putting an arm around their shoulder).

Please note that in early years of the workshop, these rules were far less strict. While it cannot be proven that this is the direct cause, it is true that rules against touching became much more strict and more targeted at same-gender contact after more students came out as openly LGBT. We believe there is a causal factor here.

Racism
  • Some students profess clearly racist beliefs and they are never corrected by any moderation staff or the Schwabauers.
  • This has gotten out of hand, to the point that a long-time student, excellent writer, and highly respected member in good standing left the Facebook group, because as a person of color he was no longer comfortable engaging. The Schwabauer's only response was more attempts to suppress the noise and avoid dealing with the issue.
  • This includes student story ideas with basis in eugenics-type worldbuilding, as well as defense of and praise for white writers with racist undertones (or overtones) in their stories.

Workshop Staffing Issues/Suppression of Information
  • Non-existent disability education for all staff including volunteer “dorm moms and dads”.
  • Staff are nearly always personal friends of the Schwabauers', former students, and in the case of dorms, parents of students. Dorm moms are usually personally asked to do the job.
  • Touchy dorm mom, attempted to touch a very clearly distressed student multiple times, even when told not to. Their behavior forced the student to push them off and ask them to stop multiple times.
  • Report of a male student being yelled at by a dorm mom while having a panic attack (it was known at the time, but no one can remember the student’s name now).
  • During a workshop, a student prank-called the police about a (fictional) armed intruder. Despite police swarming the campus and terrifying many students, parents who were not on site were never informed. The student was also not removed from workshop for his actions.

Poorly Moderated Online Forum
  • Guidelines and moderation rules exist, but are lacking in content and so well-hidden that long-time members were not aware that they even existed.
  • Users are not taught to report properly, or how to recognize predatory behavior in other users.
  • Violent and triggering topics are let lie without any TW/CW.
  • Students frequently participate in openly homophobic behavior, including complaining about LGBT characters in non-OYAN stories, proposing “theoretical” story ideas where straight people are under attack by LGBT people, and the usual fundamentalist micro-aggressions. They are never discouraged by staff, and in some cases, the peer moderators who are supposed to be examples of good conduct will also do the same thing, which sets a very bad precedent. (See more in the Homophobia/Transphobia section.)
  • Moderation, mentoring, and editing staff seems to be picked by favoritism and personal acquaintance with the Schwabauers. At least one student was repeatedly denied or avoided for mentoring/editing staff because they were less popular with the Schwabauers.
  • The main OYAN forum “kicks off” OYANers who are 20 and older and places them in the adult OYAN+ forum. Please note that the cutoff is 20, not 18, which allows adults to continue interacting with minors (changing this alone would have prevented the majority of the incidents from “Monster”).
  • Despite the fact that the forum is for minors, there are no full-time moderation staff. Everyone involved is a volunteer with a busy real-life schedule, and in some cases the moderators are also minors trying to moderate their peers. There are no guidelines for moderators to ensure fairness or clarity.
  • Following the 2016 Summer Workshop, an adult OYAN student bullied another student on the forum (a minor at the time) into attempting suicide. The adult student has not faced any consequences for their actions. In June 2018, the younger student listed this as one of their reasons for leaving the OYAN community. Mrs. S said she wanted to know the bully's name, and when the younger student said they did not want to name the perpetrator and make themselves a target again, Mrs. S attempted to guilt and pressure the student into doing so anyway.


Average-to-Subpar Curriculum

One member of our group wrote a review:

The One Year Adventure Novel curriculum doesn't really seem to know who it's trying to teach. Is this a curriculum for people who literally know nothing about writing, or is it a curriculum for people who have their foot in the door and just need a bit of guidance? It seems to be talking to you like you know literally nothing about writing, yet its approach is a bit too complex, I think, for that audience and would be more suitable for people who just need basic guidance while knowing more about writing than the other group.

It gets a little too involved with the structured side of things, making everything rigid and formulaic (it says right in the book that it's teaching you to write formula fiction). This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for beginning writers, but for the people who are more interested in writing because they have their own stories to tell, it's stifling creativity a lot. But on top of that, it's throwing all these concepts onto you that feels like it would be too advanced for beginners to really get, what with forcing you to come up with themes and ideals before you come up with your story. That majorly put a stop to my ideas and I couldn't really come up with anything good until I threw out the idea of theme and just did my own thing.

While there are a few things I got out of the curriculum that I still use in my own writing, overall I didn't feel like it was all that helpful. It was too focused on the structure and breakdown of things, it didn't really give a good in-depth idea of how to actually develop characters other than using tropes and archetypes, plus it forced you to write in first person which I honestly think is a bad choice for beginning writers (their reasoning for it I don't believe was all that good, either). I know a lot of students got hung up on certain parts of the curriculum because it was either too confusing or too difficult for them to work in because it was too rigid and didn't allow for their own creativity, and I always gave the advice to just do what you want and screw what the book said.

Another student says: "I read the entire textbook in one sitting, and took only a few small pieces of advice from it, then went my own way and wrote what I wanted. I later won first place in their annual novel contest. Feedback from peers was more valuable than the curriculum to the development of my writing."

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