Why an entire website dedicated to reviewing ECOS Institute?

Our twin daughters attended ECOS Science camp in March 2019. They had an absolutely terrible and traumatic experience. Based on other online reviews, other children have also had negative experiences that could have been easily prevented.

It is our strong desire to see ECOS in conjunction with CAPOUSD take actions to prevent other children from undergoing a bad experience. An open letter to ECOS and CAPOUSD will be sent requesting these simple and reasonable remediations.

We believe most parents would agree and feel a lot more comfortable sending their young children to camp for a week with the above updated policies in place.

Summary

As both of my daughters have major food allergy issues and severe digestive distress (IBS), I received approval to send them to this institute with their own food.

My daughters were ridiculed, harassed and “food bullied” by Steve Benz, Program Director, for not eating his prepared food.  

Upon filing a complaint with ECOS, a facade investigation was completed that resulted in the institute claiming 100% innocence and placing the burden of fault on my daughters, adding more insult to emotional injury.   

We Need Your Help

If you support the listed remediations, please leave a comment here and simply let us know that you support the effort.

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In short, this is what we are asking:

  • Abolish the “Zero Communication” policy.
  • Ensure equality among ALL students.
  • Post camp surveys should be sent home with students and completed with parents in all school districts.
  • More formal and transparent process should be put in place to deal with incidents.
  • See full list here.

Bad Experience Too?

If your child also had a bad camp experience at ECOS Institute, please post a review here.

Detailed Account

Feb 7, 2019

Phone call with ECOS employee

I asked about the food policy and relayed the allergies my daughters have.  I was promised a phone call within a day as this had to be discussed with Steve Benz.

Feb 14, 2019

Upon not hearing back from the institute and knowing the trip was less than a month ago, I became concerned.  I placed another call only to argue with a lady who was defensive in stating that I needed “approval” to send the girls with their own food / snacks.  I insisted I speak to Steve Benz immediately instead of being told I would receive a phone call back and ignored again.

When I spoke to Steve Benz, he stated that he could accommodate most diets.  I asked about GMO’s only to find out that most of the food is not GMO free. One of my daughters has issues with some GMO vegetables. Their main issues are a gluten and dairy intolerance. Steve did not volunteer any help with trying to accommodate some (not all) of the dietary concerns.  I received approval (forcefully) to send them with their own food. There was hesitation that I could not quite understand.

I received an email later that day with guidelines on what to send for food.

March 11th, 2019

Our children leave for camp

March 15th, 2019

Our Children return from camp in tears with their original bags of food not eaten (10% was eaten).  My daughters starved themselves in an effort to not have to deal with Steve Benz.

FACTS:

90% of my daughters food was returned , which left me stunned, asking over and over again, “what did you eat?”

-The food was returned in a state that basically looked like trash – Everything toppled everywhere – Steve examined all the food that was sent over.  My daughters were told the food was “junk” and the other kids wouldn’t appreciate them eating such “junk.”

“You’d rather eat your mother’s cold food than mine?”  By Steve Benz.

– The girls were not given their food at the same time the other kids had their food and usually had to wait a period of time to retrieve their food bags (Often one bag was given to them leaving them having to munch on breakfast foods during dinner time etc etc).  

-When they tried to eat Steve Benz would sarcastically ask the girls “how is your mother’s food?”  They became intimidated and scared by this man.

– Steve was often alone with the girls when his food bullying remarks were made.  My daughters are shy and never talk back to adults out of respect. They didn’t want to eat their normal amount of food to avoid being harassed by Steve.  

– My daughter always wakes up with no appetite.    On March 15th, 2019, she was told if she doesn’t eat breakfast, she would get medicated.   So she cried. Forced it down her mouth. Then went to the bathroom to throw it up. Please note: The institute doesn’t tell anybody about mandatory water and food requirements.  2 cups of water are mandatory at every meal. Despite the fact that I signed off on no medication to be administered to my daughters, one was threatened to be medicated.

-My daughter was at the hospital Saturday morning from the ECOS rules and forced water and food that was mandatory.

March 15th, 2019.

-Both my daughters arrive from the trip in tears.  Both girls are emotionally distressed.

March 15th, 2019

-Email requesting a phone call sent.

Marth 17th, 2019

-Left another message, with no response

March 19th, 2019

-Receive an email back saying that they have done nothing wrong and if an investigation is conducted, it may not be shared with me.

-I responded stating that a 10 year old child does not make up these claims and the principle first hand saw their reaction when they stepped off the bus. I took pictures of the food that was returned. I requested that the appropriate measures be placed to ensure Steve Benz is spoken to for bullying innocent children that are different. I stated that I would be the spokesperson for children that are bullied by adults who have no voice, because they stand no chance going up against an adult who will make the child out to be liar. My email was ignored.

March 20th, 2019

-Based on the initial closed, not inquisitive, careless response back from the institute, I reported this organizations to various San Bernardino agencies.

March 31st, 2019

Received an email from ECOS copying the principle and stating they are 100% innocent and the case is closed. Nothing was done to my daughters, infact they were treated well. There is no evidence that Steve made any statements to my daughters There were witnesses in the presence of Steve Benz who heard nothing. (Blame the girls, they are liars, they made it all up and they have no witnesses). A facade investigation was conducted and an offensive, defensive email full of exaggerated and made up lies was received that is not worth noting.

  • My Opinion: At the end of the day, there was no way that I was expected a response saying yes, Steve bullied them, we are sorry! Yes we threatened to medicate them if they didn’t follow our rules! However, if this place had any common decency, they would at least apologize for my daughters “perceived” experience. The bottom line is my daughters were set to lose all credibility from the get go. It is an adult versus a child’s word. This is why so many children grow up under abusive conditions and do or say nothing about it. Victims are not heard or believed. Every item in their email was twisted around, manipulated and straight out cruel and damaging to my children’s psyche.
  • The issue is no longer the bullying, but how cruel, inhumane and flat out repulsive this place is to discount, lie, and paint two innocent girls as not just crazy, but liars. This place isn’t run by good people. It is a system designed to make money that is closely tied to the schools. Can you imagine being only 10 and told that everything that happened to you, didn’t happen to you and that you are the problem? Can you imagine how deeply this hurts children?
  • This type of abuse is so emotionally taxing and damaging. Please please please do your homework, challenge the school that picks this place and won’t rock the boat (they have their own “politicing” that happens with this place) and push back. Don’t believe the system and send your child here. Don’t believe the teachers that say they’ve never had a problem. Judging on what happened to me, theres been tons of problems that have been beyond swept under the rug AND done so in an equally abusive manner.

Update:

4/18 . Received email from principal stating that teachers will be present with children that meet with camp staff going forward and asked if the level one complaint can be closed. I asked for a meeting (4/22).

5/8. Received an email from Steve Kuljis stealing ONE idea of this website in an effort to pretend action was taken. This idea was also the same theme of not having children be alone with his staff any longer. (as the principal discussed with me). Nothing new here.

4/22. Met with principal of elementary school who promised an update in a week in email. To date there has been no email.

CAPOUSD replied back today with nothing! They consider the case closed and the school district doesn’t know what to do but recommend I contact the head of the camp organization. Shame on this school district.