January 26, 1994
Subject: Weymouth firm told to stop solicitation
STAFFUNION-NEWS (Springfield, Mass.)
Estimated printed pages: 3
School officials have told a Weymouth company that offers training programs on drug-abuse prevention to stop soliciting cash contributions from local businesses for a program at the Donahue School. The School Committee learned Monday night that a group called Narconon Inc. of Weymouth had been sending letters to city businesses requesting a $250 donation to fund a program where recovered addicts go to the Donahue School to speak about the dangers of drug abuse.
School Committee members balked at the letter because they never authorized such a program or a fund-raising drive. But a representative from Narconon said the organization's director made a mistake and "jumped the gun" in seeking out donations for the program before the committee approved it.
L. Ron Hubbard
Narconon is an international organization founded in 1966 by a former prison inmate who turned his life around through the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology. Narconon runs drug-treatment centers, educational programs, peer leader training programs for teens and other activities.
"We sent them a letter telling them to cease and desist from any further solicitation in any way, shape or form," School Superintendent James McDonnell said.
McDonnell said school administrators at Donahue were planning to send a letter to the committee asking for approval to host Narconon speakers, but said they had not made any firm commitment with Narconon to conduct the program. McDonnell said school administrators also were not aware that Narconon planned to send out letters to businesses asking for donations using the school's name.
Thought date set
Robert Wiggins, a former drug addict who lectures for Narconon, said the agency's director was under the impression that Donahue administrators had agreed to conduct the program for three days in March.
Wiggins said Narconon speakers have lectured to some 275,000 school children, community groups, teachers, and parents across the state. He said the group has run programs in schools in Chicopee, Northampton, Springfield, and other area communities over the years.
Wiggins said he did not know the typical cost of a lecture, but said if school departments cannot pay for the program, the agency often seeks to obtain funding elsewhere.
Wiggins said Narconon director Susan Birkenshaw learned from school officials they might not have the money to pay for the program, so she "set the wheels in motion" and began sending out letters to 15 city businesses asking for donations. Birkenshaw could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Wiggins said she hadn't yet collected any money.
"She made an error in sending (the letter) out," Wiggins said.
But McDonnell said discussions with Birkenshaw never reached that level, and school officials were unaware she would be asking area businesses to pay for the program.
In any case, Donahue administrators have dropped plans for the program entirely.