Amy Ritchie sent Facebook messages to students ‘she abused’ saying she’d ‘love to catch up’ years after Ivy Ridge closed

AN Academy at Ivy Ridge teacher accused of grooming and serial sexual abuse reached out to her alleged victims on Facebook years later to catch up and reminisce about the times they shared.

Amy Ritchie, 52, was accused of grooming and sexual abuse by five former Ivy Ridge students in an investigation published by The U.S. Sun.

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Amy Ritchie was accused by five former students of grooming and sexual abuse in an investigation published by The U.S. Sun earlier this monthCredit: News Enterprises Inc.
Ritchie was the former director of the girls' program at Ivy Ridge

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Ritchie was the former director of the girls’ program at Ivy RidgeCredit: Cynthia Lane
The majority of her accusers say Ritchie attempted to reach out to them after they graduated like this one Amy sent to ex-student Cynthia Lane

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The majority of her accusers say Ritchie attempted to reach out to them after they graduated like this one Amy sent to ex-student Cynthia LaneCredit: Cynthia Lane
In a conversation with ex-student Kristin Schwab in 2019, Amy acknowledged claims being made about her online by other students

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In a conversation with ex-student Kristin Schwab in 2019, Amy acknowledged claims being made about her online by other studentsCredit: Kristin Schwab

Four of the students claimed to have been groomed and molested by Ritchie – the former director of the girl’s program – over a series of months while attending the now-defunct troubled teen facility as teenagers in the mid-2000s.

They claimed the abuse happened both on and off campus and in some instances even in their own homes.

A fifth student claimed to have witnessed the abuse first-hand. She claimed she was instructed to escort another underage classmate to Ritchie’s room on campus after hours and would be sitting mere feet from them while Ritchie allegedly molested the classmate in her bed.

Ritchie has not been accused of or charged with any crimes relating to those allegations. Attempts to reach her for comment have been unsuccessful.

Read More About Ivy Ridge

Most of the women interviewed for The U.S. Sun’s investigation said Ritchie attempted to contact them after they left the school and shared screenshots of those interactions.

Alexa Brand, who claims to have been sexually abused by Ritchie over two years, graduated from Ivy Ridge’s program in May 2005.

Before and even after leaving the school, Alexa says that Ritchie would ask Alexa’s parents if she could come to stay with them, or if Alexa could come to stay with her, to sustain their “special relationship.”

Alexa said her parents were none the wiser to the alleged abuse that was unfolding behind closed doors.

She provided The U.S. Sun with a copy of an email from April 2005, sent by Ritchie to Alexa’s mom, describing Alexa’s recent visits with Ritchie and writing that Alexa appeared to be pushing her away and their “unique relationship” in a different direction.

Eventually, Alexa said she had to beg her parents to stop allowing Ritchie to access her.

Ivy Ridge is being investigated by police after Netflix exposed abuse & sick tourists are told to stay away from school

She tried not to think or speak about Ritchie for the next few years. However, Ritchie began periodically reaching out to her on Facebook, attempting to reminisce about memories from Ivy Ridge and the times they shared.

In one such message, Ritchie sent an image of lyrics from a song Alexa had written for her years earlier, telling her “I want to hear this again” and “I need you to sing this to me.”

“For years I didn’t respond to her because I felt weird but I didn’t know why,” recounted Alexa.

“But, even though I’d left Ivy Ridge, I still felt like I had to respond, which is crazy.

“So there would be times where she’d reach out and tell me she misses me so much, so I’d respond, ‘Thanks, I hope you’re well,’ but really on the inside, I’m having a panic attack.

“I felt like she still wouldn’t leave me alone, but I also didn’t have the strength to block her because I worried about what she would think of me.”

Alexa eventually agreed to meet Ritchie in 2013 after years of giving her the runaround.

As soon as she saw Ritchie, she said her face fell ashen as it dawned on her that the alleged “unique relationship” they’d shared at Ivy Ridge was, in actuality, child abuse.

“I ended up seeing her in person in 2013, and it was one of those things where immediately upon seeking her my blood ran cold,” she said.

“I knew in that moment that what happened shouldn’t have happened, that this wasn’t okay, and I wanted nothing more than to get away from her.

“And she was pretending that everything was normal and that she was so happy to see me.”

That was the last time Alexa saw Ritchie. Eventually, she blocked her on Facebook too.

But even though she hasn’t seen her for more than a decade, Alexa admitted that she still feels oddly beholden to Ritchie and is fearful of how she may react to her speaking out.

“When you’re the prey of the predator, even once you reach adulthood, there’s always this talon that’s latched onto you somehow,” she said.

“And even today, coming forward, I worry about hurting her feelings or her being mad at me for telling the truth.”

REWRITING THE PAST

Kristin Schwab, who spent 13 months at Ivy Ridge between 2005 and 2006, said she too was contacted by Ritchie on Facebook shortly after leaving the facility.

For much of her time at the school, Kirstin claims Ritchie set out to make her life a misery, hurling degrading insults at her in front of other students, remarking about her hygiene, and ordering her to take mandatory showers, during which Kristin claims Ritchie would sexually abuse her.

Ivy Ridge alumna Alexa Brand alleges to have been abused by Amy Ritchie numerous times while at the school

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Ivy Ridge alumna Alexa Brand alleges to have been abused by Amy Ritchie numerous times while at the schoolCredit: Alexa Brand
Alexa shared with The U.S. Sun an email sent by Amy to her mom, discussing her 'unique relationship' with the then-17-year-old

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Alexa shared with The U.S. Sun an email sent by Amy to her mom, discussing her ‘unique relationship’ with the then-17-year-oldCredit: Alexa Brand
Kristin Schwab claims to have been abused by Ritchie in the school's showers

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Kristin Schwab claims to have been abused by Ritchie in the school’s showersCredit: Kristin Schwab
The Academy at Ivy Ridge was thrust into the spotlight following the release of a shocking Netflix documentary detailing abuse at the school

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The Academy at Ivy Ridge was thrust into the spotlight following the release of a shocking Netflix documentary detailing abuse at the schoolCredit: Probe-Media for The US Sun

It wasn’t until just before she graduated that Ritchie’s attitude towards her changed, Kristin said, and she began treating her with some semblance of kindness, instead of unrelenting cruelty.

“I don’t know, but all of a sudden she took an interest in me, and it just felt good to finally have that approval,” said Kristin, who graduated shortly after turning 18.

“After I left, she found me pretty quickly on Facebook and she started talking to me after that. I know she went on to open another [troubled teen facility] and she started asking my advice on how she could make the program better.

“She made me feel like I mattered, suddenly.”

Ritchie’s correspondences began with Kristin much like Alexa’s – by reliving the so-called good times from Ivy Ridge but neglecting to mention any of the alleged abuse.

She opened the line of communication by sending Kristin a song they often played during Ivy Ridge’s now highly controversial “brainwashing” seminars, Ready to Fly by Richard Marx.

I knew in that moment that what happened shouldn’t have happened, that this wasn’t okay, and I wanted nothing more than to get away from her.

Alexa BrandIvy Ridge Survivor

Though infrequent, their correspondences lasted for years, right up until 2019, when Kristin started questioning and reanalyzing her experiences at Ivy Ridge, and the alleged abuse she’d been subjected to.

Ritchie would discuss with Kristin all manner of things: trips she was taking or hoping to take, a dog she’d rescued, her health issues, and extending various invitations to meet up, screenshots sent to The U.S. Sun show.

Later in 2019, Ritchie appeared to acknowledge some of the claims being made about her in Ivy Ridge alumni Facebook groups, concerning physical and sexual abuse.

Responding to Kristin, Ritchie wrote, “About the groups? It’s alright. They always will talk s**t about me.

“Sad some can’t get over it.”

Not long after, Kristin said she attempted to arrange a time to sit down with Ritchie to ask her a few questions and help reclarify some of her hazier memories from the school.

However, Ritchie suddenly became evasive and eventually stopped responding, Kristin said.

The following year, Kristin stated in a lengthy Facebook post that she had been sexually abused at Ivy Ridge, quietly naming Ritchie as the perpetrator within closed circles.

She hasn’t heard from Ritchie since.

REGAINING CONTROL

Cynthia Lane opted not to respond to Ritchie’s olive branch when she was contacted by her on Facebook in 2011, six years after leaving Ivy Ridge.

She was enrolled in the school in September 2004, aged 14, after attempting to take her life twice in three years, following a series of traumatic events.

A few months into the program, Cynthia alleges she was groomed and later sexually abused by Ritchie on at least five or six different occasions.

She left the school after 12 months and tried to bury her experiences.

But when Ritchie cold contacted her on Facebook in 2011, forgotten feelings and memories came racing back to the surface.

Ritchie contacted many of the students after they graduated, asking to meet up and denying accusations made about her on Facebook

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Ritchie contacted many of the students after they graduated, asking to meet up and denying accusations made about her on FacebookCredit: Probe-Media for The US Sun
Cynthia Lane struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and is still working to recover  some of her memories from Ivy Ridge

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Cynthia Lane struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and is still working to recover some of her memories from Ivy RidgeCredit: Cynthia Lane
Felicia Sanger alleges Ritchie abused her roommate for months while she was in the room

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Felicia Sanger alleges Ritchie abused her roommate for months while she was in the roomCredit: Felicia Sanger

“Happy Birthday!” began Ritchie’s message, dated April 8. “I didn’t know that you were in the Marines. I’m so proud of you. How are you doing?

“I live in Baja, Mexico, by San Diego. If you are ever home in California on leave I would love to catch up with you. I hope things are going well.”

Ritchie left the message on read.

“This was six years after I left. She still knew my birthday, she searched me out, and she still wanted to see me, and that’s when the reality of all this sort of hit me and I realized something wasn’t okay,” said Cynthia.

“I used to be really excited about her attention in the program but I did not feel okay when she reached out. I just kind of brushed it off and ignored it for years until probably about 2021.

“Then the troubled teen industry started exploding with the Paris Hilton documentary [about Provo Canyon] and that’s when I started to unpack what happened to me.

“And then it hit me: this wasn’t right.”

DISTURBING ENCOUNTER

Felicia Sanger, who attended Ivy Ridge between 2005 and 2007, last saw Ritchie a week after her graduation, when Felicia went to visit a friend from Ivy Ridge in New England after a member of the friend’s family died unexpectedly.

During her time at the school, though she was never abused herself, she alleges she’d had to escort her bunkmate to Ritchie’s room at night, and would be sitting mere feet away from them while Ritchie allegedly molested the bunkmate in her bed.

She was shocked when she arrived at her friend’s home for the funeral to find that Ritchie had traveled down for the service too and planned to stay the night.

They all slept in the basement, and Felicia says Ritchie and Felicia’s grieving friend shared the same bed.

“[The friend’s] parents thought they had a unique relationship. They thought they could trust Amy, and that the relationship was normal and healthy,” claimed Felicia.

“I know Amy continued to visit there, long after the program ended until she cut off ties after this particular student said she couldn’t do it anymore. It made her too uncomfortable.

“She begged her parents to stop inviting her over. She was free from that place and she wanted to be free of Amy too.”

That was the last time Felicia spoke with Ritchie.

She never conversed with her on Facebook beyond that encounter.

Timeline of events: Academy at Ivy Ridge

  • 2001: Academy at Ivy Ridge is opened by Jason Finlinson in Ogdensburg, New York
  • 2003: Congressman Rep. George Miller urges the US Attorney General to investigate Ivy Ridge and the 10 other WWASP facilities in the US and aboard over allegations of “an ongoing practice of physical and emotional abuse of children”
  • 2004: Attorney General declines to investigate WWASP, citing a lack of jurisdiction
  • 2005: Male students plan and carry out a riot at the school to protest inhumane living conditions; 12 were arrested and numerous others escaped but were later caught
  • 2006: New York’s Education Department writes to Finlinson and voices concerns over “serious deficiencies” in Ivy Ridge’s education practices and health and safety protocol
  • 2006: The state determined Ivy Ridge to be a behavior modification center, not a school, thus barring the facility from issuing student diplomas. The school was later fined
  • 2009: Ivy Ridge closes its doors for good, following years of bad press which caused enrollment numbers to plummet
  • 2024 (March 5): A three-part documentary series made by Ivy Ridge alumn Katherine Kubler is released on Netflix, exposing countless claims of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse
  • 2024 (March 7): Jason Finlinson loses his job as a safety operations manager at a Utah-based construction facility
  • 2024 (March 9): Ivy Ridge’s abandoned campus is listed for sale for $850k
  • 2024 (March 11): St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua announces dozens of physical and sexual abuse claims at Ivy Ridge are under investigation

All of the women interviewed for this story said they believed Ritchie’s reason for reaching out was two-fold: firstly, to demonstrate and indulge in the influence she still held over them, and secondly, to possibly diminish or gloss over the severity of the abuse in her own mind.

Ritchie worked at Ivy Ridge for seven years. She left in 2008 to work at another troubled teen facility on the West Coast along the US-Mexico border, before returning to Ogdensburg some years later to work at a psychiatric center.

Ivy Ridge closed in 2009 after years of bad press caused enrollment numbers to plummet.

‘SHE NEEDS JAIL’

The school – and Ritchie in particular – have come under mounting scrutiny since the release earlier this month of the Netflix documentary, The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnappings, a three-part series exposing years of alleged physical, psychological, and sexual abuse at the now-defunct troubled teen facility.

In The Program, Ritchie was accused of engaging in and enabling physical and emotional abuse against young girls placed in her care.

The documentary, which featured interviews with numerous former students, also referred to an unnamed female staff member whom they accused of serial sexual abuse and called a pedophile.

Five students later named that staff member as Ritchie in separate interviews with The U.S. Sun, including the four women named in this story.

Ritchie is currently on leave from her job as a mental health therapy aid at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

The very least we can do is prevent her from being around other children or vulnerable people.

Kirstin SchwabIvy Ridge Survivor

The Ivy Ridge alumni accusing her of sexual abuse have called for Ritchie to be fired immediately and criminally charged by the DA.

They all voiced concerns about Ritchie being permitted to share close contact with vulnerable individuals undergoing psychiatric care – with one alleged abuse victim likening her to a “kid in a f**king candy store.”

“That lady deserves to be in prison,” said the accuser, identified in The U.S. Sun’s investigation under the pseudonym Jane.

“I’m not the only person she did this to. She has hurt so many other girls,” Jane alleged.

“Knowing that she’s no longer working with vulnerable people and knowing that she’s in prison, unable to hurt anyone else, that will help me sleep at night.”

Kristin Schwab offered a similar plea to local officials.

“She needs to be removed immediately and should not be allowed to work in that environment ever again,” urged Kristin.

“The very least we can do is prevent her from being around other children or vulnerable people.

“I will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens,” she continued.

“She is not safe to be around. I would not want my children in her care; I would not want my elderly grandparents in her care; I would not even want any pets to be in her care.

“She should not be responsible for the welfare of anyone or anything.”

Alexa Brand said she had a panic attack when she learned about Ritchie’s latest line of employment; caring for another vulnerable population who would likely not be believed should they complain about any potential abuses.

“I also want to add on top of that, even though Amy sexually abused a lot of us, she was very physically abusive as well,” alleged Alexa.

“This was a woman who got a look of excitement on her face every time she was able to participate in the restraining or hurting of a child.

“All forms of abuse can happen within a psychiatric center […] making them a prime hunting ground for people like Amy.”

New York’s Office of Mental Health has been contacted for an updated statement.

The St. Lawrence District Attorney’s Office is currently investigating dozens of accusations of physical and sexual abuse at Ivy Ridge but has declined to name any of the accused faculty.

At least three of The U.S. Sun’s sources say they have reported Ritchie to the DA.

If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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