Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's School Was 'Total Scientology,' Says Former Headmaster

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have long denied allegations that they are members of the Church of Scientology. However, the high-profile Hollywood couple operated a private school that reportedly taught the controversial religion to students. In a Daily Beast report published on Monday, multiple teachers affiliated with the Smiths' now-defunct New Village Leadership Academy claimed that the school was "essentially a Scientology school."

As noted by The Daily Beast, the Smiths initially used one of their residences as the base for the New Village Leadership Academy, but, in 2008, they opened the doors to a building in Calabasas, California. Jacqueline Olivier, who co-founded and oversaw the academy for a year, told the publication that while she was not specifically instructed to teach Scientology, many of the teachers that the Smiths had working at the school were followers of the religion. Olivier also said that she was asked to take "study technology" courses, based on the teaching method developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

"They never mentioned Scientology," Olivier said of the Smiths. "But I remember they sent me the L. Ron Hubbard books, and I didn't put it together. It just seemed like a great opportunity."

Olivier claimed that she and other teachers at the New Village Leadership Academy were required to take classes at Hollywood's Scientology Celebrity Centre, as well as at Applied Scholastics, a Scientology-affiliated organization that's pro-study technology.

As for the teachings at the Smiths' school, Olivier said that various Scientology practices were a part of the curriculum. Among them, she alleged, was "Tone Scale"—a method of analyzing people's emotions—and "Debugging," in which a person's "barriers," as put by The Daily Beast, are supposedly broken down.

"There were pictures of L. Ron Hubbard on the walls. And in the study technology book, there was a picture of [Hubbard] and a whole mini-biography of his life, and that was the first thing [kids] had to word clear—before anything. I mean, it was total Scientology. There's no question," Olivier said.

Will Smith and Jada Pinket Smith School
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Focus" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015, in Hollywood, California. A headmaster for a school formerly owned by the Smiths claimed the academy taught scientology. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Terms and labels ascribed to Scientology were also allegedly used on a regular basis, including labels like "Suppressive Persons," which was deemed by Hubbard as a person who intends to "suppress, or squash, any betterment activity or group."

Dr. Mariappan Jawaharlal, an engineering professor at California State University Sacramento, served as a guest-lecturer at the school from 2008 to 2010 and said that he often heard teachers using words and phrases related to Scientology while teaching students.

"There were teachers there who were constantly talking about building materials into the curriculum that were related to Scientology. There were teachers there that I met and I couldn't even understand what they were saying. There was a geography teacher there, and I'm pretty well-versed in geography, but they were saying this vague stuff," Jawaharlal told The Daily Beast. "There seemed to be an agenda. I mean, I'd sit in on classes and listen to these teachers and they were using weird words that I didn't even know."

Olivier said that once some parents realized what was going on with the program, they removed their children from the school. "There were a few parents who really got vocal, and were like, 'This is Scientology!' and then their kids left the school," Olivier said. "[Will and Jada] just didn't understand that nobody wants to go to a Scientology school—especially when you're not admitting that that's what it is."

Back when the school was up and running, before it closed in 2013, Pinkett Smith refuted claims that New Village Leadership Academy was an educational center built on the fundamentals of Scientology.

"All I can say is it is not a Scientology school," Pinkett Smith said in a 2009 Ebony magazine interview. "Now, if you don't trust me, and you are questioning my integrity, that's a whole different matter. That is straight evil to think that I would bring families into that educational institution and then try to get them to convert into some religion."

The actor further denied being a follower of Scientology in a Twitter thread in 2017, shortly after ex-Scientologist Leah Remini claimed she often saw Pinkett Smith at the Celebrity Centre.

"I have prayed in mosques all over the world... but I am not a Muslim," Pinkett Smith wrote on Twitter at the time. She added, "I have read the Bhagavad Gita... but I am not a Hindu.... I have chanted and meditated in some of the most magnificent temples on earth... but I am not a Buddhist.... I have studied Dianetics, and appreciate the merits of Study Tech... but I am not a Scientologist."

Pinkett Smith continued: "I practice human kindness, and I believe that we each have the right to determine what we are and what we are not."

Newsweek reached out to reps for Will and Jada Pinkett Smith for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's School Was 'Total Scientology,' Says Former Headmaster | Culture