Red Rock Canyon School parent company says school wasn’t making ‘permanent, positive changes’ in students

ST. GEORGE — Red Rock Canyon School, the youth treatment facility located on St. George Boulevard, is closing its doors after its involvement in a number of investigations.

Sequel Youth and Family Services, the parent company for the treatment facility, voluntarily decided to close the facility within the next 60 days and is working with families, state agencies and case workers to transfer the 49 remaining students to alternative treatment facilities.

A statement emailed to St. George News from a representative of the parent company said Sequel Youth and Family Services is passionate about making “permanent, positive changes in the lives of the people” it serves and found that Red Rock Canyon School has not met this goal consistently.

“As a result, we’re taking this action proactively to do what’s in the best interest of our students and staff, while we address the identified deficiencies and make the program consistent with our standards for the future.”

Sequel currently employs about 120 full time staff at Red Rock Canyon School. According to the statement, the company is working with each staff member to provide various employee assistance initiatives, which includes internal and external job placement, resume review, stress management and resilience support. 

On April 28, St. George Police were called to the school for troubled youth after widespread fighting broke out. 

During the brawl, five students were arrested, four were transported to the hospital and 25 were injured, including minor injuries to a student placed in the treatment facility by the state of Oregon. The Oregon Department of Human Services also reported two incidents of “improper use of restraint” that occurred during the incident, both of which involved one student placed in the treatment facility by the state of Oregon.

Law enforcement officers respond to a riot at Red Rock Canyon School, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2019 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

In May, Utah state investigators announced they were looking into claims of sexual assault, violence and neglect. A letter posted to the Utah Legislature website reported that the treatment facility’s licensure had been placed on a “conditional status” and outlined nine violations and observations of “numerous accounts of mistreatment, abuse, acts of violence and overall disrespect toward residents.”

The school would have to make over a dozen significant changes in order to keep its license.

Read more: Students speak out against treatment at Red Rock Canyon School; parent company responds to investigation

According to the statement from Sequel sent to St. George News, the parent company has completed 15 of the 16 Corrective Action Plan items outlined in the letter and expects the final item to be completed later this month.

Sequel said the safety and well-being of its students is of top priority and that the company working to ensure the closing of the youth treatment facility will cause minimal interruptions for the remaining students and approximately 120 full-time staff members.

Once our students have all been successfully transferred, we will voluntarily relinquish our Residential Treatment Center license to Utah DHS. Our license is not being revoked. We are taking this action proactively and voluntarily.”

An employee of Red Rock Canyon School, Gino Euler Sanchez, was charged with a class A misdemeanor count of child abuse involving physical injury on June 28 following the fight. Sanchez allegedly punched a 17-year-old female student in the face and pulled her hair during the event on April 28. He recently pleaded not guilty

Besides the April incident, Red Rock Canyon School is also involved in a number of investigations in multiple states regarding sexual abuse of its students. There are two on-going investigations based in Utah and California alleging two incidents of sexual abuse by two separate staff. 

“Nobody else was looking out to protect my daughter, and I sent her there for help,” a parent of one of the alleged victims said. “I didn’t send her there to be abused in any way, shape or form.”

The school has been the subject of two lawsuits claiming the school allowed a now-registered sex offender to work with and assault clients. Red Rock Canyon School officials said the school did not believe the employee was a danger to residents when he worked at the treatment facility. A 2008 lawsuit outlined similar practices.

Red Rock Canyon School had been providing psychiatric residential treatment services to youth from 12-18 years old since 1999. 

Email: rrichardson@stgnews.com 

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