What kids who went to Copper Canyon Academy had to say about their experience there - r/troubledteens
CCASurvivors.com has made their survey results available to the public. These are the answers to just a few questions, there is much more on the site.
Copper Canyon Academy is owned by Aspen Education Group, which is owned by CRC Health Group, which is owned by Bain Capital. There have been six deaths at Aspen programs, some were because staff thought kids were “faking” illness and did not get them medical treatment in time.
The year the person attended and their length of stay is indicated at the end of each quote.
If you felt you were being abused, was there anyway you could get to a phone and have a private conversation with your parents, child services or an officer of the law?
No. If you told your parents that you were being abused, they had already been informed by the school to expect to hear such things from you and to assume that you were lying, and to report to the school that you were being negative. (2006, 21 months)
No. Definitely not. In fact, girls who did try to e-mail or write their parents about it got in trouble when their parents confronted the school. We weren’t allowed to talk to people outside of the school and let them know that we were being abused. There were no ways to call child protective service at all. (2006, 1 year)
no (2010, 5 months)
No. (2008, 11 months)
No, none whatsoever. Letters were written to CPS but they were never actually sent. (2010, 2 months)
no (2009, 11 months)
If you wanted to leave were you discouraged to tell your parents how you felt? Were you afraid that you would be punished if you were to describe any incidents of abuse to your parents?We were discouraged from telling our parents anything “negative” about the program. So, yes. (2006, 21 months)If we so much as told our parents that we were unhappy there and it was found out, we would be immediately dropped down to level 1 for “manipulation.” (2006, 1 year)
yes (2010, 5 months)
Yes and yes. However on level four I told them I wanted to leave but I never got in trouble but I think that’s because my letter was never read by a staff member because they trusted me. (2008, 11 months)
If you said you wanted to leave, the called it manipulation so you were punished. Everything was monitored so there was no way in telling your parents what was going on without being in trouble (2010, 2 months)
yes (2009, 11 months)
You would be punished if you told your parents you wanted to leave and they found out, you would be dropped for being “manipulative.” (2010, 6 months)
If you got sick were you given adequate treatment and rest?
No. You were only allowed to be treated or to rest if you had vomited (and the vomit was witnessed by a staff member) or if you had a fever. (2006, 21 months)
No. I was sick a few times but I never wanted to go on sick day because they made you sleep in a random bunk bed and didn’t really pay any attention to you. I recall a girl having a very bad migraine on the weekend and staff not allowing her to keep the door shut while she was trying to sleep. It was loud. (2006, 1 year)
Sometimes. Most of the time they told us to drink water (2008, 11 months)
No, they often didnt “believe” you. (2010, 2 months)
no (2009, 11 months)
Were you ever refused medical care because staff said that you were “faking it”?
Yes. (2006, 21 months)
Yes. Often. One staff member, Janet Moore, always told the girls that if they weren’t feeling good, it was obviously because they weren’t drinking enough water. (2006, 1 year)
yes (2010, 5 months)
I wasn’t but someone else was even though she was having seizures (2008, 11 months)
All the time (2010, 2 months)
Yes, there was a girl who got toxic shock syndrome, she almost died because they refused to take her to the hospital for so long, on the grounds that she was “faking it.”
(2010), 6 months)
Were proper check ups, dental cleaning, and medication observation appointments held regularly?
Only if your parents made sure of it. (2006, 21 months)
Not really. We had medication appointments with a psychiatrist regularly. He was weird and didn’t really ask much about how we were feeling. I think he took feedback from staff about how we acted and then medicated us accordingly. (2006, 1 year)
not really (2010, 5 months)
No and you were not allowed off campus on level one (2010, 2 months)
No (2009, 11 months)
What is the name of your case manager/ “Therapist”? Did they have degrees/ licenses? What were their qualifications before taking the job at CCA?
I was shown the CCA job application once, it’s not even two pages! The staff have no experience or degrees within the mental health field. They should not be able to work with children. My ‘therapist’ was non confidential everyone including your teachers knew what you said. It’s completely disgusting. My therapist did not care. I do not know if he had proper licensing. (2010, 6 months)
Please describe the “Work Hour” experience. How did you feel about this?
Work hours consisted of being woken up at 4 or 5 am and also forced to continue them after school depending on how many you had and cleaning or performing strenuous activity that some girls were not physically able to do. This would cause extreme exhaustion making you very vulnerable to their “therapy” aka brainwashing. For instance, I had knee surgery during my stay at Copper Canyon Academy and 3 days after I had my surgery, I was forced to run up a hill to the “upper” buildings and then continue to mop, sweep, and scrub the building. I was forced to run the dirt track everyday. I was forced to scrub the grout between the tile while a staff member would watch and laugh at me while saying condescending things like “you’re here for a reason” or “you deserve this because you did something wrong.” Personally, I received a work hour the second day I was at CCA for taking a square to many of cheese. Work hours would often prevent you from being able to have desert that they give you on Friday nights. Work hours were given like water. If you forgot to raise your hand, spoke out of turn, forgot your chemically filled water bottle (water is not filtered), stepped out of the single file line, forgot to get your tray checked off during meal time (you must eat everything on your plate that you took, mind you that you are on a 3,000 calorie diet in which I gained 25lbs in 2 months) taking 2 spoonfuls of salad dressing (yes a staff member would stand and watch every child to make sure they got 1 spoonful of salad dressing) going into your room without an upper level, coming out of your room in the middle of the night not in uniform or in general walking out of your room even if it were to get a staff member because you were going to be sick etc. you would receive a work hour. Work hours make you feel like you are worthless, scrubbing floors, doing strenuous activity and being talked down to on top of doing just the few parts of a work hour I described is torturous. The work hours are written in a “black book” and you would receive “constructive” feedback after or before you work hour as to why you received one. Constructive feedback entailed being yelled at, getting an explanation on what a bad kid you were, being called stupid, idiotic, pitiful, embarrassing, a disgrace etc. On every level, you could only have a certain amount of work hours to move up to the next, so if you exceeded the amount allowed, you were held on that same level for weeks/months. If you had too many work hours a week, on Friday and Saturday nights you were isolated and put into an empty classroom to study. Many staff members would not even allow you to use the bathroom during your work hours and if it were to be an emergency, you would receive an extra work hour. (2010, 2 months)
Work hours could be given by a staff member or teacher for any student infraction, no matter how minor. I was given a work hour for annoying a staff member by singing during free time outside, with no warning. If you felt like you didn’t deserve a work hour, you could submit a grievance, which involved filming out a form describing how you’d been wrong and putting it in the grievance box. I’m 95% sure the grievance box got opened maybe once every three months.
To work off most work hours- usually if you had more than five, people with less were let off easier- you were woken up at 5 AM by being shaken awake by a staff member. You had to walk across campus with them to either clean classrooms, bathrooms, or pull weeds or shovel rocks. Shoveling rocks basically had no purpose except to punish us with physical labor, and was abusive and pointless.
Some of the more self-serving staff members would allow you to work off a work hour by doing something like throwing a soda can away for them, which happened to me once. I got six work hours taken off by the drama teacher, Adam, for stepping in to play a role in the school play last minute. There was no formula or any written rules regarding work hours. (2006, 21 months)
We had to get up in the morning at 5, even during the winter, and pick weeds, move rocks, clean things, and all sorts of ridiculous things. Toward the end of my time being there, they started having girls wash the staff’s cars for work hours. (2006, 1 year)
its child labor (2010, 5 months)
Please describe “Staff Buddy” and the purpose of the yellow/ orange construction vests.
Staff buddy… you must be arms length from staff, one pair of clothes, no showering/restroom with door closed. The construction vests are 24 hour silence vests, if you “break silence” you will be put in one, this means making eye contact with someone you are not allowed to talk to, or speaking to them, if you talk to someone or make eye contact with someone in these vests you will then be put in one. That means no talking for 24 hours except to ask to use the restroom. (2010, 6 months)
Was contact with your parents limited? Where your letters (to and from) intercepted? Were your letters opened, read, crossed out or cut?
Level ones wore red shirts. They were not allowed to wear any non-uniform clothes except for pajamas, and weren’t allowed to wear sneakers except for at exercise- only flip-flops. During my first winter at CCA, the school nurse felt so bad for level ones walking around in flip-flops during 35 degree weather that she bought us all toe socks for Christmas, using her own paycheck.
We weren’t allowed to use the restroom without an upper level student standing outside the door. We weren’t allowed to walk anywhere alone. We could only talk to our parents for five minutes a week, and that was on the phone with a therapist. Emails were probably intercepted, but letters weren’t. (2006, 21 months)
Level 1: One five-minute phone call with their parents per month (obviously supervised with therapist), not allowed to talk to any other level 1s, not allowed to wear tennis shoes except for exercise.. ONLY flip flops, and not even nice flip flops like Crocs that were comfortable and didn’t fall off my feet. I wore them and got in trouble. Not allowed to go to the bathroom on their own or shower, they can’t even go to their bedroom on their own. They had to be babysat by an upper level or staff at all times, even in school.
Contact with parents: It was very limited. We could only speak to them during scheduled therapy phone calls that were very short and through snail mail or e-mails. All of our e-mails were read by curious staff. There wasn’t a policy in place to read emails, but they did anyways. (2006, 1 year)
yes (2010, 5 months)
Yes. You only talked to your parents with your therapist. Emails were sometimes read and notes were taken on you if there was somethig bad in th letter (2008, 11 months)
contact with parents was limited, no phone access and computer access only when they thought it was appropriate. My emails and letters were opened and by accident, I received the email where my therapist was being CC’ed onto my emails so I found out. (2010, 2 months)
yes (2009, 11 months)
If you are on level one you basically have no rights. No speaking to other people on level one, no going anywhere by yourself-includes bathroom, no make up. They read all of your emails to your parents they called it screening, you also were not allowed to close your letters before sending them because they read them. You were not allowed to say bad things about CCA or they would drop you for manipulating, you could not ask for things in your emails. In fact they send emails to your parents telling them things you might say to leave like theres bugs in the food, there is bugs in the food it happened on two separate occasions when I was there. (2010, 6 months)
How long before you were able to speak to your parents on the phone? Were your phone calls monitored?
I didn’t speak to my parents until my second month at CCA. All phone calls made on campus were monitored throughout the program. (2006, 21 months)
I wasn’t allowed to talk to my parents on the phone for 1 month. After the first month, I got to talk to my mom for 5 minutes on the phone under the supervision of my therapist. (2006, 1 year)
yes (2010, 5 months)
A month. Five minutes on christmas (2008, 11 months)
I never spoke to my mother on the phone, I was never allowed. Phone calls on all levels were monitored by either a therapist or dorm staff. (2010, 2 months)
yes (2009, 11 months)
Phone calls are always monitored, they are on speaker and your therapists listens to everything you say. If CCA didn’t have things to hide they wouldn’t screen every form of communication. You could call your parents on holidays. (2010, 6 months)
Were there other students (upper levels) assigned to watch over you? What was their role? Did they give you consequences/ “hold you accountable”? Were they instructed to restrain you or monitor the isolation area, bathrooms and showers?
Part of the responsibilities of upper levels was to watch level ones. They had to walk level ones everywhere, including classes and the rest room. If they caught you breaking a rule, they would hold you accountable. They were never instructed to restrain anyone, though I did witness a situation in which a staff member had two level fours go after a runaway student with her. (2006, 21 months)
Yes. Upper levels had to watch level 1s do just about everything. Level 2s could go to the bathroom by themselves, etc. Only level 4s could go to the laundry room alone. Everyone else had to be accompanied by a level 4. During my first week, I was asking an upper level from a different house if there was anything I could do about my roommates being rude to me. They “held me accountable” for “gossip” and I was later given 4 work hours. (2006, 1 year)
yes (2010, 5 months)
Upper levels watched you while you went to your room an had to go to the room with you when you went to the bathroom. We were told to hold people accountable. I know this is bad but the only way to move up was to throw other people under the bus. To point out what others were doing wrong so people could think you were doing good.(2008, 11 months)
Yes, when we got there you had a “big sister” she explained all of the rules to you. They had to hold you accountable for mistakes so they could move up in the program! on level one and two you always needed an upper level to go anywhere, including the bathroom. (2010, 2 months)
yes (2009, 11 months)
Do you believe that the program acting within the means of “Tough Love” was appropriate treatment for you in your adolescence?
Tough love is a nice way of saying it but you must take love out of it. The staff is cruel they treat you like criminals, they believed we were like their enemies. There was a few select staff that were great but they got fired or quit because of how bad this place is. The words they should use is emotionally abusive and traumatic. (2010, 6 months)
No, it completely destroyed all trust and I now have severe attachment disorder. (2004, 3 months)
Not really, no. Tough love is great. Cruelty is not. (2006, 12 months)
No, I now suffer from PTSD and anxiety. (2010, 3 months)
Considering long term effects, do you think your experience at CCA has an effect on your life today? Positive or negative?
Yes, it has a negative effect on my life today. I am still fighting my depression which CCA sent me into. I am attending a CSU and doing well in school. But mentally, I am messed up. I cry all the time, it’s very hard for me to control my emotions. I can’t deal with things because of that place. They make you feel lower than low, its to break you. I hate this place and what they do it makes me sick to my stomach. I still have CCA nightmares weekly and its been three years. For the first year I was home I had to wear socks on my hands because I would scratch myself in my sleep. (2010, 6 months)
Negative, I have night terrors (2010, 5 months)