I am traumatized from my stay at CCA. I still have nightmares. The staff there is cruel, it is not a therapeutic boarding school it is emotional torture.
-Ashley (Student from 2010, 6 months)
Copper Canyon Academy Survivor Survey – Ashley
Date of Submission: 12/26/12
Do you wish to grant further testimony to investigators? – Yes.
Age and year of admittance – I was sixteen when I was admitted I arrived there in July of 2010.
How long was your stay at Copper Canyon Academy? – I stayed there for six months until my parents pulled me.
How long have you been back home? – Almost three years.
Did you graduate the program? – No, thank god. I would of been sent into a deeper depression if I had graduated.
Before the program did you have a serious drug problem? Please describe severity – No.
Before the program were you admitted to any other residential treatment, for instance a mental hospital? – No.
Before the program did you have a criminal record or spend time in Juvenile Hall? – No.
Where you court ordered, or did your parents choose to send you to the program? – My dad sent me.
Did you consent to treatment at CCA? Did you sign a contract? – No I did not sign a contract. Were we supposed to?
Was there a medical admissions process? Please describe – Not that I can recall.
Were your medical records considered before you were admitted into the program? – Probably not.
Were you strip searched? How many times? – No.
How much was your tuition? – NO! This school was for middle schoolers, it was too easy, the teachers were inadequate.
In your opinion were the teachers, good teachers? Did they have degrees and certifications? – I’m not sure.
Were your tests open book, multiple choice tests? Would you consider them easy to pass? – The tests in school not the program
How many school credits did you earn in what period of time? – I did a semester there.
Did you receive a diploma from CCA? – No
Was a certified medical professional available to students at their request? – No the person who administered medicine wasn’t even a nurse.
Were proper check ups, dental cleaning, and medication observation appointments held regularly? – Never, unless you went out of your way to get one.
If you got sick were you given adequate treatment and rest? – No, most of the time they claimed you were faking it to get out of work. On one incident I had a terrible migrane and I had already received tylonel twice that day so I was not allowed to be given it again. Then the staff member Janet (evil) gave me a work hour for being upset and arguing because my head was throbbing.
Were you ever refused medical care because staff said that you were “faking it”? – 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.”
Was a medical service offered for drug detox or drug rehabilitation? – No
Was there any kind of “Drug Education” available for students who had used drugs in the past? – There was NA and AA.
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.
Was group therapy considered to be of a confrontational nature? – Yes! There was this thing called constructive feedback, it is basically someone attacking you are telling you negative things about yourself and then the therapist is like yeah they are right. And if you try to defend yourself you are completely shot down.
Do you feel you were forced to confess to things you did not do in order to progress in the program? – Yes! They make you write an accountability letter and if you do not admit enough you are forced to write it again and read it to your parents. This includes all your personal sexual experiences, drug use, anytime you lied to them, everything! You cannot move up if you do not write this letter.
Were students encouraged to accept that they were alcoholics or drug addicts? Was this required to advance in the program? – Yes
Were students encouraged to follow a 12 step program in order to earn levels and graduate the program – Yes
Were students encouraged to accept a “higher power” contingent to their recovery? – Yes you had to accept a higher power
In your opinion, How was the food quality? Was it prepared properly? Were safety and health codes followed in the kitchen? – NO! The students clean the kitchen always! We definitely did not follow all the health codes.
Did you ever go hungry? Were you given proper portions? Was food ever withheld as a punishment? Please describe “Non-Compliant” meals. How many days in a row were you on “Non-Compliant” meals? – We were forced to eat a ridiculous amount of food. 3000 calorie diet. I gained over 10 pounds in my six month stay. I was never given a Non-Compliant but I sure know what they are and have been threatened with one many times. It is cold rice and beans and staff could give you one whenever they wanted.
Did you gain a lot of weight? Were you forced to eat more than you were able to eat? – YES!!!! If you didn’t eat enough they forced you to eat more, you had to get your plate checked off by staff.
Were you ever punished for vomiting? – No
Please describe the “Work Hour” experience. How did you feel about this? – You would receive a work hour for doing something wrong,but they can pretty much be given out at the whim of any staff member. One time I received a work hour for spinning it circles, you would get them more often if the staff didn’t like you as well. Basically you would have to clean something like the bathrooms, scrubbing toilets, the floors, sometimes the boys restroom which was disgusting! Certain work hours you would be woken up at 4am. You would clean various things for one hour as the staff supervised, they also had the authority to tell you it wasn’t clean enough and to clean more.
Were upper levels or any level students asked to babysit the staff’s children, or taken to the staff’s house for any extended period of time? – A few times girls went to Paul’s house, but I never did.
Where you aware of anyone being restrained and/ or isolated from the group? – If you ran away you would be. They would put you on staff buddy where you only got one pair of clothes, and you must stay arm lengths away from staff at all times, you could not go to the bathroom with the door shut or shower for that matter.
What reasons were these people restrained/ isolated/ made to sit in stress positions? (please describe actual events) Where stress positions utilized? Were there more time in isolation given if the student would move, cry or speak? – If they ran away they would use force to make them return, I recall one time when I student booked it and they tackled her and restrained her and forced her back inside.
Please describe “Staff Buddy”, “The Desert Process” and the purpose of the yellow/ orange construction vests.- Staff buddy I explained earlier 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.
(Please describe the rules and structure that would pertain to a level 1 student.)
Was contact with your parents limited? Where your letters (to and from) intercepted? Were your letters opened, read, crossed out or cut? – 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.
How long before you were able to speak to your parents on the phone? Were your phone calls monitored? – 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.
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, no way, when I went on a off campus visit I mailed letters to child services but that was me being sneaky.
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? – You would be punished if you told your parents you wanted to leave and they found out, you would be dropped for being “manipulative.”
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? – Upper levels are responsible for reporting back to staff if lower level are breaking rules and then receive brownie points for telling on you. Anyone could hold you accountable which basically meant you were given a punishment for what you did. Holding someone accountable is plainly telling on them.
Did you have to raise your hand and wait to ask permission from staff (or upper levels) to speak, stand, eat, go to the bathroom and do other normal activities? – You had to ask to go to the bathroom, and you did have to raise your hand to speak. There was assigned times for eating.
How often were you allowed to speak freely? Were you not allowed to speak with others in your group? – You could speak freely during breakfast, lunch and dinner with the person you were eating with.
Did you have to walk in line? How often? Were there consequences if you did not line up properly? – You always had to walk in a line. If you weren’t walking in a line properly they would either make you wait until everyone got in line, make you walk back to the place you were and assign work hours for talking in line. They would get unusually angry when you talked in line.
Would you be given a consequence if you forgot something? (for instance, a pen or a book) – Yes, if you forget a pen, notebook, book, water bottle you will receive a work hour. Teachers can administer work hours.
Were your personal items inspected by other students? (upper levels?) without your consent or presence? – Yes! Staff would do random room searches and punish you if they found contraband. They went through everything!
(Please describe the rules and structure that would pertain to an “upper level” student.)
What were the requirements in order to progress in the level system? Was approval from the other upper levels required? – You would move up a level when you met the requirements for the next level. Like level 1 to 2 you would have to show openess to the program and not be negative. Two to three show leadership basically tell on people to show you are taking a leadership position. Approval from staff, teachers, therapist was required.
What kind of staff responsibilities were upper levels given? – They can take you to the bathroom, or places you need to go. They had upper level meetings where they talked about lower levels and would tell staff what lower levels needed to be put on silence. I got put on silence from someone for being my best friend there. They called this being cliquey, its just a sadistic form of punishment. This is my personal opinion but they showed joy in bringing you down, if you seemed like you were showing the slightest bit of happiness they would break you down.
Were upper levels required to give out consequences, citations or to hold lower levels accountable for minor rule violations? – Everyone is required to tell on everyone.
Were the rules upper levels enforced specific to the rule book or were the definitions of those rules assumed? Could rules easily be made up or “held accountable” under a category that was vague enough to be given out for any number of things? – Basically anything CCA didn’t like, even if it was not written down like cutting your own hair you could be punished for.
Were you punished/ held back if you chose not to tattle or pass out citations, and opted to verbally warn students instead? – You would be punished of you saw someone breaking the rules and do not tell on them.
Did an upper level have to power to influence a child put onto “staff buddy” or into any isolation process? Were upper levels instructed to watch or participate in restraints? – No
Were upper levels required to give visiting parents a glowing testimonial of their experience in the program, or make testimonial videos or letters? Were pre-written scripts required to be read during the filming of promotional videos? – Yes!! Upper levels would basically sell the school to parents it was disgusting, I felt betrayed. They would give parents tours and be smiley and perfect even if they hated the school, they were forced.
What would happen if an upper level student mentioned anything bad about the program in front of a parent? Were students afraid of punishment if they told the truth? – They would be punished, hands down. They don’t want to lose money.
How easily could an upper level get dropped (start the program over)? What infractions would make an upper level drop and what level did they usually go back to? – Mostly they gor dropped to the previous level, if it was extreme they would get dropped to level one. It was pretty easy, not holding someone accountable, not having a perfect visit, not holding enough leadership, anything. Honestly its at the staffs whim. A staff once told me “this is a do whatever you want and get away with it badge.” He was referring to his staff ID.
Please describe your seminar experience. – Yes, they were instructed by Maureen. As far as I know she is not a licensed mental health professional. Basically force you to be extremely emotional and throw out all of your deepest darkest secrets to a room full of people. People would freak out, screaming, crying, hitting the floor. It was intense. I saw a documentary on CEDU and it sounds pretty similar to profeets as they called them.
What are your opinions of the owners/ Directors of CCA? – I believe all they want is money. They will do anything to get more girls to come there. It is a scam. They appear to be nice but it is all a lie. There is not proper training for staff, they have no experience with people with mental health issues. Plainly, they do not care. The program is un-affective to say the least, I came out in such a deep depression I am still fighting it and I have been out for three years. It is completely traumatizing.
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.
Do you believe that the staff and junior staff usually acted within the US standards for health, safety and well being of the students? – No, no, no, no, no and NO!
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.