Red Rock Canyon School employees say company has option to reopen facility

Red Rock Canyon School located on St. George Boulevard in St. George, Utah, on July 10, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Employees from a youth treatment facility in St. George that is closing its doors say its parent company has the option to reopen the school.

Sequel Youth and Family Services, the parent company of Red Rock Canyon School, elected to close and relinquish its license within 60 days of its July 9 announcement. The school is currently the subject of a number of county and state investigations regarding alleged physical and sexual abuse of its students.

At the time of the closure announcement, Sequel had around 120 full-time employees at Red Rock Canyon School. The parent company said in an earlier statement that its leadership team would be working with staff to “provide various employment assistance initiatives,” such as transfers to sister schools in the area.

Those measures come amid new information that Sequel might now be considering reopening the school with new staff in six months.

According to a current employee St. George News is only identifying as M.M., employees have been told that the parent company is contemplating reapplying for a new license. Employees who transfer to sister-schools have also been told they will be given the opportunity to transfer back if the reboot is successful.

Red Rock Canyon School located on St. George Boulevard in St. George, Utah, on July 10, 2019 | File photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

M.M. believes this closure is an opportunity for Sequel to find new staff that will provide a higher quality of care for students.

“What I can see is that the people that they are already moving over to other schools are the most exceptional staff we’ve got,” M.M. said. “But realistically, they had to start from scratch at Red Rock.”

According to M.M., when Sequel hired Chris Roussos as its new chief executive officer, the company began to restructure the facility’s leadership, firing supervisors and administrators who were believed to be destroying documents and not reporting incidents.

“Sequel was really trying to make the school high quality,” M.M. said. “They brought in new people to try to fix all of Red Rock’s ethics issues – for lack of a better word – but it sort of required an aggressive overhaul of staff.”

After St. George News inquired about possible plans to reopen the facility, Sequel said in a statement that the transition plan for Red Rock Canyon School has not changed but that an opportunity to reapply for a license will arise in six months.

Red Rock Canyon School located on St. George Boulevard in St. George, Utah, on July 10, 2019 | File photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

“Once our students have all been successfully transferred, we will voluntarily relinquish our Residential Treatment Center license to Utah DHS ..We will have an opportunity to re-apply for a license 6 months from the date we relinquish it, our Red Rock staff is aware of this. At this time, we have made no definitive plans on next steps.”

Another Red Rock Canyon School employee, who St. George News is only identifying as A.N., said Sequel’s inability to work with the “current program competency and the building’s capacity” ultimately destroyed the school.

“We were dedicated to making RRCS a place of healing,” A.N. said. “Unfortunately, we were ill-equipped to handle the type of students Sequel demanded we enroll.”

A.N. echoed M.M.’s statement that Sequel led employees to believe it will “reboot,” revise and apply for a new license in six months during the announcement to surrender its license. Employees have also been told they can reapply for a position for the location at that time. However, A.N. said the company has not said what the new program would look like.

Sequel has several different types of programs, including staff-secure residential, day schools and community-based resources, like counseling and mentoring. Due to the company’s wide array of treatments, A.N. said the company’s new vision for Red Rock isn’t guaranteed to be residential treatment.

Law enforcement officers respond to an incident at Red Rock Canyon School, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2019 | File photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Red Rock Canyon School entered the radar of Utah state investigators after five students were arrested and multiple people were injured during a riot that required police presence on April 28.

After looking into the facility’s practices, the Utah Department of Human Services released a letter, placing Red Rock Canyon School’s license on a “conditional status” and outlining nine violations investigators observed. The report cited “numerous accounts of mistreatment, abuse, acts of violence and overall disrespect toward residents.”

Despite the closure, Sequel says it has worked to make the changes required by state investigators, reporting that it has completed the 16 corrective action plan items included in the letter.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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