NYE COUNTY, NV – Amid complaints that staffers at an Amargosa Valley school have used excessive force against students, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office has now opened an investigation into allegations of child abuse.
The complaints, received from a former staff member and former student, allege that school staff would regularly use excessive physical force. The former student, now 14, was slammed to the ground by Caleb Hill, 29, a teacher who has since been detained in connection with the physical altercation. Although the student indicated he was abused on several occasions, the arrest stems from an isolated incident from January 4.
Located 90 minutes north of Las Vegas in Amargosa, Northwest Academy is an independent school specializing in reforming troubled and at-risk teens.
Interview With Hill Paints Grim Picture
Shortly after his January 29 arrest, Hill opened up to detectives about specific incidents of abuse he was responsible for.
Throughout his interview, Hill never denied his use of excessive force, going as far as “putting people to the ground” and “going hands on” with students. Although his use of force was minimal, he claimed the need to use such was justified.
Two additional students, age 14 and 15, suffered broken bones and a bloody nose during separate altercations with Hill. The teenagers’ names were redacted to protect their identities.
Attorney for Hill Thinks Case Is Weak
Thomas Gibson, the counsel of record for Hill, believes the state’s case against his client is weak. Citing hearsay and substantially weak material evidence, Gibson believes the state will have an uphill battle making charges stick despite the potential sentence Hill faces if convicted.
Having combed through hundreds of pages of biannual and yearly reports, 13 Action News uncovered a pattern of abuse reports spanning several years at Northwest Academy. From failed reporting to the use of handcuffs on one occasion, the level of unmitigated abuse finally reached intolerable heights when the Sheriff’s Department decided to take the former student and staff member’s story seriously.
The Academy responded to the unreported incidents, claiming they had incomplete policy manuals that are now near completion.
Because Nevada School Performance Framework only allows parents to review and write ratings for public schools, Northwest Academy students are enrolled by parents who are none the wiser to the mounting abuse allegations.
Northwest Academy Has an Arsenic Water Problem
To make matters worse for Northwest Academy students, the facility measured nearly 1 milligram over the EPA recommended level for fluoride in drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests water levels remain at or below 2.0 milligrams per liter of fluoride; the Academy consistently measured 2.9 milligrams, with 3.8 being the highest level recorded. Because the school gets their water from a well, some level of fluoride is expected.
One local physician treating skin rashes on students believed the irritations were related to the water contamination, although an epidemiologist later determined not enough evidence existed to connect the rashes to elevated arsenic levels.
Despite dental fluoride being a popular method of cleaning teeth, an excessive amount can cause damage to tooth enamel.
Northwest Academy registered 0.032 milligrams per liter of arsenic in their water supply, over three times higher than EPA recommendations of 0.01 milligrams per liter. The EPA’s arsenic cutoff is 0.05 milligrams per liter, which enough to cause vomiting and other stomach irritations if ingested.
Until the school remedies their high levels of arsenic and fluoride, students will be served bottled water.
If convicted of felony charges of child abuse, Hill could face up to 20 years in prison. Both investigations are ongoing, and will be reported when outcomes are known.