LAS VEGAS (CN) – A Mexican teenager’s brief stint in a Nevada boarding school was marked by plates full of cigarette butts and other abuse, the student and his mother claim in court.
The Sky View Christian Academy in Hawthorn, Nev., covered up the abuse by screening mail between students and their parents, according to the complaint.
Anthony Vaca entered the academy, located 134 miles southeast of Reno, in May 2007. Shortly after his arrival, the 15-year-old boy “began receiving physical and mental abuse from the defendants and the defendants’ employees and agents,” according to the complaint.
Now 19, Vaca says a school employee forced him to fight a student two years older and much larger than him.
Employees also allegedly forced other students to watch the doors and windows to shield what was happening.
When Vaca was predictably injured from the fight, school officials denied him medical treatment, and “a fellow student with no medical training or expertise” helped “set his nose without the benefit of any anesthesia or pain killers,” according to the suit.
Vaca, who is Mexican, says an employee pushed him, threatened him and used racist names and epithets while speaking to him.
Vaca “would often find cigarette butts and ashes from cigarettes in the food served to him by Sky View Academy,” the lawsuit states. “At times, Mr. Vaca would only have an apple or other small piece of fruit to eat for many days at a time because the food was so bad.”
Defendants also “forced Mr. Vaca to submit to screening of his mail, both incoming and outgoing, in order to control his mental state and thoughts, to convince him his mother knew of and approved of what was happening to him when she in fact did not,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit also says Vaca was forced to sleep on the floor, and that Sky View employees brought drugs into the school for students.
Cynthia Shepherd says removed Vaca, her son, from the school after just five months because it had refused to let her see students’ living conditions.
She and Vaca claim that the school failed to disclose that it was under investigation by state officials for physical and sexual assaults on children.
Nevada suspended Sky View Academy’s license Sept. 28, 2007, according to the complaint.
Shepherd and Vaca seek damages for assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence and fraud. They name as defendants the academy; Sky View manager Orval Hagerman; the academy’s parent, World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools; and its sister company, Lifeline Family Services
They are represented by E. Robert Spear.