Provo Canyon School
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Provo Canyon School (PCS) is a residential treatment center for teenagers with two campuses in Utah. The boys' campus is in Provo and the girls' campus is in Orem. An associated program for younger students, called Sommerset, is operated in Springville, Utah. The primary focus of the programs is residential treatment for emotionally troubled youth.
Many students are placed in the facility by one or both of their parents, typically because mental health professionals and parents feel that residential placement is needed to address their children's behavioral health and educational problems. Others are placed there by probation officers or juvenile courts, or local school districts. In the latter case, tuition is covered by state and federal agencies in accordance with state special education laws and the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act.
Provo Canyon School combines an academic program with individual, group, family and recreational therapy. Treatment teams for each student include staff, therapists, doctors, and teachers. According to the school's promotional materials, most of the faculty are certified in special education. Treatments may include anger management, sexual issues/trauma resolution, impulse control, stress reduction, assertiveness training, substance abuse groups and additional recreational therapy.
Provo Canyon School's stated philosophy stresses that "youth must take responsibility for their actions or inactions," extending from "cleanliness and order of personal belongings to daily interactions with staff and peers."
The "behavioral modification program" used by Provo Canyon School in its earliest years included physical restraint, physical punishment, isolation from the outside world, progressive restoration of liberty, lie detectors, monitoring of personal communication, and administration of drugs. However, a 1979 permanent court injunction specifically prohibited the Provo Canyon School and its Medical Director from: "(1) opening, reading, monitoring or censoring the boys' mail; (2) administering polygraph examinations for any purpose whatsoever; (3) placing boys in isolation facilities for any reason other than to contain a boy who is physically violent; and (4) using physical force for any purpose other than to restrain a juvenile who is either physically violent and immediately dangerous to himself or others or physically resisting institutional rules."
The school has specialized programs for substance abuse and addiction problems. Its Sommerset program, formerly called the Academy at Canyon Creek, is a pair of early adolescent programs for boys and girls ages ten to fourteen with ADD-ADHD and related behavioral challenges.
At one time, the school required highly regimented behavior, but in 1996 it was reported to have become more relaxed over time. Whereas in the past isolation from family was enforced, the facility states that it now explicitly encourages family visits and helps organize family support groups.
Several individual and class-action lawsuits were filed against the school during the 1980s and 1990s, alleging abuse, violation of students' First Amendment rights, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, medical negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, loss of parental consortium, and battery. All suits were dismissed, in some instances due to the statute of limitation (four years).
- Louise Story, A Business Built on the Troubles of Teenagers, The New York Times, August 17, 2005
- Recreation Therapy, Provo Canyon School website, accessed January 10, 2009
- Program Overview, Provo Canyon School website
- The Cases Against Provo Canyon School, HEAL Online
- New Perspectives: Sommerset, Woodbury Reports, September 15, 2008, based on information on the Sommerset website.
- Lon Woodbury (1996), Provo Canyon School, Woodbury Reports, Schools & Program Visits - Jun, 1996 Issue #40
- Families, Provo Canyon School website
- Jeff Knutson, Paris Hilton: I need a disguise, Chicago Flame, 12/9/03