Response to Negative Comments

As a school for students who are struggling in public or private day schools and are potentially having behavioral issues, there are a small number of students who continue to struggle while with us. After leaving RVCA, some of these students have posted negative reviews or comments about RVCA online.

We understand that as a parent you will do your due diligence in researching our school before enrolling your child with us (as well you should!), and will likely come across these comments. With that in mind, we wanted to take the opportunity to address some of the negative comments you will find and give them some perspective.

Students said they were punished for expressing that they were gay or bisexual
This is not true. Students are not given “punishment” or even consequences for expressing sexual preference. We are a Christian school and there are some topics that we do not allow students to discuss amongst themselves. For example, if a discussion becomes too sexual, staff will advise the students to change the subject. If a student continues discussing a topic they have been warned against, they may be given discipline at that point. This has nothing to do with homosexuality, but is a general policy to ensure that conversation between students is healthy and appropriate. No topics are off limits to discuss with staff, mentors, or outside counselors or therapists.

We also do not allow “romantic” relationships between students. Again, this has nothing to do with sexual preference, but with keeping students focused on their education and free of distractions. It is also an issue of safety, boundaries, and California law (CA PC 261.5).

We would also like to address a claim by a student that a staff member told a student “her flesh would burn off for eternity in hell” because she was gay. While it is impossible for us to say whether or not this was said by an unknown staff member to an unknown student an unspecified amount of time ago, we will say that it is a totally inappropriate statement and would not be tolerated. If a staff member did in fact say this to a student, it is very unfortunate – both that it was said at all and that management was not aware of it, as that staff member would have been fired immediately.

Student’s claim there are no professionals on staff, such as psychiatrists, therapists, licensed counselors, social workers, nurses, or teachers
Teachers:
This claim is inaccurate. RVCA does have credentialed teachers on staff. We typically have at least one on every shift. The students’ schooling is also conducted online with access to teachers through the school curriculum. We offer access to on-site professional tutoring by credentialed teachers as well as access to tutoring from general staff. If for whatever reason we cannot help a student with a subject, we will find someone who can.

Psychiatrists, Therapists, Social Workers, Licensed Counselors:
This is true. RVCA is a private residential school, not a therapeutic school or residential treatment center. NONE of these professionals are required by California law or the Department of Education for a private school. In fact, Community Care Licensing has informed us that we are not allowed to employ counselors as a residential school. We have found no law or rule to support this, but have chosen to abide by CCL’s wishes.

We make it as convenient as possible for parents to schedule appointments with outside doctors, counselors, etc., and encourage them to do so if we feel it is necessary or if a student requests counseling. We will either provide transportation for the student to their appointment or a private space on campus for the appointment to take place.

Nurses:
We do not employ a school nurse, as a nurse is not required to hand out prescribed medication or to schedule appointments. In addition, California does not require schools to employ a nurse.

We always err on the side of caution and either take the students to professionals, as needed, or access 911 for emergency care. We have a former paramedic on staff and he serves as a first responder before other first responders arrive.

Former students claim staff did not contact authorities after they disclosed to RVCA staff that they were sexually assaulted or that their parents had abused them
This is likely a misunderstanding on the part of the students. As a mandatory reporter, we report EVERY claim of abuse a student makes within 24 hours of the student making the claim. Staff are trained to always take student claims seriously and at face value regardless of any personal feelings about the claim.

Where the misunderstanding might come in is that, depending on the situation, students are not always aware of the report being made. We have found that informing students that an official report is being made on their behalf can often cause them extra stress and anxiety that is unnecessary. There are times after we file a report that we will not hear back from authorities for months, or sometimes at all. We feel that it is very unfair to a child to make them wait this amount of time for something that may or may not happen.

When authorities do contact us to follow up and schedule an interview with the student, we will at that time inform the student that the report was made and someone will be coming to talk with them about what happened.

If a student is making a claim that a report was never filed, it is likely that authorities decided not to follow up for whatever reason, and the student was not informed the report was made.

Former students have said that they are strip searched when they arrive
Students are NOT strip searched.

We do scan students with a metal detector when they arrive to minimize the risk of something dangerous being brought on campus. This process is hands off and students are fully dressed. We also ask them if they have anything else on their person that we should know about. Of course this method does come with the risk of a new student sneaking something in and contributing to the delinquency of another minor that may have significant time clean and sober. However, we decided that if they did have drugs, it would only be a small amount that would be used or confiscated quickly.

Former students have said they were placed on food restriction for misbehaving
In the past we have had a small number of students who have refused all consequences and become very disruptive to the rest of the students. In an effort to reach these students, and avoid expelling them, we researched what other behavioral schools did and some sort of food restriction kept coming up. We were not fully comfortable with it, but felt it was worth trying if it could redirect a student who was unresponsive to anything else. We came up with a healthy and nutritional alternative meal plan that consisted of very bland food. We also consulted with parents and found they were supportive of it as well.

It turned out to be a failed experiment and we have since stopped using an alternative meal plan. We found that students didn’t care and would be willing to stay on it longer than we were comfortable with. We even had some students who refused other consequences to INTENTIONALLY get on the alternative meal plan, saying they “liked that food better”.

The purpose was never to try to break a student’s spirit or be punitive, but to have a consequence they would be motivated to avoid. And this was the EASIEST consequence to avoid since it required complete and outright refusal and defiance of everything else. However, it clearly did not achieve this goal, so we ended it. Now the only consequence we use that has to do with food is to remove optional food choices, such as desserts.

Former students said they were not allowed to discuss certain topics such as sex, their attraction to people of the same gender, movie rated PG-13 or above; witchcraft or mysticism, including Harry Potter and gnomes
It is true that students are not allowed to discuss certain topics amongst each other. This is no different than any other private Christian school. We have students from various backgrounds and they don’t benefit from educating each other on what is right, cool, or acceptable. No topics are off limits to discuss with staff, mentors, or any outside counselors or therapists.

Sex/Attraction to the Same Gender:
According to California Penal Code 261.5, it is unlawful for a minor to engage in sexual intercourse. With this in mind, and the fact that we are a Christian school, we do not believe sex to be an appropriate topic for students to discuss amongst themselves. As we also do not allow romantic relationships between students in order for them to stay focused on their education, we feel that discussing their attraction to others is not beneficial. This has nothing to do with homosexuality and applies to all students regardless of their sexual preference.

PG Movies Only:
This is true. We have some students under 13 at times. Plus, the content of some PG-13 movies is pretty explicit. This comes down to inappropriate conversation, which again would be limited at any private Christian school. It is a black and white policy that’s safe and easy to manage, not leaving approval of movies up to subjectivity. Of course there are plenty of PG-13 movies that are totally acceptable and students have the rest of their lives to watch them and talk about them.

Witchcraft, Mysticism, etc.:
As a Christian school, we believe that these topics are inappropriate for discussion amongst themselves. Again, they are welcome to discuss any topic with staff or mentors, as well as outside counselors or therapists.

Some of the Harry Potter movies are rated PG-13, which places them under the previously discussed policy.

As far as discussion about gnomes goes, this is an untrue and, quite frankly, bizarre claim. Our Campus Director laughed when she heard this, and said, “That’s a new one. That’s funny. They can talk about gnomes. And bigfoot and Nessy and mermaids and fairies and elves and whatever fairytale creatures they can think of.” Our intention is never to be overly restrictive or legalistic, but to ensure that student conversation is healthy and appropriate.

If you have come across any other comments or information that is of concern to you, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to talk with you about it and address any questions you may have.

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