weather icon Clear

Northwest Academy abuse concerns not shared by agencies, probe finds

A Department of Health and Human Services report analyzing state oversight at the now-shuttered Northwest Academy found that agencies did not follow proper protocol — if there was any protocol at all — in communicating issues at the private boarding school.

The report was completed in May following a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation into the Amargosa Valley school, where allegations of abuse and neglect began to surface as early as 2014. It found that agencies did not have internal policies regarding how to notify other agencies that also oversaw the school.

“If agencies do have those policies, they are not well documented and were followed sporadically or incompletely in the case of Northwest Academy,” the report states.

The department’s analysis echoed much of the Review-Journal’s findings in the four-part series “Deserted in the Desert,” which uncovered a multi-agency failure that allowed allegations of abuse and neglect to continue for years at the facility. The issues culminated in the school’s closure in February following the arrests of its married owners, Marcel and Patricia Chappuis, and a staff member.

The Department of Health and Human Services licenses the school as a child care facility through its Division of Public and Behavioral Health and was responsible for investigating claims of abuse through its Division of Child and Family Services.

Other agencies that oversaw Northwest Academy included the Nevada Department of Education, which licensed Northwest Academy as a private school, and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, which monitored the school’s compliance as a public water operator.

Years of complaints

The report found that multiple complaints were not forwarded to the child care licensing division, which in turn also failed to notify the state Department of Education of substantiated complaints.

In September 2014, a sexual abuse complaint was filed with the Division of Child and Family Services of one student molesting another. The report found no record that the licensing division was notified.

In March 2015, another complaint was filed with family services regarding insufficient food for students. There was no record of that reaching the licensing division, either, according to the analysis.

Over the eight years that the school was operating, the licensing division repeatedly issued the facility provisional licenses due to deficiencies in the school’s operations, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Since 2012, the analysis found, the school had not held a full license for an entire year.

Statements of deficiency — which the department issues when a child care facility is out of compliance — were also frequently not completed and sent in a timely manner.

The report calls for a policy that would require the family services division to notify the licensing division of any report of abuse or neglect. It also suggests that each agency be required to notify the other when concerns or licensing issues occur.

In its own review earlier this year, the Department of Education found that the school did not submit a financial statement in its 2017 private school license renewal application. The school also only submitted projected budgets for the first two years of its four-year renewal.

After inquiries from the Review-Journal in April, the department said it would institute internal controls to ensure that all private schools are meeting requirements for applying for or renewing a license. The department said its private school division would immediately audit 68 of the 131 private school licenses left to review.

Meanwhile, the Nye County district attorney’s office has yet to file formal charges against Marcel and Patricia Chappuis more than five months after their arrests. They each face 43 counts of allowing child neglect.

As of Wednesday, the couple’s arraignment hearings, originally scheduled for March 4, had been postponed five times in Beatty Justice Court pending the formal charges.

‘Complex matter’

District Attorney Chris Arabia had not publicly discussed the status of the case until last week, when his office emailed a brief statement to news media.

“I understand that the community is concerned and wants answers,” the statement said. “This is a complex matter, and it’s taking time to complete our review. I ask for the community’s patience and will update everyone at the appropriate time.”

The couple previously were represented by attorney Malcolm LaVergne but switched counsel in June. They now are represented by Pahrump attorney Thomas Gibson.

On Tuesday, William Simpson, an investigator for Gibson’s law firm, expressed confidence that the charges would be dismissed.

The Review-Journal investigation found that the school, which operated a public water system, went for years without treating its water as the owners were repeatedly put on notice to comply with state law.

The series also uncovered ties that Northwest Academy and its predecessor, Horizon Academy, had to a network of schools that catered to troubled teens. That organization, the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, was hit with multiple lawsuits alleging abuse at its various facilities.

Marcel and Patricia Chappuis were arrested in February amid an ongoing abuse investigation at the school, which served at-risk youth. Most of the charges center around contaminated water at the academy.

Patricia Chappuis also faces two felony counts of child abuse stemming from a July 20, 2017, incident, which originally was investigated by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

Their arrests followed the arrest of employee Caleb Hill on suspicion of child abuse.

An arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 19.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter. Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
Second officer-involved shooting of 2019 for North Las Vegas Police Department
North Las Vegas Police hold a press conference about the second officer involved shooting of 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Road Rage Homicide Suspect Van
Las Vegas police have released video of the vehicle they believe was involved in a deadly road rage incident on August 5. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police look for armed robbers
Police are seeking two men involved in an armed robbery Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, on the 7500 block of North Cimarron Road, near Farm Road. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police searching for video related to road rage homicide
Lt. Ray Spencer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Section is asking for clues from the public to solve a murder from Aug. 5. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Jury hears closing statements in killing of 17-year-old
Closing statements began today for Jaiden Caruso and Kody Harlan charged in the death of 17-year-old Matthew Minkler. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CCSD to vote on shooting settlement
The Clark County School Board will vote Thursday on a $100,000 settlement for the mother of Dalvin Brown, the Canyon Springs High School student who was shot and killed on school grounds at the beginning of last school year. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police find 2 dead in northwest valley home
Las Vegas homicide detectives are investigating after two people were found dead in a home Friday night in the far northwest valley.
Teen talks about alleged sexual assault at Las Vegas grocery store
A 17-year old says she was groped and then sexually assaulted by a loss-prevention specialist at an Albertsons store in east Las Vegas. The subject's voice has been distorted to protect her identity. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Court hearing For 17-year-old Who Was Found Dead Begins - Video
An image that captured blood pooled near the head of a 17-year-old’s lifeless body appeared on monitors inside a Las Vegas courtroom Wednesday, as prosecutors gave opening statements in the murder trial for two teens charged in Matthew Minkler’s death.
Purse Theft Occurs at Suncoast - Video
Purse theft occurred July 24 at Suncoast just after 930 pm.
Woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old girl in Las Vegas - Video
A woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip agreed to plead guilty to a child abuse charge, her attorney said. Gigi Mitchell, 40, faces several counts of child abuse and one count of child sex trafficking. The 11-year-old girl told social worker Felicia Tucker that she was a “hustler” and entered nightclubs where she drank and flirted with men.
Federal officials fail to keep criminal undocumented immigrants from reoffending
ICE and the DOJ courts say they are trying to remove undocumented criminals. But statistics show the courts are doing less than a decade ago. (Art Kane/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gragson crash seen in surveillance video
Newly-released video reveals more details around Scott Gragson crash, including Gragson arguing with a guard over allowing cars to follow him to his home. Video from a resident’s security camera shows the vehicle crash on a median. And police bodycam footage shows Gragson talking to an officer after the crash. (Grand Jury Exhibits)
Ex-Metro detective accused of killing her former son-in-law appears in court
Pamela Bordeaux, a Las Vegas former detective, who is accused of shooting and killing her former son-in-law, appeared in court on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Woman accused of stealing $1M from company makes court appearance
Donna Blizniak, the Las Vegas woman, who is accused of stealing more than $1 million over the course of five years from Nevada’s largest alcohol distributor, appeared in court on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police address latest office-involved shooting
Metro police officials provided details on Monday, July 22, 2019, during a media briefing about an officer-involved shooting, which occurred on July 17 in east Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Steve Meriwether talks about his son, who was killed by a drunk driver
Retired Metro sergeant Steve Meriwether talks about his son, Garrett Meriwether, who was killed by a drunk driver. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas Metro Police holds press conference about Oct. 1 report
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo held a press conference on Wednesday, July 10, regarding a new report about the police department's performance during Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, 2017. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Surveillance footage of persons of interest in deadly shooting
Las Vegas police have released surveillance footage of two persons of interest in a fatal shooting at Desert Shores Villas. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Bail for Cierre Wood set at $500,000 for murder charge
Bail was set at half a million dollars for Cierre Wood, the ex-pro football player who faces a charge of first-degree murder with his girlfriend Amy Taylor in the death of 5-year-old La’Rayah Patra Nicole Lamont Davis. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man takes plea deal from murder to battery with deadly weapon
On Tuesday, July 9, Christopher J. Weygant II, originally charged with murder in the death of Bailey Beck, pleaded no contest to battery with a deadly weapon. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man convicted of 1998 homicides at Las Vegas assisted living home
A judge found Gustavo Ramos-Martinez guilty of two counts of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon and one count of sexual assault with use of a deadly weapon.
Henderson youth accused in killing of 19-year-old girlfriend arraigned
18-year-old Noah Hadley, accused of shooting his girlfriend after a house party, appeared in Henderson Court Tuesday morning for arraignment.
Security guard charged with murder appears in court
Security guard Brian William Love appears in court at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 2, 2019, on a charge of open murder with a deadly weapon in the shooting death of homeless man Max Garcia. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Preliminary hearing held for woman charged with sex trafficking of 11-year-old girl
Witnesses took the stand during a preliminary hearing held Thursday for Gigi Mitchell, the woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old on the Las Vegas Strip.
Wayne Newton testifies during burglary trial
Wayne Newton takes the stand during the trial of Weslie Martin, one of two men who allegedly broke into and burglarized the Newton family residence.
Woman suspected of pushing man off Las Vegas bus stays on house arrest - VIDEO
Cadesha Bishop, accused of pushing a 74-year-old man off a Las Vegas bus to his death, will remain on house arrest until her trial in April 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial begins for man with wire left in his body after medical procedure
Opening statements began today in a trial where a man says a physician left a wire in his body during a heart procedure in 2005. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police warn of fuel thieves
Las Vegas police and fire officials are warning the public of the danger of fuel thieves using modified vehicles to transport and dispense gasoline. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Surveillance video captures details of man pushed off bus
RTC surveillance video captures multiple views and audio of Cadesha Bishop shoving 74-year-old Serge Fournier off a Las Vegas bus.
LVMPD Investigates 9th Officer Involved Shooting of 2019 -- Armed Robbery Suspects in Summerlin
LVMPD Captain Yasenia Yatomi gives preliminary details about an officer involved shooting that occurred in the 1200 block of N. Town Center Dr.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas woman accused of pushing man off bus pleads not guilty
A woman caught on video shoving a 74-year-old man off of a Las Vegas bus pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other charges related to his death. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect faces 15 counts in shooting at Las Vegas Strip mall - VIDEO
Hasean Quinn, the man who faces multiple counts including assault with a deadly weapon after a gunshot was fired inside the Fashion Show mall on the Las Vegas Strip on Memorial Day, appeared in court Wednesday afternoon. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A man whose wives were found dead 8 years apart under similar circumstances is denied bail - VIDEO
Alan Sylwester, the man suspected of killing his wife, was denied bail again Wednesday morning during his preliminary hearing in Henderson.
Chief deputy district attorney: “Justice was done” in child pornography case - VIDEO
Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney James Sweetin speaks with the media after the sentencing of Christopher Sena, the man who was found guilty in February of multiple counts of sexual assault with a minor, incest, use of a minor in the production of pornography, lewdness with a child younger than 14 and child abuse. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas man gets 54 life sentences for sexually assaulting children - VIDEO
Christopher Sena, who was found guilty in February of multiple counts of sexual assault with a minor, incest, use of a minor in the production of pornography, lewdness with a child younger than 14 and child abuse, was sentenced to over 337 years behind bars.