LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A supervisor at Northwest Academy is speaking out after child abuse and neglect allegations.
That’s the school at the center of serious allegations in Nye County.
Scott Harris spoke to FOX5 over the phone. He got permission from his director to talk to us. He’s been following the story on FOX5 and said what some people have said is not true and that’s frustrating.
“What I'm hearing on the news is a lot of exaggerated stuff from kids who were kicked out of that school because of their behavior,” Harris said.
Harris wanted to share his side of things after seeing what he called “exaggerated stories” and “lies.”
“A few months back, had a couple of students there who were constantly fighting, constantly threatening staff,” Harris explained. “They had to be restrained a few times, a couple times by Mr. Hill. During the restraints, he did grab a kid and set him on the ground. He did not pick him up and slam him. He did not pick him up and throw him. He wrapped the kid up after the kid punched him three or four times in self-defense. He lowered him to the ground.”
Harris said it started with that student. The student was expelled. His family reported Caleb Hill to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.
“So deputies show up to do an investigation,” Harris said. “When they get there, kids see an opportunity to compound the problems, kids start telling stories. Deputies took the kids word as gold and ran with it.”
From there, Harris said everything spiraled out of control.
“I’ve heard every excuse in the book -- they poisoned the food, they beat us all the time -- these are just regular things that the kids say,” he said. “Ninety percent of kids that are there are court ordered there. And they don't want to be there. So they're going to say stuff, make up stuff, exaggerate stuff to get out.”
Harris added the night deputies came to investigate, students believed the school would be shut down.
“We had 10-15 students that were just running chaos. We had almost a riot at the school the night the deputies left,” he said.
Also in the sheriff’s department’s video news release, you can see a student wearing a cast, being helped down the stairs. Harris said that girl broke her foot before even coming to Northwest Academy.
“We did not leave it broken,” he said. “She already had a cast on. She already had doctor's notes. She already had the medications required to take when she came to our facility.”
He added, “the only other student who had any other injuries at all was a girl who injured her toe messing around. She stepped it on a chair.”
Harris said the staff does not neglect students and will send them to a hospital in Pahrump if treatment is necessary.
“We have a registered staff that comes out every other week that does examinations on the kids,” he said. “We have a psychologist and we have two trained medical staff that issue their medications.”
Harris also addressed the arsenic levels in the school’s water.
In the video, the sheriff’s office revealed arsenic in the school’s water was triple the standard level.
Harris said the school’s reverse osmosis filtration system broke in 2016. And they’ve since been following all of the state’s guidelines.
“We notified all the parents about the water situation, and there are signs all over the school notifying staff and students that there are high levels of arsenic in the water,” he said.
FOX5 asked Harris why the problem hasn’t been fixed for years.
He said only the director or the school’s lawyers could comment on that but he added, “I do know that we're working on fixing it. And until it is fixed, all the students and staff including are provided with bottled water.”
The sheriff’s office stated that in the meantime, the school wasn’t giving students enough water.
Harris said that, again, is an exaggeration.
“It’s a regular-size water bottle -- 16 ounces,” he said. “What are you talking about, tiny bottles?”
Harris sent us a picture of the school’s pantry and the water handed out to students and staff.
“I don't know if the deputies were confused because the students only say they get three bottles water, which is true. But they have the opportunity to fill them up throughout the day so they get 6, 7, 8 bottles of water. They have access to it any time of the day,” Harris said.
As for the reported rashes, Harris said it is another issue that has been blown out of proportion.
“I know when they talk about the kids coming up with rashes, like there's droves of kids with rashes. There were two,” Harris said. “Two kids that complained of a rash and it was kids who said it was because of the water.”
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has not found a link between the arsenic in the water and the student’s rashes.
“What I can speak to is there are multiple staff that live on that property,” Harris said. “And all the staff and their kids bathe in it and use it. Nobody's had a rash. Nobody's had health issues.”
Harris also responded to a former staff member who spoke with FOX5 anonymously. He said he was frustrated, calling her a disgruntled former employee who was let go.
While he’s listening to what parents, students and former staff have to say, he believes they are the minority.
“The majority of the staff that is there actually care. And they would go home -- especially over the last week -- they're in tears. Not only because they're worried about their jobs, but they're worried about these kids. A lot of these kids have nowhere to go. So if this place gets shut down, these kids are going to go back into the system,” Harris said. “I'm sure everything will get cleared, we're going to get the water fixed. But the name of the school has already been tarnished. It's already been run through the mud and that's what's in everybody's ears and minds.”
FOX5 also reached out to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office for a response to Harris’ comments. They said they have nothing new to share and are waiting for results from several tests.
Three other agencies are involved in this investigation. FOX5 reached out to all three again.
The Nye County Juvenile Probation Office said they do not have any authority over whether Northwest Academy stays open. That’s up to the state.
The state Department of Health and Human Services visited the school last week as a result of the sheriff’s office’s investigation.
They said they did see some concerning things.
“There are plenty of red flags, just nothing that was urgent enough that required us to shut the place down that night,” deputy administrator of public and behavioral health Margot Chappelle said. “We require parents to be called and be told everything that is going on there including the water situation and the accusations of abuse to the one person who had been arrested.”
The Division of Child and Family Services sent us this statement: “The Division of Child and Family Services is aware of the situation in Amargosa Valley with the children at Northwest Academy. DCFS is working collaboratively with the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, Child Care Licensing and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. Confidentiality laws prevent us from releasing information regarding complaints and investigations of child abuse or neglect."