The state of California is trying to shut down a Christian boarding “school” that reportedly punishes children for being gay.
State officials had been investigating River View Christian Academy, which is also accused of withholding medical care from students and limiting their communications to family members, for quite some time. But they didn’t attempt to close the facility until after a BuzzFeed News investigation last year.
Now that the state is formally targeting the religious facility, even more concerning details are coming into public view, courtesy of reporter Tyler Kingkade.
Court documents reveal the California Department of Social Services received several complaints over the past decade about River View, but it wasn’t until after a BuzzFeed News article in September 2018 that the state got enough information to take action. According to nearly two dozen women who attended and worked at River View and spoke with BuzzFeed News, staff restricted students’ communication with parents, took kids off of antidepressants cold turkey, prohibited girls from speaking for days or weeks at a time, failed to report allegations of abuse, and disciplined students for attempting to kill themselves.
Officials with the Social Services Department started interviewing former River View students after the story was published, and called the school posing as a parent interested in enrolling their child at the facility to get more information. The state got a warrant to raid River View in January and sent a team of 16 California Highway Patrol officers with two K-9 units and 17 social workers to the campus. According to state records obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department had evidence that River View staff members stored handguns and AR-15–style rifles on campus.
Who knew abusing students and discriminating against LGBTQ kids for decades, all under the guise of being a religious institution, was only the tip of the iceberg? Among the other revelations is the fact that graduation is based, not on grades, but rather the student’s “behavior” in class.
The students claimed they couldn’t call 911 if they had to report an emergency or abuse, were forced to stand outside at night in the cold for a half hour if they misbehaved, and had their shoes confiscated. Students reported to the state agents that they’d been forced to eat only peanut butter sandwiches for up to six months at a time as a punishment. At least two students told state investigators that when they were physically sick, staff members gave them essential oils or “home remedies” instead of traditional medical care, according to sworn declarations filed by the state. In one declaration, a Department of Social Services official stated that at least two children said they told River View staffers they wanted to kill themselves but weren’t allowed access to a counselor because they had not “earned [behavior] level C.”
This school has been in operation for 25 years, but only now is the public learning more about the horrors inside. No institution, Christian or otherwise, should have the ability to abuse kids this way. It’s essential for the government to step in since the people at this school are only perpetuating the problems.
The school filed a lawsuit against the state earlier this year saying the government had no right to infringe upon their religious liberties. But the state says that this is far beyond religion. If a school controls the life of kids even outside the school day, a special license is required. When kids are literally at risk, physically and mentally, because of what the adults are doing, someone needs to look out for the kids’ welfare. It’s obvious that the school’s leaders and the kids’ parents aren’t going to do it themselves.
(Image via Shutterstock)