Parent of former student at Queen Creek school calls for changes after teen’s death

A mother says some of her foster kids went to the school over the years, and said they were rarely treated well.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 5:56 PM MST
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QUEEN CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A parent of a former student at Canyon State Academy in Queen Creek, meant to help at-risk youth by providing a place to live, learn and get counseling, describes the environment as a boot camp for juvenile offenders.

“It’s definitely a stigma you have attached to it because the kids are more than at-risk; there are actual criminals sent there to rehabilitate. But that’s definitely not the same situation for every kid,” Tiffany Nixon said. She says the kids are rarely treated well. “I saw children outside exercising in extreme heat without water bottles,” she explained.

Nixon is a foster mom and has taken in many kids who were students at the school or receiving counseling, placed there by the state. “They just throw them all together. Just run away too many times and now you’re just going to be in this facility, but sometimes it’s grandma died or grandpa died, and they just don’t have family here,” she said.

The Department of Child Safety says they license the facility and Canyon State Academy and is one of their partners. The Arizona Department of Health Services also recently investigated complaints based on the counseling license but found the facility was ‘deficiency free.’

According to Associated Press reports, Monday’s suspected overdose death of a 16-year-old boy was not the first death reported at this school. Back in 1998, the Canyon State Academy, previously known as Arizona Boys Ranch, lost its license after a state investigation found that workers contributed to the death of another 16-year-old boy. “Yeah, it would be great to see more oversight, but I just don’t know who is capable of doing that,” Nixon said.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities based in Tucson accredited the school and told us if they determine the program is no longer up to its standards, they may modify the school’s status.