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Parent sues shuttered Nye County boarding school over tuition

Updated November 4, 2019 - 3:10 pm

A parent who paid more than $11,000 in tuition shortly before an Amargosa Valley boarding school was closed amid allegations of child abuse has sued the school’s owners to recoup the money.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in Clark County District Court on behalf of the parent, Hani Morad, against Northwest Academy and its married owners, Marcel and Patricia Chappuis.

According to the lawsuit, Morad deposited $11,600 — the cost of his son’s tuition for six months — into the private boarding school’s bank account on Jan. 28, 2019, the same day that the Nye County Sheriff’s Office opened a child abuse investigation into the school for at-risk youth.

The lawsuit claims the owners breached their contract on Feb. 13 when the school was shut down after their arrests on suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Neither Marcel Chappuis nor his wife could be reached Monday for comment.

“Defendants were contacted multiple times by Plaintiff to remedy the breach and the defendants have failed to respond,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks more than $15,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

Earlier this year, a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation into the school uncovered abuse and neglect allegations that had gone unchecked for years. The investigation also uncovered a multi-agency failure to hold the school accountable and communicate about ongoing concerns, including high levels of arsenic and fluoride in the school’s tap water.

The four-part series, “Deserted in the Desert,” found that students had been exposed to tainted water for years as the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection sent letter after letter urging the school to comply with state water laws.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services allowed the school to keep its child care license despite reports of abuse and neglect coming in as early as 2015. Many of the reports were deemed unsubstantiated.

Marcel and Patricia Chappuis were formally charged in August with 45 counts each of child abuse or neglect. Their pre-trial hearing was scheduled for Monday in Beatty Justice Court but has been postponed.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter. Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey2@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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