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Paris Hilton poses for a photo in front of the Provo Canyon School during a protest Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Hilton was in Utah Friday to lead a protest outside a boarding school where she alleges she was abused physically and mentally by staff when she was a teenager. Hilton, now 39, went public with the allegations in a new documentary and wants a school that she says left her with nightmares and insomnia for years to be shut down. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Reality TV star and socialite Paris Hilton joined a protest held in a bid to shut down a controversial American boarding school for troubled children used by the Bermuda Government.

Ms Hilton, who spent almost a year at Provo Canyon School in Utah when she was 17, was among hundreds of others at a demonstration outside the school last week.

The Hilton Hotels heiress claimed she suffered mental and physical abuse during her 11 months at Provo Canyon between 1998 and 1999.

Ms Hilton, now 39, said she suffered physical and emotional abuse at the school and alleged it was “torture”.

She added: “It’s something so traumatic that you don’t even want to think it’s real.

“It’s something I blocked from my memory for ever.”

She claimed she was beaten, forced to take unknown pills, watched when she showered and locked up in solitary confinement without clothes as punishment.

Ms Hilton and others wore black T-shirts with “Survivor” on the back and “Breaking Code Silent” on the front – a reference to Ms Hilton’s new campaign to shut down what she said were for-profit institutions that manipulated families and traumatised young people – at the protest last Friday.

She said her time at Provo Canyon was so “traumatising” she suffered nightmares and insomnia for years.

Ms Hilton was sent to the school by her parents after she got into the nightclub scene in New York while her family lived at the city’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.

She was sent on various programmes before she ended up at Provo Canyon, which she said was “the worst of the worst”.

Ms Hilton said: “There’s thousands of these schools all around. Provo Canyon is just the first one I want to go down.

“From there, it will be a domino effect.”

A notice on the school’s website yesterday said that new management had taken over in 2000.

The statement added: “We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time.

“We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioural and psychiatric needs.”

The school said on Monday that it did not have any youngsters from Bermuda at present.

Tim Marshall, the school’s associate administrator, said Bermudian youngsters had been there, but not for “a few years”.

Other former students at the school have said they were strip-searched, had physical and chemical restraints used on them and locked in isolation rooms.

Ms Hilton’s stand won support from tattoo artist Kat Von D and late singer Michael Jackson’s daughter, also called Paris, who both attended the school and claimed they were victims of abuse as well.

Provo Canyon featured on a list of institutions that children in care were sent to by the Department of Child and Family Services between 2010 and 2015.

The department provided the list in response to a 2016 public access to information request.

A later Pati response showed that children from Bermuda were not sent to Provo Canyon between January 2015 and February 2020.

Statistics from police in Utah showed officers were called to Provo Canyon 141 times from January 2015 to November 2019.

A total of 26 calls were for sex offence or sex assault, ten were for child abuse, 24 were for runaways, and 13 were listed as assaults.

The death of a Bermudian teenager last November at another centre in Utah, West Ridge Academy, left her family still looking for answers this year.

The 17-year-old took her own life after she was sent to West Ridge by the Family Court at the request of the DCFS.

The department was asked on Monday if Bermudians at Provo Canyon had made complaints about the school – and if the school would be dropped by the Bermuda Government as a result of the campaign.

No response was received by press time last night.

Tinée Furbert, appointed Minister of Social Development and Seniors last Thursday, has taken over responsibility for DCFS, which had been part of the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Ms Furbert said at the swearing-in ceremony at Government House that she would “prefer to get my feet in” before she talked on the DCFS overseas treatment programme.

She added: “I’ve been put here to help make Bermuda a better place for our children and families. That’s the goal, and that’s what I will work towards.”

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Published October 14, 2020 at 2:21 pm (Updated October 14, 2020 at 8:21 pm)

Hilton calls for US school to shut

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