SALT LAKE CITY — A staff member at the embattled Red Rock Canyon School in St. George has been charged for allegedly punching a teen girl during a large brawl at the school in April.
Gino E. Sanchez, 38, of St. George, was charged Tuesday in 5th District Court with child abuse, a class A misdemeanor.
On April 28, 2019, police responded to Red Rock Canyon School, 747 E. St. George Blvd., on a report of a large brawl. At least 25 people were injured, including four who were transported to a local hospital for treatment. Five people were booked into juvenile detention for investigation of assault, criminal mischief and inciting a riot. Police said at the time that more arrests were expected. Up to 12 people were believed to be actively involved in the fight.
Red Rock Canyon is a psychiatric inpatient treatment center for juveniles ages 12 to 18. The school has 97 students.
As police investigated the fight, they interviewed a 17-year-old girl who "reported that during the disturbance, a school staff member, Gino Sanchez had pulled her hair and punched her in the face. This incident happened in front of several students and staff members," according to charging documents.
Another staff member said Sanchez was yelling at students to get back in their units and the girl was yelling back, the charges state.
"Sanchez came up the stairs and confronted (the girl), pulled her hair and punched her in the face," according to court documents.
Sanchez denied punching the girl in the face, "saying that if he did there would be injuries," and claimed instead he only pushed the girl, the charges state.
After police reviewed video surveillance of the confrontation, they noted in the charges that "while the details are not clear, you can see Sanchez’s arm move toward (the girl) and (the girl's) head move back."
In May, the Department of Human Services outlined nine violations in a letter posted publicly to Utah's legislative website, and said that the school must comply with more than a dozen changes or risk losing its license.
Red Rock Canyon School has been the focus of a number of lawsuits in recent years, many concerning staffers who have allegedly physically or sexually abused residents.