What is SB 127? Paris Hilton's testimony of Utah school’s abuse helps pass reform bill for troubled teen centers
The bill that has now passed will bolster oversight regarding the use of physical restraints and seclusion of students. It will require treatment centers to document any instance in which staff used those techniques and submit monthly restraint reports
As per a new report, Paris Hilton appeared in a Utah court on February 8 to give testimony against Provo Canyon School. She was one of three people who testified at the hearing in support of a bill, SB 127, brought by State Senator Michael McKell calling for reform to the state's laws surrounding similar institutions. On Wednesday, March 3, the bill passed in the Utah legislature and will now become law in the state.
Speaking to the Utah Senate Judiciary in favor of the bill that requires more government oversight of youth residential treatment centers and requires them to document when they use restraints, Hilton testified about the “traumatizing” abuse she allegedly suffered years ago at Provo Canyon School. She said, "For the past 20 years, I have had a recurring nightmare where I'm kidnapped in the middle of the night by two strangers, strip-searched, and locked in a facility. I wish I could tell you that this haunting nightmare was just a dream, but it is not."
Following the bill passage, McKell said "reform in the troubled teen industry is long overdue." He added, "I'm ecstatic SB 127 passed the Utah Legislature. It sets a path forward for other states and the country to increase transparency and bring an end to abusive practices in youth residential treatment centers. I want to express my appreciation and applaud Paris Hilton's bravery for using her platform and voice to bring attention to this critical issue. It empowered many others to share their personal stories, resulting in much-needed positive, impacting changes to this industry."
What is SB 127?
As per reports, SB 127 dramatically increases reporting and inspection requirements on youth treatment centers that attract patients from across the country. It greatly enhances the oversight of these businesses, limits what staffers could do to punish young people, make them document when they do use restraints, and provide parents with more information.
As per The Salt Lake Tribune, the bill that has now passed will bolster oversight regarding the use of physical restraints and seclusion of students. It will require treatment centers to document any instance in which staff used those techniques and submit monthly restraint reports to the Office of Licensing, which is the industry’s primary regulator in Utah. It will also prohibit programs from sedating residents or using mechanical restraints, like a straightjacket, without the office’s prior authorization.
The bill also includes a new non-discrimination framework that would require Department of Human Services programs to refer to individuals using their preferred pronouns and ban dress codes related to biological sex. Further, it will raise the number of inspections each facility receives to four per year from one.
Hilton’s reaction to the bill's passage
"After experiencing abuse at Provo Canyon School, it has been incredibly empowering to have advocated for and help pass SB 127 with Senator Mike McKell, a law that increases oversight of the led Teen Industry in Utah and places significant limits on the use of restraint, drugs, and seclusion rooms among other methods," Hilton said.
"I needed this bill when I was in residential care and I am honored to support the thousands of youth who now have greater protections," she added. "This is only the beginning -- I plan to approach the federal arena with a bill that will protect youth across the nation in these types of facilities."
"I am so proud to share that SB127, the bill I testified on behalf of has passed the Utah legislature which means it will become law!" she said. "This bill protects thousands of youth in residential care from cruel punishments, strip-searches, and seclusion; bans the use of chemical restraint and peer restraint, ensures youth have unmonitored communication with their families, prohibits gender-based discrimination, creates suicide prevention policies, and more."
"So much of the abuse and trauma I experienced at Provo would now be illegal under this new law," she added. "When I was at Provo Canyon School, I dreamed of making a difference. The teenage version of me would be so incredibly proud to know I accomplished my goal of protecting youth who are experiencing abuse in the name of treatment. Survivors, this is a big step towards systemic change!"