West Ridge Academy

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West Ridge Academy
West Jordan, Utah, USA
School type private
Denomination nondenominational
Director Kenneth R. Allen
Age range 9 – 17[1]
Enrollment 150[2]

West Ridge Academy (known as the Utah Boys Ranch until 2005), is a youth residential treatment center based in West Jordan, Utah, USA. It seeks to provide clinical services, education, and other programs for teens, both girls and boys, that are identified as at risk.[citation needed] Until 2005, the Utah Boys Ranch was male-only. In early 2005, it opened new, separate facilities for girls and changed its name to West Ridge Academy.[3] It is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation under the name Children and Youth Services, Inc. The academy states that it provides "quality clinical services, education, and experiences which promote spiritual awareness, personal accountability and change of heart."[4]

West Ridge also provides a day program called Sunshine Solutions for underprivileged local kids, age five and up which provides "summer activities, positive mentors and emotional growth to help them learn how to make good decisions".[3] The school is described in the self-study as “Christian but non-denominational.”[5]

Stated purpose

The stated purpose of the West Ridge Academy is "to offer hope and healing to families" by establishing "new coping skills and moral and spiritual values that will propel them into a more functional and peaceful way of life."[6]

Leadership and governance

The board of directors is composed of prominent Utah residents including Shawn Bradley,[7] BYU religion instructor Sally Wyne, and LaVar Christensen.[8] Past board members included Utah Senator Delpha Baird, West Jordan city Judge Ronald Kunz, and police chief Ken McGuire.[9] Stan and Mary Ellen Smoot, and Richard and Linda J. Eyre serve on an advisory board.[7] The current executive director is Kenneth R. Allen, who is also director of Proficio Management, a management company owned by the academy.[10][11][12] Since their founding, over 25,000 teens have attended the institution.[13] West Ridge is licensed by the Utah Department of Human Services.[14] The license of West Ridge Academy is reviewed annually and the organization receives periodic visits from a licensing specialist to monitor and provide technical assistance and to insure compliance with Core and Categorical Rules of Treatment.[15]


Utah Boys Ranch navigation sign prior to renaming of the facility to West Ridge Academy in 2005

The Utah Boys Ranch was founded by William L. Hutchinson, Lowell L. Bennion and a group of primarily Salt Lake County educators in 1964.[16][17][18] The group originally purchased five acres on which to build the Ranch. Bennion had twice during this initial period requested funding from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to support the Ranch, but in both instances the LDS Church refused. Soon after the second request, David O. McKay, then president of the LDS Church, donated $10,000 to support the Utah Boys Ranch.[17] Later, leadership changed hands and Utah State Senator Chris Buttars became the executive director and remained so for more than fifteen years before retiring amid controversy. [19]

Sports program

West Ridge Academy offers a comprehensive sports program, believing it to be a positive treatment for some students because it offers a chance to form a bond with their teammates. The school has been an official member of the 1A Utah High School Activities Association since 2002 with the boy's varsity athletics.[citation needed] It fields boys' high school teams[20] in basketball,[21] baseball[22] and soccer.[23] In 2006 West Ridge Academy started a girl's athletics program[citation needed] and has a girl's basketball team.[24]

Litigation and controversy

West Ridge has been the subject of several lawsuits. On May 15, 2008, Tyler Elsey, a former student, filed a lawsuit against the school in Utah District court alleging negligence and sexual abuse. As of June 2009, the case was inactive (the status in the Utah court system is given as "notice of removal").[25]

On April 9, 2010 a lawsuit was filed against West Ridge Academy, its board of directors, and several employees alleging medical malpractice, lack of informed consent, negligence, negligent placement, breach of fiduciary duty, outrageous conduct inflicting emotional distress, fraud, negligent hiring/retention, and breach of warranty. That case is still ongoing.[26]

On January 2, 2009, Eric Norwood, a past student of the academy, published an article alleging abuses and controversial practices at the ranch.[27] On January 9, 2009, Salt Lake City radio station KRCL invited Buttars, current West Ridge staff, and Eric Norwood to the talk show RadioActive! to discuss the article, but Buttars and West Ridge staff declined the invitation.[28] On October 21, 2010 Norwood sued West Ridge Academy in California District court, alleging negligence, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. That case is still ongoing.[29]

The Academy professes to be nondenominational[3][5][30] and open to all regardless of religious affiliation. However, former students and staff at the academy say that there is a connection with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church).[31] The Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church, H. David Burton, said that the LDS Church "has been and continues to be a long-time supporter" of West Ridge Academy.[32]


  1. ^ "Admissions". West Ridge Academy web site. 
  2. ^ Ball, Fred (October 3, 2007). "Fred Ball Speaking on Business". KSL Radio Small Business Resource Center. KSL. Retrieved June 13, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Kristie Campbell (September 22, 2006), "Visit Reports: West Ridge Academy", Woodbury Reports (Strugglingteens.com) , included in Woodbury Reports, Inc.: October 2006: #146, pages 13–16
  4. ^ "Home page". West Ridge Academy web site. 
  5. ^ a b "The Report of the Accreditation Visiting Team: West Ridge Academy" (PDF). Utah State Office of Education. p. 3. Retrieved May 7, 2011. 
  6. ^ "West Ridge Academy program description". West Ridge Academy web site. Retrieved 6/9/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ a b "Board of Directors". West Ridge Academy website. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  8. ^ "West Ridge Academy 2007 tax form 990" (PDF). p. 20. 
  9. ^ "Board of Trustees". Utah Boys Ranch website. Archived from the original on April 11, 2000. Retrieved 6/9/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  10. ^ "Home page". Proficio Management web site. 
  11. ^ "West Ridge Academy 2007 tax form 990" (PDF). p. 8. 
  12. ^ "West Ridge Academy Staff". West Ridge Academy. Retrieved 6/9/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  13. ^ "West Ridge Academy web site home page". West Ridge Academy web site. Retrieved 6/9/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  14. ^ "UT Admin Code R501-15. Therapeutic Schools". Retrieved 6/9/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  15. ^ "Utah Department of Human Services licensure records for West Ridge Academy". Retrieved 6/9/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  16. ^ Orden, Del Van (March 4, 1964). "Boys Ranch In Kearns Nears Reality". Deseret News. 
  17. ^ a b Bradford, Mary Lythgoe (1995). Lowell L. Bennion: Teacher, Counselor, Humanitarian. Dialogue Foundation. pp. 214–215. ISBN 1-56085-081-7. 
  18. ^ Collins, Lois M. (January 22, 1995). "Boys Ranch to dedicate spiritual center Thursday". Deseret News. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  19. ^ Illegal Goings On at the Utah Boys Ranch?. Associated Press. September 27, 2004. 
  20. ^ West Ridge Academy Fighting Eagles, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  21. ^ West Ridge Academy boys basketball, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  22. ^ West Ridge Academy Baseball, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  23. ^ West Ridge Academy boys soccer, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  24. ^ "Go Figure". Sports Illustrated. February 7, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Elsey v. West Ridge Academy case #2:2008cv00390". Federal District Court Filings. Retrieved 6/12/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  26. ^ "Doe et al v. Children and Youth Services et al case #2:2010cv00313". Federal District Court Filings. Retrieved May 5, 2011. 
  27. ^ Norwood, Eric (January 2, 2009). "Trapped in a Mormon Gulag". Orato Media Corp. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  28. ^ Gena Edvalson (January 13, 2009). "RadioActive! Jan 9 The Mormon Gulag". KRCL RadioActive website. Retrieved 6/9/2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  29. ^ "Eric Norwood v. Children and Youth Services Inc., case #2:2010cv07944". California District Court Filings. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  30. ^ http://utah.schooltree.org/Salt-Lake-County-Schools.html
  31. ^ Frequently cited examples of this connection with the LDS church include the following:
  32. ^ Mcallister, Nelda (April 14, 2011). "Alex Boye performs at West Ridge Academy gala". MormonTimes (Deseret News). 

External links