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West Ridge Academy

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Coordinates: 40°35′03″N 112°01′10″W / 40.584239°N 112.019367°W / 40.584239; -112.019367

West Ridge Academy
West Jordan, Utah, USA
School type private
Denomination nondenominational
Director Kenneth R. Allen
Age range 9 – 18[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] In 2016, the application to transition West Ridge Academy into a charter school, named Eagle Summit Academy, was approved.

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]

In late 2015, an application was submitted Utah's Charter School Board. The Charter School Board approved the application and transition in January 2016, but the state's Board of Education reversed the decision the following month, denying the application without prejudice, amid allegations of abuse and financial insolvency.[20] The Board of Education revisited the application in March 2016 following the preparation of a 60-page report prepared by the State's Office of Education providing details on the issues raised the previous month. After including caveats to keep public and private funding separate in the school's budgets and to ensure the safety of the new charter school's students, the Board of Education approved the application.[21]

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 boys' varsity athletics.[citation needed] It fields boys' high school teams[22] in basketball,[23] baseball[24] and soccer.[25] In 2006 West Ridge Academy started a girls' athletics program[citation needed] and has a girls' basketball team.[26]

Litigation and controversy

West Ridge has been the subject of several lawsuits, including personal injury lawsuits in 2008 and 2010.[27][28] On January 2, 2009 a past student of the academy, published an article alleging abuses and controversial practices at the ranch.[29] On January 9, 2009, Salt Lake City radio station KRCL invited Buttars, current West Ridge staff, and the student to the talk show RadioActive! to discuss the article, but Buttars and West Ridge staff declined the invitation.[30] On October 21, 2010 the student sued West Ridge Academy in California District court, alleging negligence, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.[31]

Allegations of abuse from former students were one of the main reasons Utah's Board of Education initially denied the application for West Ridge Academy to become a charter school called Eagle Summit Academy.[20] In response to the allegations, the State Office of Education prepared a 60-page report providing more details for the Board on the issues raised. The report identified several lawsuits against West Ridge Academy, several of which were settled out of court, but could not find any corroborating evidence to support the allegations of abuse.[32][21] The report was also critical of school's proposed financial structure.

Relationship with LDS Church

The Academy is nondenominational and open to all regardless of religious affiliation,[3][5] but has had a number of connections with the LDS Church throughout the Academy's history. The Academy was established in 1964 with the assistance of a $10,000 donation from David O. McKay, then president of the LDS Church.[17] There are several elderly couples called as LDS service missionaries at the Academy. The service missionaries provide spiritual tutoring but do not proselytize, using the Book of Mormon and the Bible with LDS teens and only the Bible when interacting with teens of other faiths at the Academy. Ken Allen, the academy's director, has stated that the missionaries' role is pivotal in the reformation of the boys and girls who attend West Ridge Academy.[33] Prior to 2005, while operating under the name, Utah Boys Ranch, the logo of the facility included the phrase, "Do What is Right, Let the Consequence Follow", taken from an LDS hymn.[34] H. David Burton, when he was the Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church, said that the LDS Church "has been and continues to be a long-time supporter" of West Ridge Academy.[35]


  1. ^ "Admissions". West Ridge Academy web site. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  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, , 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 June 9, 2009. 
  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 June 9, 2009. 
  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 June 9, 2009. 
  13. ^ "West Ridge Academy web site home page". West Ridge Academy web site. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  14. ^ "UT Admin Code R501-15. Therapeutic Schools". Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Utah Department of Human Services licensure records for West Ridge Academy". Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  16. ^ Orden, Del Van (March 4, 1964). "Boys Ranch In Kearns Nears Reality". Deseret News. 
  17. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b Wood, Benjamin (February 16, 2016). "Allegations of abuse at prospective charter school splits Utah's top school boards". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  21. ^ a b Wood, Benjamin (March 17, 2016). "Utah board approves charter school tied to treatment center accused of abusing children". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  22. ^ West Ridge Academy Fighting Eagles, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  23. ^ West Ridge Academy boys basketball, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  24. ^ West Ridge Academy Baseball, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  25. ^ West Ridge Academy boys soccer, Deseret News. Retrieved May 8, 2011
  26. ^ "Go Figure". Sports Illustrated. February 7, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Elsey v. West Ridge Academy case #2:2008cv00390". Federal District Court Filings. Retrieved June 12, 2009. 
  28. ^ "Doe et al v. Children and Youth Services et al case #2:2010cv00313". Federal District Court Filings. Retrieved May 5, 2011. 
  29. ^ Norwood, Eric (January 2, 2009). "Trapped in a Mormon Gulag". Orato Media Corp. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  30. ^ Gena Edvalson (January 13, 2009). "RadioActive! Jan 9 The Mormon Gulag". KRCL RadioActive website. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  31. ^ Vaughn, Aaron (January 13, 2012). "More speak out over West Ridge Academy lawsuit, claims of abuse". Retrieved 2016-02-12. 
  32. ^ Wood, Benjamin (March 17, 2016). "West Ridge Academy challenges accusations of abuse at state school board meeting". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  33. ^ Farmer, Molly (April 15, 2009). "Missionaries bring love into lives at West Ridge Academy". MormonTimes. Deseret News. Retrieved 2016-02-12. 
  34. ^ ""Do What Is Right...Let the Consequence Follow" Our Yearly Theme". Utah Boys Ranch website. Archived from the original on March 3, 2000. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  35. ^ Mcallister, Nelda (April 14, 2011). "Alex Boye performs at West Ridge Academy gala". MormonTimes. Deseret News. 

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