Case 2:14-cv-00751-TC Document 37 Filed 03/09/15 Page 1 of 1
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF UTAH, CENTRAL DIVISION DIAMOND RANCH ACADEMY, INC.,
DECLARATION OF ------- ---------- ----------IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT’S SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE
Case No.: 2:14-CV-00751-TC
Judge Tena Campbell
DECLARATION OF ------- ---------- ----------IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT’S SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE
1. I, --- ---- ------, make this declaration based on my own personal knowledge of the contents herein, unless stated upon information and belief. If called to testify, I could competently do so. I submit this declaration in support of defendant ------- -------’s Special Motion to Strike.
2. I was a student at Diamond Ranch Academy (“DRA”) from June 1, 2005 to September 15, 2006.
3. Prior to my enrollment at DRA, I was considered a “rebellious teenager.”
4. At home, I had constant outbursts against my parents and unsuccessfully tried running away a couple of times.
5. I was diagnosed with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, and severe depression. I was treated by a psychologist and a psychiatrist. When I was fifteen, I attempted suicide.
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6. One of my treating doctors recommended to my parents that I be enrolled in a residential treatment center. My parents researched potential programs, and my mother flew to Utah to look at several facilities, including DRA.
7. I first arrived at DRA on June 1, 2005, when I was sixteen. I thought that DRA would be like an extreme Girl Scout camp. But it turned out to be a terrible experience, and I still have nightmares about it.
8. After I left DRA, a psychologist at the Community Reach Center in North Glenn, Colorado diagnosed me with posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) relating to my time at DRA. I have been seeing a therapist at the Community Reach Center to help me with this PTSD.
9. When I attended DRA, there were different “levels” through which students progressed, which they referred to as: “Homeless,” “Student,” “Supervisor,” “Manager,” “Director,” “Graduate,” and “Date.” To graduate, a student had to reach the “Date” level (meaning that there was a set date for the student’s graduation from the program).
10. DRA issued citations to students for things like not finishing all of the food on his or her plate at mealtime. A certain number of citations would drop a student down a level, revoking privileges and extending the student’s stay at DRA.
11. DRA required new students to stay in “Homeless” for at least fourteen days. A student could “fail” a day for minor and arbitrary reasons like crying or talking to another student. If a student failed a day, then that day did not count toward the fourteen days required to leave “Homeless.” In my experience, it was impossible for anyone to leave in fourteen days. I spent 21 days in “Homeless.”
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12. The entire time we were in “Homeless,” DRA staff forced us to stay outside all day regardless of the weather, and do menial and pointless work like pushing a cart around a circular track for hours at a time. There was no choice about whether to participate. Students got in trouble for trying to go inside or for not doing the activities. Staff forbade us from speaking to other students without permission.
13. The first day that I was in “Homeless,” a staff member physically restrained me for crying because I missed my family and did not want to be at DRA. He forcefully wrenched my left hand behind my back and up toward my head, permanently injuring my left shoulder. While he was holding me like this, he walked me around. A later injury exacerbated my should; I can now barely lift it above my head and cannot lift any heavy objects. During my time at DRA, I saw other students whom staff members restrained in similar painful ways.
14. The staff members were mostly all very large males. Sometimes some of them would threaten to sit on me if I was not compliant. I saw this happen to other students: the staff member would force the student to lay on the ground and one of the large male staff would sit on the student’s back, causing him or her pain.
15. The food we were given in “Homeless” was very low quality, tasted horrible, and lacked sufficient nutritional value. We were only given unseasoned oatmeal cooked with water for breakfast and forced to eat rice, beans, and lentils for the other meals. This was all that I ate for three weeks. The food was consistently either over-cooked or under-cooked.
16. DRA said that the rationale for the food was to help people “detox,” but I had no history of drug abuse and I had no drugs in my system. DRA never drug-tested me or did any kind of intake to determine my treatment needs.
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17. Once I reached the “Student” level, I was permitted to eat with the other non-“Homeless” students. Similar to the “Homeless” level, the food was almost always overcooked or undercooked. Failure to eat all of the food on one’s plate would yield a citation. I often had such severe anxiety that I was sick to my stomach at mealtime and unable to eat, but not eating all of the food would cause me to get a citation, so I ate it anyway.
18. At the “Supervisor” level, DRA allowed students to leave the campus for dental visits or other medical appointments. They also could have family visits.
19. At the “Manager” level, DRA allowed students to have jobs, permitted them to be out of sight of staff members for up to three minutes, and have an off-campus visit with parents. The jobs were all on-campus and consisted of things such as working in the kitchen or decorating the facilities. By working jobs, students earned DRA currency with which they could buy things like toothpaste and jewelry sent from home; students could only receive non-medical items from their parents if they had earned sufficient DRA currency. Staff members constantly watched students, even while they were sleeping. It was not until we reached “Manager” level—or when we went to bathroom—that we could be out of line of sight of a staff member.
20. Students in the “Director” level could be out of sight for up to five minutes, and the students could have better jobs, such as being on the “Court” and helping to decide whether other students should advance a level. Students could also have a one-week home visit when they reached this level.
21. “Court” occurred once a week and was the forum in which DRA adjudicated students’ appeals of citations. Staff gave citations for “infractions” like talking to other students without permission or failing to make the bed in precisely the right way. DRA punished
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students for very petty things. Citations had a point value assigned to them, and too many points would cause the Court to drop a student down a level (e.g. from “Supervisor” to “Student”). Students had the option to contest a citation and give a reason why the behavior occurred, which I did several times when I had failed to eat the food.
22. Students bullied one another a lot, and I was a victim of bullying during my stay at DRA. When I told staff members about the bullying, they responded that I needed to work harder to get along with people.
23. DRA also censored our communications. Students were not permitted to complain about DRA to other students or their families. There was a level below “Homeless” called “Unemployment” that was used only for students who got into serious trouble, like complaining about the conditions at DRA. DRA forced the “Unemployed” students to eat the same food as the “Homeless” students, but it was served to them outside on the ground. I never complained or told my parents about what happened at DRA because I was afraid that DRA would punish me by dropping levels or placing me in “Unemployment.”
24. Staff members would sit with students while they were talking to one another to monitor our conversations.
25. When I first came to DRA, I had a variety of preexisting mental health diagnoses for which I needed treatment. It took two weeks before DRA allowed me to meet with a therapist. His name was ---- -----, and I never knew his credentials. Later, in 2008 or 2009, I looked at the licensing records for DRA’s therapists that had been compiled by third-party websites and discovered that not all of the therapists had degrees that qualified them to be therapists. I do not specifically remember Mr. -----‘s credentials.
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26. I met with Mr. ----- and later ---- -------—every two weeks for an hour for the remainder of my time at DRA. The therapy was ineffective. We never talked about my diagnoses or how to help me. Instead, we just talked about how I could “do better” at DRA. He told me that I should “fake it to make it”—fake getting better so that I could graduate.
27. The only good thing about the therapy was that I sometimes had the chance to talk to my parents on the phone during my therapy sessions. But Mr. ----- was always with me on speaker phone. He told me that he would disconnect the call if I complained about DRA to my parents.
28. On July 18, 2005, I was told that my grandmother had died. I had had a close relationship with her and when I cried at the news of her loss, I was given a citation. My parents took me home for the funeral, and when I came back I was only allowed to cry during therapy.
29. When I arrived at DRA, I was already on several different medications that my treating doctor had prescribed. About half way through my stay at DRA, they abruptly changed my medications to a drug I had never taken before. I never met with a doctor before DRA changed my medication. I only learned about the new medication when the nurse who brought my pills every day informed me of the change. DRA did not ease me off of my old medication and onto the new medication, which my doctors have done every other time I have switched medications. I had mood swings as a result of the abrupt change in medication.
30. I spent a little more than a year at DRA, finally graduating on September 15, 2006. I went back to Colorado to live with my parents
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31. After DRA, I wanted to be an advocate for survivors like myself, but I thought it would be too stressful. My experiences at DRA had added enough stress to my life and I want to make my life as low-stress as possible.
32. I still have nightmares once or twice a week that I will be sent back to DRA, and I still have to see a therapist for treatment of my PTSD that stems from my time there.
33. I created a Facebook page called “Diamond Ranch Academy” in 2008 so that other former DRA students could connect. There had been a Myspace page, and at that time Facebook was becoming popular, so I wanted to create a similar page.
34. I first learned about DRAsurvivors.com through Ms. Filer’s postings on Facebook, and I have visited the site several times to read its content. The information reported on the website is consistent with what I experienced and observed during my stay at DRA. I think the website is a useful public service because parents need access to information other than the official information they get from DRA if they are considering sending their child there.
35. In October 2014, I received a threatening letter from DRA about my Facebook page, Diamond Ranch Academy, claiming that I was violating its copyright. After I posted that threat and after Ms. ----- reported that she had been sued for her website DRASurvivors.co, I renamed the Facebook group to DRA Students. I now only allow into the group people whom I know or who are referred by current members. Former students now rarely talk on the page.
36. The topics covered on DRASurvivors.com are matters of public interest, and I believe Ms. ----- does a great public service by maintaining the website. As a survivor of DRA, I hope her website is able to remain available to parents and other caregivers involved in
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the lives of troubled teenagers and to government officials who are tasked with regulating institutions like DRA.
Pursuant to 28 USC § 1746, I, Z-- ---- ------, declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed on March 9, 2015.
/s/ ------- ---------- ----------
Signed electronically with permission
from ------- ---------- ----------