Case 2:14-cv-00751-TC Document 36 Filed 03/09/15 Page 1 of 9
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 Chelsea Filer’s Special Motion to Strike.
2. I was a student at Diamond Ranch Academy (“DRA”) from June 5, 2006 to June 25, 2007.
3. When I was 12 years old, I started thinking about death to such a degree that my mother found it disconcerting. She took me to a psychologist who diagnosed me with depression and prescribed antidepressants, including Wellbutrin XL and lithium. The medications I took, combined with Adderall for a supposed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dulled my emotions and made me feel like a “zombie.” I developed anorexia and stopped caring about everything. I attempted suicide and spent time in inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment programs.
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4. In March 2006, my mother sent me to live with my paternal aunt in Texas. I felt abandoned by my mother. I stopped taking my medications and my mind felt clear for the first time in years.
5. In June 2006, my mother took me from my paternal aunt’s house and told me we would visit my maternal aunt in Utah before returning home to California. During the first night at my aunt’s house in Utah, my mother turned the light on in my room around at 2:30 in the morning. As she sat on my bed, she told me she would do anything to help me. Suddenly, two strangers entered the room and told me they were taking me away. They restrained me and led me outside to their vehicle.
6. I arrived at DRA on the morning of June 5, 2006, at age 16. Staff members took me to a blue house where two women strip-searched me, gave me DRA clothing, and told me the rules of “Homeless.”
7. “Homeless” was the first of several levels at DRA. As students advanced levels, they received additional benefits and edged closer to “graduation.” Behavior DRA deemed inappropriate would cause a student to drop one or more levels. In “Homeless,” DRA staff forced students to spend all day outside and obey arbitrary rules. Students were given “checks” for violating rules in “Homeless.” To graduate from “Homeless” to “Student,” a student had to successfully complete fourteen days, divided into twenty-eight half-days. A student failed a day if he or she accumulated too many checks, meaning that the day would not count toward the required fourteen. Staff did not tell us
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whether we had failed a day until the end of the day, which I found extremely frustrating. I was in “Homeless” for 25 days.
8. A DRA staff member named --------- oversaw my group. The first full day I was there, I was eating breakfast while sitting on the basketball court. A goat escaped from its pen, came over to me, and began to eat my food. The primary rule at DRA was that students were not permitted to do anything without first asking permission. I raised my hand and waited for ---------—who was looking directly at me—to call on me so that I could ask to move away from the goat. She continued to stare at me but ignored me. The goat stopped eating my food and urinated on me, covering my head and clothing with its urine. I pushed the goat away and continued to raise my hand. -------- still ignored me, so I asked if I could go change my urine-soaked clothes. She told me that it was “not the end of the world” and that I could not do anything. I almost vomited from the smell and could not finish eating my food. I received separate checks from --------- for speaking out of turn, not eating my food, pushing away the goat without permission, and “trying to manipulate the situation.”
9. The time in “Homeless” was dominated by pointless busy work. One frequent activity was pulling weeds. DRA provided gloves to pull the weeds, but there were many holes in the gloves. Many of the weeds had sharp burs, which cut my hands. Although I did my best to pull the burs out of my skin, staff gave me citations for my bleeding hands. DRA staff also forced us regularly to push a donkey cart around a track for no apparent reason. Sometimes, as punishment, one student would have to pull the cart by climbing inside the yoke. More than once, I saw --------- and other staff members
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push the cart from behind while a student was in the yoke, running the student over with the cart because the student was not fast enough.
10. DRA forced us to engage in daily calisthenics, like running the entire length of the football field back and forth ten times. Because I was not athletic and had been a smoker, I was unable to complete this task for most of the first week and staff members failed me for several days. Sometimes girls struggled to do calisthenics and I would offer encouragement; staff responded by giving me checks for disruptive behavior. I saw staff bully and laugh at girls who struggled with their exercises.
11. While we were in “Homeless,” DRA staff forced us to drink a gallon of water within four hours every day. Some students in my group regularly urinated in their pants because staff prevented us from using the restroom until after the four hours had passed. Doing so caused the student to lose the day’s progress. I saw staff members forcibly restrain girls for not being able to hold their urine.
12. I saw staff restrain many students for minor, non-violent offenses like accidentally urinating after being forced to drink large quantities of water or speaking when they were not permitted. The restraints rarely seemed justified. The female staff members usually would not perform restraints themselves; instead, they called the boy’s campus and asked a male staff member to come restrain the girls.
13. I developed long-term injuries from my time in “Homeless.” I have an autoimmune disease that affects my joints and gives me arthritis. I developed sciatica from doing physical labor, during which staff prohibited us from leaning on anything while bending over. I also damaged many of my joints from running on rough and uneven surfaces.
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14. Shortly after becoming a “Student,” the plastic guard on my razor partially broke and I cut myself while shaving. A staff member accused me of self-mutilation and punished me by dropping me to “Unemployed” status.
15. “Students” like me became “Unemployed” if we accrued too many points, which meant that DRA staff forced us to eat our meals outside on the ground. When we received citations, DRA would also force us to do various chores like pull weeds or move piles of hay, even in the frigid winter weather when it was difficult to use our hands outside. I was “Unemployed” approximately every other week; sometimes I was “Unemployed” two weeks in a row.
16. More than once, staff members gave me citations for passing out during calisthenics because I did not have enough energy from the food DRA fed me.
17. I had a memorable encounter with ----- ----—one of the DRA owner’s sons—on “Amnesty Day,” where staff instructed students to write on slips of paper everything we had done wrong for which we had not yet been punished. Staff members told us that everything we admitted would be forgiven and we would not get in trouble. Then ----- ---- assembled all of us outside and began reading through the slips of paper, assigning punishments to each student for things that either he or she admitted or of which others had accused him or her. This was particularly traumatic for students who were near graduation and had their progress partially reversed
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because of something they had admitted to or been accused of. The unsubstantiated accusation of a single student formed a sufficient basis for staff to punish us. DRA staff gave me a citation for allegedly using another girl’s straightener, even though she lived in another dorm and her accusation was not true.
18. After the public punishments, ----- ---- called me into his office. A female staff member named Britta was also present. He told me that one of the students had written on a slip of paper that I was bisexual and pursuing a relationship with another female student. I distinctly remember what he said to me: “I have a question: are you bisexual?” I answered yes. And he said: “You are disgusting. You are sick, and that is completely inappropriate.” He chastised me because his Mormon religion, as he interpreted it, forbade same-sex relations. He told me that he and Britta were “embarrassed” to even have to discuss the topic because it was so “gross.” I defended myself by explaining that I was just trying to form a healthy relationship with another person. But ----- ---- chastised me for violating his religious tenets; because he knew that my mother and step-father were also Mormon, he told me that I should have known better. He made me feel that I was worthless. It was extremely traumatic. He also put me on “blackout,” meaning that I was not permitted to speak to the other girl.
19. Staff members, including ----- ----, made it clear that they thought I was at times out of control and should be medicated because I had contrary opinions about my treatment at DRA and sometimes voiced those opinions. I know that many of the upper-level students who were near graduation were heavily medicated because a nurse brought students their medications every morning in full view of everyone. Some students simply did not belong at DRA
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such as bubbly, happy girls; I saw them appear increasingly “broken” and dulled as they took their medication as DRA expected.
20. I did not graduate from DRA. I was able to leave because my mother and step-father could no longer afford to keep me there. They picked me up on June 25, 2007 .
21. Before I left DRA, I had to sign a “contract” in which I promised to behave better at home. As a result, I was in constant fear of being sent back to DRA, even though I didn’t know where the funds would come from.
22. Until I turned 18, I had constant nightmares about being sent back to DRA and ----- ---- yelling at me. Once I became an adult and knew that I could not be sent back there, some of that anxiety abated. I am still haunted by what I experienced there.
23. DRA provided no transition back to “normal” life, which proved problematic. Like every other student, I spent every moment at DRA under the direction and supervision of staff members. We had no free time. I have spoken to former prisoners who have told me that they had more freedom in prison than I had at DRA. It was an extremely difficult transition from DRA, where I was watched nearly every minute of the day, to living in a house and having to take control of my own life. My mother wanted me to get a job, but, for several months, I found it difficult to do anything. I was overwhelmed and became depressed. This problem was compounded when I realized that, in the year I was at DRA, I had missed landmarks of adolescence like prom and graduation. My former friends from school had their own lives, and I felt like an intruder when I tried to re-connect with them.
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24. It has been important to me to connect with other survivors from DRA. One of my DRA classmates, --- ------, made me a “co-admin” on the Diamond Ranch Academy Facebook page, where former students can reach out to one another for support. When Ms. ------ received a threatening letter from DRA’s attorney about the name of the Facebook group, Ms. ------ offered us her support and encouragement.
25. One of the reasons Ms. ------’s DRASurvivors.com website is so important is because it gives survivors an opportunity to connect, post our stories and know that the other posters understand you and what you went through. People who have not attended DRA cannot understand what it was like to be there.
26. I began speaking with Ms. ----- about my experiences at DRA, and I submitted my “testimony” to her, which she posted on DRASurvivors.com. I had always wanted to share my story in the hope that it might help others. When I considered legal action against DRA after leaving, my step-father dissuaded me. But Ms. ----- gave me support to speak out, and she also encouraged me to contact the Hurricane, Utah police department because I felt I had suffered abuse that should be reported. I followed her suggestion, but the police officer who answered the phone was not receptive, telling me that the length of time since the abuse took place made it difficult to prove.
27. Ms. ------’s website helps survivors heal and warns parents about what happens at DRA. Many parents think DRA is a worthwhile investment that will help their children, but in my experience, DRA “breaks” children and does not offer a therapeutic environment. It is extremely important that Ms. ------’s website continues to exist so that parents can make an informed decision about what should happen with their children.
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Pursuant to 28 USC § 1746, I, ---------- -------, declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed on _______, 2015.
*Note: Signature redacted/date March 08, 2015 did not transfer.