Alpine Academy (2001-present) Erda, UT
Therapeutic Boarding School
History and Background Information
Alpine Academy is a behavior-modification program founded in 2001 as a part of Utah Youth Village. It is marketed as a therapeutic boarding school for teenagers aged 12-18 with “intense therapeutic needs.” Their website states that they enroll teens with a history of: “Depression (including mood disorders and bipolar disorders), Anxiety (including generalized anxiety, obsessive compulsive tendencies, eating disordered behavior, and social phobias), Traumas (including post-traumatic stress disorder from early childhood neglect or abuse, physical or sexual abuse, or related to significant grief and loss), Relationship problems with family or peers (including attachment disorders), Attention deficits (including ADD or ADHD), Traits of personality disorders (including borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic), Autism Spectrum Disorder (Level 1) or Spectrum-like traits, Poor self-esteem, Internet/Gaming/Technology issues, withdrawal and isolation from family and friends; trouble maintaining friendships; discontinuation of previously enjoyable activities; excessive anger or verbal aggression; defiance toward authority or unwillingness to follow directions; school avoidance or refusal; substance experimentation or abuse; risky sexual activity; self-harm; suicidal ideation or gestures; Internet obsession or addiction; leaving home without permission for significant periods of time; frequent dishonest communication; and declining academic performance.” The typical length of stay is between 10-12 months, but can be much longer if the teenager is deemed resistant.
Alpine Academy operates in two separate campuses; one for boys and one for girls. The address associated with the girls program is 1280 Whispering Horse Drive, Erda, UT 84074, and is referred to as the “Mountain View” campus. The boy’s campus is located only 3 miles south of Mountain View, at 1492 Meadowbrook Dr. Tooele, UT 84074., and is referred to as the “Lakeview” campus.
Founders and Notable Staff
Lila Bjorklund was the founder of Alpine Academy. According to HEAL, she was never a licensed mental health professional in Utah. She previously founded Utah Girls’ Village in 1969, which was the precursor to Utah Youth Village, which also accepted male residents. She was devout member of the LDS Church and is affilated with Brigham Young University. She died in 2002 at the age of 87 due to complications resulting from surgery.
Janet Mulitalo (Farnsworth) worked as the Program Director of Alpine Academy beginning from 2003 until 2006. She previously worked at an unnamed “faith-based” program in Mississippi. She also worked as the Director of Utah Youth Village. From 2014 until 2015, she worked as the Vice President of Business Development at InnerChange. She then became the Executive Director of the reportedly abusive Oakley School from 2015 until 2016. She then worked as the Executive Director of the confirmedly abusive West Ridge Academy from 2016 until 2021. She now works at a new program called Oasis Ascent.
Jonathan R. Carver worked as a “house parent” at Alpine Academy. In 2009, he admitted to engaging in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student at Alpine Academy. Court documents detailing the original charges (four counts of rape, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of witness tampering) indicate Carver had sex with the girl at least 20 times between October and December of 2008. Both Carver and his wife were fired when the school was informed of the investigation in mid-March, she said. They had worked there for eight months. He pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to five counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse.
Kayla Walker worked as the Fitness/Recreation Coordinator at Alpine Academy. In 2010, she was arrested for sexually abusing one of her athletes when she coached at a Duchesne County High School three decades ago. She was charged in 8th District Court with 10 counts of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony; two counts of object rape, a first-degree felony; and nine counts of forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony.
Alpine Academy’s Mountain View campus is seperated into a number of houses. The residents are divided between these houses. They include:
Like other behavior-modification programs, Alpine Academy uses a level system. The levels are as follows:
- Daily: This level is reported to last between 1-4 months.
- Weekly: This level is reported to last between 4-7 months.
- Achievement: This level is reported to last between 0-3 months.
- Focus: This level is used a punishment for when a resident has broken a rule.
Survivors have reported that the program requires residents to earn points for good behavior while avoiding demerits for negative behaviors. This system is the same system as was used in WWASP programs, and is inherently abusive.
If a resident breaks a rule at Alpine Academy, they are punished based on the severity of the infraction. Survivors have reported that social isolation is a very common punishment at Alpine Academy. One survivor remembers, “If you did something wrong, you wouldn’t be allowed to talk to people, either for a day or up to weeks, if you did something that was bad enough.” There were apparently cameras in the buildings, which means it is very unlikely that any rule violation goes unpunished.
Abuse Allegations and Lawsuits
Alpine Academy is reported by survivors to be a very abusive program. Allegations of abuse and neglect include physical abuse, blatant conversion therapy, forced manual labor, and social isolation. There are also confirmed reports of sexual abuse against several of the school’s employees. Additionally, there are reports of seuxal harrassment and grooming of the residents in the program committed by staff members. Survivors have also reported that the staff at Alpine Academy, as is the case with many programs located in Utah, are heavily Mormon and encourage the residents there to convert to the LDS Religion. In addition, survivors have reported that POC are treated especially poorly at Alpine Academy, and are “whitewashed” meaning the staff force them to change the way they talk, wear their hair, and how thy dress to appear “more white”.
One survivor describes her experience as a type of spiritual abuse. “You’re being abused, emotionally and psychologically every day by people who are telling you that they’re helping you, that they love you, they care about you, and that this is the best for you,” she said. “Actually one of the most traumatizing parts of being there: I had to stand up in front of everyone and read this speech that they make all of us do called, ‘Yes, I’m getting better.’ I had to, like, put on this show and the smile like loving the place and having had a great experience when all I was thinking about was how horrible was and how much I couldn’t wait to get out.”
At some point before 2016, there was a website created by parents and past-residents of Alpine Academy called alpineacademycomplaints.com in which they expressed their anger and grievances towards the program. Around 2016, Alpine Academy allegedly bought this website and completely scrubbed it, turning it into a apparent marketing website where they “receive” positive feedback from so-called former-residents of the school. Here is a link to an archived (2016) version of the scrubbed website after Alpine Academy bought it.
In 2009, a former resident at Alpine Academy reported that a staff member at the school, Jonathon R. Carver, had had a sexual relationship with her during her time there while she was 17. Carver admitted to engaging in a sexual relationship with her, and court documents detailing the original charges (four counts of rape, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of witness tampering) indicate Carver had sex with the girl at least 20 times between October and December of 2008. Charging documents allege sexual contact between the two took place mainly in the house where the girls lived, and once in the attached quarters where he and his wife lived after the wife left to take a student to California. Another incident happened in a school van before Carver dropped the girl off at Salt Lake City International Airport for a flight to visit her home out of state, according to charging documents. Both Carver and his wife were fired when the school was informed of the investigation in mid-March, she said. They had worked there for eight months. He pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to five counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse. He was sentences to serve at least five years in prison, with a maximum of 30 years. (Reference)
In 2010, a teacher at Alpine Academy, Kayla Walker, was charged with sexually abusing one of her athletes when she coached at a Duchesne County High School three decades ago. She was charged in 8th District Court with 10 counts of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony; two counts of object rape, a first-degree felony; and nine counts of forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony. Roosevelt police were contacted in August by a Davis County woman who told them Walker had sexually abused her. The woman said she was 16 years old when she was introduced to Walker in September 1978 at Union High School and that they spent “numerous hours together before, during and after school, often well into the evening talking about gymnastics and life in general,” charging documents state. The woman said the alleged sexual abuse began in early 1979 after she suffered an injury during practice. She told officers that Walker invited her to her home “to help her with her injury” and had the woman undress partially to massage her shoulder and back. During the massage, Walker touched the woman’s breasts, the charges state. The abuse continued over several months in 1979 and 1980, the charges state, escalating to the point where Walker would insist on sharing a room when the two traveled to out of town gymnastics meets, the woman said. Walker would also show up at the woman’s home when her mother was away and sleep in the woman’s bed with her, according to the charges. “(The woman) said she and Walker slept together in her bed at least two times a week for approximately 10 months until she turned 18 years of age,” the charges state, noting that the pair engaged in sexual activity during those encounters “at least 50 times.” (Reference)
In 2011, a 13-year-old resident, Astrid Valdivia, ran away from Alpine Academy. Five days after her escape, she was fatally shot by the 31-year-old man with whom she left the state of Utah, Anthony Martinez. Martinez shot Valdivia after she ran towards him during a shoot-out with police in January of 2011, before shooting himself in the heart. It was reported to have been a murder-suicide prompted by police officers engaging the duo outside of a Walmart in Port Orchard, Washington. Her parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit, and named defendants in the case including the Utah Department of Human Services, Utah Youth Village, two therapists who treated the teenager, and two companies who provide ankle monitoring services for the state. (Reference)
12/5/2020: (SURVIVOR) “Alpine Academy is abusive and I do not at all recommend sending your child here. They use isolation, humiliation, and shaming as punishment and have left many of us (myself included) with C-PTSD due to the trauma we endured during our stay. They are also incredibly homophobic and transphobic and have used conversion therapy on LGBTQ+ youth who have been sent there. Please do not send your kid here or to any other program in the Troubled Teen Industry. Outpatient therapy with trusted therapists and psychiatrists and support groups in your hometown are your best bet if you have a child who is in need of treatment. (Also like many have already said, a good portion of the positive reviews were written by staff members) Do not trust this place with your child.” – Keagan (Yelp)
7/6/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I haven’t gone through anything as traumatic as every one else did in this community, but my experience there did leave a scar inside me. Before I got transferred to alpine, I would skip classes due to anxiety and I showed no signs of improvement, so the school district assigned me to a rtc called alpine academy in utah(I was living in California at the time). I never was doing anything illegal or being rebellious, yet the school district put me in a place that treated you like a criminal who couldn’t be trusted and needed to be supervised at all times(in their “manual” it even tells the parents that they shouldn’t trust their kids because they’re “manipulative”). When I got there I thought I would only be staying for a week or something and then I could decide whether it’s good for me or not, but no, they kept me there for an entire month, they wouldn’t allow me to contact my mother the first few weeks, even though I was crying and begging. They wouldn’t even let you go upstairs on your own, you couldn’t even go to the bathroom without asking permission first, you can’t even listen to music unless you have enough “points” aka privilege, there were alarms INSIDE each room that we were staying in, so at night you had to use the intercom to use the bathroom; basically you couldn’t do anything. Once I wanted to be left alone and I went outside for a brief moment, and the family teacher followed me outside and ordered me to go back in, so I did; later on they confiscated my books which were my only comfort. Another instance, I ran to my room because I couldn’t stand being in the family teachers presence, they followed me there and threatened to take my points away. That was the last straw; I started to scream and punch myself repeatedly, the man locked my arms at my back and forced me to answer him that I’ll stop. My “therapist” compared my struggles with the other girls and trivialized it, saying “she didn’t understand why I was in worse condition than the other girls even though I haven’t gone through as much as them”. There are so many more I could list, but these are some of them. After many pleas, I was finally allowed to leave that god awful place. I still hate the school district and alpine for the things they’ve done to make my life worse.” – u/ameliabkobe (Reddit)
10/14/2019: (SURVIVOR) Link to Survivor Testimony
2018: (SURVIVOR) “Alpine will try to convince you that it’s different from the rest of the Troubled Teen Industry, but it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This abusive “school” is a glorified prison and will likely traumatize your child for life. I know because I went there. What they do there is 100% brainwashing. They strip you of your dignity and your sense of self. If you are thinking about sending your child away, I beg you to find a way to get them the help they need at home. Alpine might make them behave better on the outside, but all it does is teach them to turn their anger inward. Because of Alpine, I became obsessed with controlling my thoughts and feelings and developed multiple severe anxiety disorders as a result. I still have PTSD-style nightmares on a regular basis of being kidnapped or trapped. Please don’t do this to your child.” – Avital (Google Reviews)
11/18/2018: (SURVIVOR) “Alpine Academy completely traumatized me. I live with crippling anxiety and constant nightmares from PTSD because of this place. Alpine will try to convince parents that it’s different from the rest of the Troubled Teen Industry, but it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Their “treatment” is not evidence or research based, and not only is it ineffective, it does more harm than good. This is not truly a residential treatment center! It is a TTI facility, they rebranded as an RTC after a highly publicized rape case took place where one of their staff raped a student. It’s hard to find good info about this place because they have paid good money to scrub the internet clean of any complaints from parents or former students. if you dig deep enough, you will find it. what they do there is nothing short of brainwashing. trust me, a year or two of taking a break from being a parent is not worth the decades of misery your child will go through trying to get over the trauma of being in a place like this. i know because i went there!!! and i will never be the same. please don’t do this to your child!” – Avital (Yelp)
2017: (SURVIVOR) “SINCE ALPINE KEEPS DELETING MY REVIEW HERE IT IS AGAIN: The staff gave up on me. This includes that Michele Boguslofski, one of the fakest people I have ever met, who everyone thinks is some kind of hero. She personally gave me the honor of screaming in my face for a good 10 mins saying I don’t deserve help, especially from such a “prestigious” therapeutic school like Alpine. Her words. Most of the girls there didn’t like it except for a few alumni that come back regularly and make speeches and reviews about their good experiences. There were some others that liked it once the whole process was done. Good for them, glad they got help, but thats not the majority. A part of moving up in the levels and getting points is to tell touring parents how much you love it there, most girls currently there aren’t able to tell their real opinions. Have been to a few rtc’s and this was by far the snobbiest with the least dedicated staff. Once they realize you will not be a success story and will take extra work they give up very quick! Thanks to the few amazing staff that didn’t give up on me or tell me I was worthless when I left! They need to be the ones getting the credit, not that fake director that loves being told what a life saver and changer she is. I still think about you guys sometimes, thank you! I liked my therapist for the most part, he was a great person.” – Mysty (Google Reviews)
Alpine Academy Website Homepage
HEAL Program Information – Alpine Academy
Police Call Records – Alpine Academy
Far From Home: Utah Makes Millions On ‘Troubled Teens’ (NPR Illinois, 12/18/2019)
Ex-employee admits sex with teen at school for troubled girls (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/5/2009)
Up to 30 years for man who raped girl at home for troubled youth (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/6/2009)
Alpine Academy – Sex & Rape Charges