Diamond Ranch Academy (1999-present) Hurricane, UT
Therapeutic Boarding School
History and Background Information
Diamond Ranch Academy is a WWASP-affiliated behavior-modification program. It was originally founded in 1999 in Boise, ID by Rob and Sherri Dias as a Therapeutic Boarding School. In 2001, Diamond Ranch moved to a 200-acre ranch located at 1500 E 2700 S, Hurricane, UT 84737. This location is the current location of Three Points Center, and the former location of Olympus Academy. In 2012, it moved again to its current location at 433 Diamond Ranch Pkwy, Hurricane, UT 84737. It enrolls both boys and girls aged 12-17. The average length of stay is 10-12 months, but is subject to extension if the child is deemed resistant. Tuition is reported to be around $7,000 per month.
Diamond Ranch Academy was founded as part of the WWASP organization. It allegedly ended its partnership with WWASP around the time WWASP started recieving negative media attention and allegations of abuse in its programs. However, it is important to note that while the legal partnership with WWASP may have ended, it is to be assumed that its affiliation with WWASP and use of the WWASP program model was unchanged by this.
Two teens have died while attending DRA.
Founders and Notable Staff
Rob Dias is the Founder/CEO/Owner of Diamond Ranch Academy. He is married to Sherri Dias. There are allegations that they were involved in the opening of Three Points Center in 2016.
Sherri Dias was the formerExecutive Director of Diamond Ranch Academy. She is married to Rob Dias. There are allegations that they were involved in the opening of Three Points Center in 2016.
Katie Soli worked as a Therapist at Diamond Ranch Academy. She currently works for Three Points Center.
Cody Wardle is the current Executive Director of DRA. He has worked at DRA since 2003. His prior employment is unknown.
Kade Mathews is the current Clinical Director of DRA. He began his career in the TTI as an Intensive Support Unit Staff at the reportedly abusive Heritage Schools. He then worked as a Therapist at Wasatch Mental Health and then at Family Support and Treatment Center. He began working at DRA in 2006.
Stephen Beck works as a Therapist at DRA. Prior to joining DRA, he worked as a staff at the reportedly abusive Lava Heights Academy.
Brianna Roselles works as a Therapist at DRA. Prior to this, she worked as a therapist at the confirmedly abusive Elevations RTC, which is a rebrand of the notorious Island View RTC.
Chad Graff works as a Therapist at DRA. He previously worked Director of Clinical Services and the Program Director of the confirmedly abusive Red Rock Canyon School from 2011 until 2019, when he joined DRA.
Anne Schwab works as a Therapist at DRA. She previously worked as a Staff at the reportedly abusive Abundant Life Academy. She then worked as a Therapist at the confirmedly abusive Red Rock Canyon School.
Malynda Scott works as a Therapist at DRA. She previously worked as a Residential Staff at an unnamed Treatment Center in Syracuse, UT (which is the location of Island View RTC/Elevations RTC. She also worked as a Substance Abuse Counsellor at an unnamed program in Layton, UT (which is the location of Solstice RTC.
Like other WWASP programs, Diamond Ranch Academy utilizes a level system. The levels are:
- Homeless/Discovery: This is the level a student is put on when they arrive at DRA. When on this level, a resident is reqcuired to accept that their family has placed them there.
- Student: After 2 months at DRA, a teen is eligible to move up to Student. They are also allowed to have two 8-hour visits with their parents during this time.
- Supervisor: – After 4 months at DRA, a teen is eligible to move up to Supervisor. They are also allowed to have one overnight visit with their parents.
- Manager: – After 6 months at DRA, a teen is eligible to move up to Manager. They are allowed to have three overnight visits with their parents.
- Director: – After 8 months at DRA, a teen is eligible to move up to Director. They are now permitted to go on a week-long home-visit with their family.
- Graduate: After 10 months at DRA, a teen is eligible to move up to Graduate. They are also allowed to go on one 10-day homevisit with their family.
- Post-Graduate: After 12 months, the teen is eiligible to move up to Post-Graduate. This is the level when they graduate the program.
In addition, they have a level called Unemployment which is used as punishment. Being “unemployed” means being forced to drag or pull a cart around the property from 5am in the morning to 10pm in the evening. Even their meals must be eaten outside so they do not abandon the cart. Residents could be placed on Unemployment for breaking any number of rules, including destruction of ranch property, being more than 15 feet from staff, stealing food, talking to the other gender, or swearing.
Another punishment used by DRA is “RFI”. During this punishment, the teen is forbidden from speaking to anybody- even staff. They are also made to do extreme phsyical exercises and are only given cold food to eat. Although RFI sometimes only lasts for a few days, some teens report being put on RFI for multiple months.
If the teenagers threaten to run or commit suicide they are put on Safety Watch. While on Safety Watch, residents have their shoes laces taken and are required to be strip-searched 3 times a day, along with a shower search at the end of the night.
Abuse, Deaths, and Lawsuits
There have been many claims of physical, emotional, sexual, and mental abuse at Diamond Ranch Academy. There have been reports of staff physically beating students and dragging them out of buildings.
On January 10, 2009, 15-year-old James Shirey Jr. was preparing to graduate from Diamond Ranch Academy when he suddenly fell ill. The counsellors were unsure whether or not he was faking his illness in order to be transported so he could escape, so they delayed seeking medical attention for him. By the time James arrived at the hospital, it was too late. His cause of death was not immediately known, however it has since been reported that he died as a result of a rare genetic disorder, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.
In 2013, Paris Jackson, daughter of singer Michael Jackson, was placed at Diamond Ranch Academy following a suicide attempt. Paris Jackson has since stated that she suffered symptoms of PTSD after attending the school.
Also in 2013, a young boy at the facility successfully committed suicide by hanging himself with a belt which was apparently provided to him by DRA.
In October 2015, 34-year-old Chad Ryan Hunstman, a teacher at DRA was arrested on 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony, along with two first-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child after “several hundred” pictures of child pornography were found on his iPhone. In 2017, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
In 2017, a 16-year-old former-resident, Hannah Wilkin, and her parents filed a lawsuit against the facility alleging she was sexually abused by her therapist, Troy Ammon Carter. Carter was terminated from working at DRA in May 2016 for inappropriate physical contact with another student. Wilkin came forward shortly after this. According to the court documents, Carter “allegedly told the minor details about his sex life, questioned her about her own sexual history and made inappropriate comments about her physical appearance.” The complaint also states that Carter “straddled Wilkin and unhooked her bra while providing a back massage in his office without a chiropractic license.” Following the announcement of Wilkin’s lawsuit, two more former DRA residents have come forward with allegations of abuse against Carter.
5/5/2021: (SURVIVOR) “Hi! I wanted to talk a little about Diamond Ranch Academy and my experience there. I don’t know where to start but here are some of the worst things I can think of. We had a punishment called RFI. Part of RFI that left a lasting impact on me was that you weren’t allowed to talk to anyone even staff. I spend 2 and a half months straight in RFI. No talking except to raise my hand to ask to go the bathroom and if I had therapy (every other week at most). there were 2 parts of RFI, academics and the “night” RFI. Instead of school I was in academic RFI and for weeks they made me sit in the corner so I could only see the wall during day rfi. I was going absolutely crazy and I one day said I’m sorry I need to sit somewhere else today. They wouldn’t let me and I sat anyways on another desk they called in male staff to physically move me and put my in the chair and I was so stubborn I tried to leave so they held me down for about an hour which seemed like hours while I eventually cried and finally gave up. Sorry to get so detailed Ill just do a couple short things now: male staff told me about how he saw older boys raping young boys and thought it was funny and joked about it, other male staff commenting on who had a nice ass out of us girls, watched people screaming and crying (bc they were going crazy) most days, saw people self harm to the point where some used their fingers to scratch the skin off their arms and blood was everywhere, was convinced at times I deserved it because they constantly told us we ALL deserved this and if we don’t agree we are entitled. im not going to keep going on. If there is anything I could do to help stop treatment centers or DRA please let me know and if anyone has questions for me I can tell you anything! Thank you for reading <3″ – u/hotbitchxxxx (Reddit)
9/29/2020: (SURVIVOR) “DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILDREN HERE. I was a student of DRA for a year. During this time myself and countless others experienced endless acts of abuse, physical violence and humiliation. What they show you in photos and explain to you over the phone is nothing like the actual experience there. I still experience trauma to this day, and have had to seek out therapy to help with the emotional trauma I still endure. The people who are supposed to be helping your children will be the same ones abusing them. Please take some time and look up the plethora of cases of abuse that have happened there, the kids that have taken their own life and the teachers who have been distributing and fabricating child pornography. YOU WILL RUIN YOUR CHILDS ABILITY TO TRUST ANYONE IF YOU SEND THEM HERE.” – Will V. (YELP)
2019: (SURVIVOR) “I attended this program several years ago. It was a very terrible experience and it saddens me that they have become this successful. After I tired to run away when I first arrived they made me perform “energy release” where they forced me to exercise until I couldn’t move anymore. My legs were so sore afterwards that I couldn’t bend them at all for 3 weeks. Then they strip searched me every hour 24 hours a day for a week and then every 2 hours for an other week. When they strip searched me at night they would do it with the door open in a dorm room with 3 other students who could see me. I was also on “shower searches” were they’d watch me shower for 2 weeks afterwards I ran. If I could give zero stars I would.” – Will (Google Reviews)
7/12/2019: (SURVIVOR) “Please make sure this is a last resort situation for your child. This will undoubtedly have a huge detrimental / traumatizing effect on your child’s perception of life – so PLEASE respectfully outweigh the pro’s and con’s or please contact me ANYTIME so I can personally contest the agony this place has put me through from age 16-18. if you are looking to break your child down mentally, emotionally, and physically through torturous means – this is the place. Diamond Ranch Academy should not be permitted to exist… I am only writing this review after waking up from a nightmare of Mr. Rob Love restraining me for not being able to talk to my loved ones. (Restraining = they will beat the crap out of children with consent)” – Kevin S. (YELP)
12/11/2019: (SURVIVOR) “As a high school graduate from Diamond Ranch Academy in Hurricane, UT this was one of the most traumatizing experiences I was ever put through. I was a 4.0 GPA honors student with a clean record prior to being unwillingly sent. In May 2014, I was awoken at 3:00am to two strangers who took me to this boarding school on a red eye flight. I was at this school for roughly 6 months. During the 6 months, I quickly finished my senior year of high school with all A’s. Prior to being sent to DRA, I was actively filling out college applications and taking the ACT’s. At DRA, they did not supply me with tools and resources to apply for college. However, during a visit with my mother I was able to apply to college and later became accepted into a university where I was able to study Pre-Med. Upon arriving to DRA, the study directors mocked me asking me if I was going to walk home and work at McDonald’s. I told them no, I would like to be a scientist. Fast forward five years, I am a scientist for a pharmaceutical company and am pursuing a Master’s of Science in a Engineering. What DRA did for me: absolutely nothing, they did not provide me with the skill set I needed to apply to college, therapy was a joke, they laugh and mock you, I developed severe anxiety after returning home, I had flashbacks years later, the directors manipulate your parents, they have no opportunities for kids to grow, your child will gain a ton of weight, they are manipulative, rude and mean, they also have teachers that were sex offenders that used to work there. Please do not send your child there. There are better resources.” – Laurel A. (YELP)
3/2/2019: (SURVIVOR) “Diamond Ranch Academy stunted my growth. I know some of you will send your child anywhere where they will be abused. But some of you are desperate, loving parents who may be afraid for your child. I advise you to try something else. And not just another residential treatment center with good PR. Many parents send their children to therapy or to centers without going themselves. In the event of any dysfunction or distress in the family, the whole family needs to heal. Do not make your child a black sheep. Don’t teach them to punish themselves into someone they can love. Choose treatment focused on empathy, research, and holistic healing. The folks at DRA are businessmen. They have a lot of money. They’ve had to rebrand over and over again because of lawsuits and liability issues. In the not so distant past, they would drag kids up the stairs if they didn’t want to run. Kids have died from exhaustion and lack of medical treatment. They bought the most expensive football field they could create and moved locations to try and make themselves look less like a concentration camp. I went in there not knowing a thing about drugs, l left knowing everything. Kids learn to talk honestly in the sparse times they were away from staff. They put on an act, because honesty would be punished. And most kids feel betrayed when they’re sent away, especially when they’re sent to a place that is abusive. Some of these kids never forgive their families. That’s the risk you’re taking when you send them to a place like this. That’s how bad it is on the inside. Many parents regret sending their children to many residential centers, not just DRA. They’ll lie to your face. They’ll say what YOU want to hear. They’ll make it seem like their treatment has a high success rate, when there are no statistics on it. And I know DRA graduates. They relapse. And continue to struggle with mental illness. You cannot think that your child will just “be better” after spending some time in treatment. Some mental illnesses are lifelong. Some addictions are lifelong. Many who recover have to go to hospitals or rehabs multiple times. There’s no easy fix, and people make a lot of money preying on desperate people.” – Cassandra W. (YELP)
2017: (SURVIVOR) “Went there in 2010. Here are some quick hits.
- Forced to smile in pictures
- No touching allowed
- Forced papsmear upon arrival done by a ~60 year old MALE which felt incredibly invasive and uncomfortable as a 16/17 year old.
- Required to write in journals but only positive thoughts which gave me no outlet to express any frustration or sadness I was feeling
- Phone calls to parents are monitored and only positive stories are allowed to be told to the parents (I tried to tell them something inappropriate a teacher said to me and my therapist hung up the phone call mid sentence)
- You are not allowed to tell other students you love them
- The program is incredibly hard to graduate in 8 months. I signed myself out once I turned 18 after a year of being there and no graduation date in sight.
I am a 24 year old college grad and working professional and looking back I would still never send my child there, and the emotional trauma far outweighed any benefits I may have gained.” – Natalie L. (Google Reviews)
11/11/2015: (SURVIVOR) “This place is absolutely horrible. The program is driven towards making rob diaz lots of money. I was there in 2005-06 and it did no good for me. I had a 3.0 gpa and was on track to graduate, after dra i had a higher gpa but was behind on my school. They put 7th through 12th graders in the same classes and the teachers just hand out packets. Rob diaz jr. (Robby) seemed to like to “restrain” kids to much. It includes bending there arms the wrong way and makes it difficult to breath. All in all waist of my parents money and left me behind. Thanks dra.” – Travis H. (YELP)
When Far From Home – DRA Survivor’s Testimony
Girl, 16, files sexual assault lawsuit against Diamond Ranch (The Spectrum, 2017)
Diamond Ranch Academy is sued after a therapist is accused of sexually abusing teen student (Salt Lake Tribune, 2017)
Abuse allegations continue at Utah residential youth treatment facilities (American Aljazeera, 2015)
The Troubled Teen Industry: The Politics of Abuse within Therapeutic Boarding Schools (Medium, 2017)
Diamond Ranch Academy Official Admission Documents
Diamond Ranch Academy’s Wikipedia Page
New Lawsuit Filed against Diamond Ranch Academy (2017)
Information about James Shirey Jr.
Former teacher sentenced to 22 years for federal child porn charge (2017)
Diamond Ranch Academy teen treatment facility opens new Hurricane campus (2012)