Moonridge Academy (2003-present) Cedar City, UT
Residential Treatment Center
History and Background Information
Moonridge Academy is a CERTS behavior-modification program founded in 2004. It is marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for girls aged 11-14. Moonridge Academy states that it enrolls girls, including transgender girls, with a history of attachment issues, depression, anxiety, self-harm, school refusal, family conflict, sexual boundaries, computer addiction, attention issues and low-level substance abuse. The program has a maximum enrollment of 24 girls, and the average length of stay is reportedly between 9 and 12 months. Moonridge Academy has been a NATSAP member since 2012.
The program is located at 9450 West 2400 South, Cedar City, UT 84721. Moonridge Academy is closely affiliated with Kolob Canyon RTC, another CERTS program.
According to the organization Safe Teen Schools, “CERTS is an abusive umbrella corporation for boarding schools for troubled youth. We recommend that no parent send their child to a facility that is run by CERTS.”
Founders and Notable Staff
Jack Hinman is the Executive Director of Moonridge Academy and Kolob Canyon RTC, another CERTS program. He began his career in the TTI as a Therapist at the confirmedly abusive Island View RTC. He has also previously worked as the Clinical Director of the resportedly abusive programs Sunrise RTC and Discovery Ranch for Girls.
Tawny Thomas worked as the Executive Director of Moonridge Academy. She also worked as the Executive Director of Kolob Canyon RTC, and Director of Outreach at La Europa Academy and Kaizen Academy, which are all CERTS programs. She also works at Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy.
Jalane Christian-Stoker worked as the Clinical Director of Moonridge Academy from 2005 until 2008. She previously worked as the Clinical Director of Kolob Canyon RTC, another CERTS program.
Nateasa McGuire worked as a Therapist at Moonridge Academy. She currently works as a Lead Therapist at Evoke Therapy Intensives.
Like other behavior-modification programs, Moonridge Academy uses a level system consisting of 6 levels. Level systems have been used in many confirmedly abusive programs, including the notoriously abusive WWASP programs. The levels are reported to be:
- Level 1: On this level, the residents cannot be more than an arms length away from a staff member at all times. They are also automatically placed on suicide/harm watch. This level typically lasts 1-2 weeks.
- Level 2: On this level, the residents no longer have to stay within arms-distance of staff, but still cannot leave line-of-sight or earshot of staff. This level typically lasts 1-6 months.
- Level 3: On this level, the residents can earn privilege to leave line-of-sight, wear makeup, and take on a leadership position. This level typically lasts 1-6 months.
- Level 4: On this level, the residents gain more leadership responsibilities and freedom. They are also now considered an “upper level” and reportedly receive preferential treatment from staff. This level typically lasts 1-6 months.
- Level 5: On this level, residents earn more trivial privileges like being able to wear eyeliner. They are also treated like a staff member. This level typically lasts 1-6 months.
- Level 6: On this level, residents get ready to go home and gain additional privileges and freedoms. This level typically lasts 1-3 months.
It has been reported that the girls’ contact with their parents is extremely limited. Communication with family is considered a privilege which must be earned by the teenager. It has been reported that phone calls are closely monitored by staff. Monitored/restricted communication is one of the WWASP Program Red Flags as it creates an environment in which children are unable to report abuse and neglect.
Rules and Punishments
While at Moonridge Academy, the residents are forced to adhere to a strict set of rules. Some of these rules include:
- Must ask permission to enter/exit any room including bathroom
- 10 minute shower limit
- Must eat at least 50% of large portions or receive consequence
- Not allowed to know weight at any time
If residents break a rule, they are given a punishment. The punishments used by Moonridge Academy are reported by survivors to be:
- Manual labor
- “Silence” where they are not allowed to speak to anybody
- Physical restraint
- Sssay assignments called “consequences”
Abuse and Investigations
Several survivors report developing PTSD following their time at Moonridge Academy. Instances of abuse and neglect that have been reported by survivors include excessive restraints, staff abusing their power, punitive punishments, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. It has also been reported that male staff will participate in strip-searching the female residents. This practice can be extremely harmful and traumatic to children, especially those with histories of sexual abuse.
In 2005, the State of Maine began investigating Moonridge Academy and the quality of its program. Based on their findings, the State of Maine decided that it would not pay for treatment at the facility.
3/26/2021: (SURVIVOR) “I wish I could give this place negative stars. I was sent to Moonridge in 2003 when I was 13 years old. At that time, it was just a house on a hill surrounded by wilderness and dirt. As soon as I arrived, I was put on a cocktail of multiple medications at high dosages and because of this, there’s full periods of time that I don’t even remember. I remember telling the staff and my therapist that I felt like a zombie, and they said I was being dramatic. If we didn’t eat all of the food on our plates at every meal (which was mostly chunks of meat with large pieces of fat attached– yes, we were forced to eat the fat too) we had to sign a “food refusal form” and lost privileges like free time and your weekly phone call. We were told if we refused food three times, we would be sent to the hospital and hooked up to an IV. Many of the girls there had severe mental illnesses (schizophrenia, bipolar, etc) and the staff were completely untrained in dealing with them. One girl tried running away and one of the staff members (a very large Samoan guy) sat on her for over an hour in the dirt. I’m surprised she didn’t die. Another girl would frequently act out and the staff got sick of it so they told us to gather around her in a circle and chant “your parents are never coming to get you” at her until she laid on the floor in the fetal position crying. One of the “therapies” they promoted was horseback riding. However that was just driving to Kolob Canyon (the equally bad sister school to Moonridge for older teen girls) and shoveling horse manure and moving hay bales for hours at a time. I only actually rode a horse there maybe 4 times. There was sexual, physical, and constant emotional abuse. Not to mention the puppy that they got for us was left outside without food and eventually died of starvation. I could go on and on with the stories. Lastly, the “level program” is cult-like. Once a week there’s a “level ceremony” where the staff and students had to sit on the floor and lock arms and sway back and forth while “The Reason” by Hoobastank played. Just really weird. Have hated that song since. If you are a parent thinking of sending your child here, I am begging you not to. Please research alternatives for RTCs. I still have nightmares about this place.” – Emily (Yelp)
2021: (SURVIVOR) “I was taken from Second Nature Blue Ridge wilderness therapy in Clayton, Georgia to Moonridge Academy in Cedar City, Utah via transport service in March 2011. I had (diagnosed) ADHD, which led to emotional and physical abuse from my parents growing up. Rather than attempting to help me process my trauma, staff at MRA brainwashed me into even further believing everything was my fault and I was the only problem. I was demoted from level 4 to level 1 for kissing another girl. I was not allowed to go to the bathroom without being watched. I would rather soil myself than be watched. I worked my way back up to level 3, until one morning I had reached my emotional limit and found myself unable to get out of bed due to depression. Staff’s response to me not getting out of bed was to restrain me on the ground for hours. I was once again demoted to level 1 and lost my privileges of privacy in the bathroom and social interaction for several weeks. I fought for myself until I was so broken that I had nothing left to fight for. I learned that the only way to survive is to comply. They made me believe that I deserved all of this. I still cannot trust myself. ” – Anonymous, submitted directly to Wiki
10/22/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I was sent to Moonridge Academy in 2016 at age 12, which focused a lot on school and therapy. There was group therapy, family therapy, and individual therapy. Group therapy included either talking about how you felt or getting a Consequence and having no Free Time. Family therapy usually meant I got blamed for everything that went wrong and my therapist nodded a bunch. Individual therapy was usually fine, but I could not actually talk about things because my therapist would ask if I needed to be put on safety. Safety is when you always have to stand next to a staff member and you are watched in the bathroom. I remember opening up to my therapist about how awful I felt, maybe five months into my time at Moonridge. She only said she was worried I still felt that way. Multiple staff members would swear and threaten me if I did anything wrong, even walking too slowly. I was yelled at for the smallest things, like forgetting to line up my shoes or not asking to enter a room. Male staff members participated in female student’s strip searches. I remember crying a little while telling someone about how I felt once, and the next day, I learned I did not have free time because my daily grade had been too low from crying. Two of the staff members in particular had it out for me. One of them did not think I showered for long enough in my 12-minute time frame. She gave me a Consequence that said I had to have a female staff member watch me in the shower for the next three days to prove I was washing my hair. One girl tried to kill herself and they would not allow anyone to talk to her for a week. She did schoolwork in a different room, but she still ate meals with us. They did not have a solitary confinement room at Moonridge. A very autistic girl was regularly restrained for spinning around. No, she was not at risk of hitting someone, and no, she was not hurting herself. She was also restrained for saying she did not want to do a chore. The amount of food we ate was larger than what I was used to, and I was very small. I threw up from eating too much. If I had not eaten that much, I would have been put on safety and a female staff member would have watched me in the bathroom for the next three days. I feel like I should have been required to eat a smaller amount of food, but that was never considered. One of the girls was anemic and by the time the staff took her to the hospital two weeks later, she was close to dying. This is not an exaggeration. The doctor told her she would have died if she had come in even half a day later. I was told I was fine when I said I was depressed. My time in treatment ranges from bad to traumatic. I still have nightmares almost every night of Moonridge Academy. The only good that came from it is making one friend who I still talk to regularly. The program was traumatic for her as well.” – Grace (BreakingCodeSilence)
3/18/2020: (PARENT) “Looking for a therapeutic boarding school for your daughter? Look somewhere else. While the therapists are good at their job, the management is LACKLUSTER at best, and they are prone to taking the easy way out vs REALLY helping or caring for their girls. Our daughter was at Moonridge and management failed her on every level – with a fraudulent smile on their faces and the sing-song sound of their voices. Do yourself a favor. Find a different boarding school for your daughter.” – Ava (Yelp)
2019: (SURVIVOR) “I was a student here, the staff is extremely out of line. The only staff members that treated us well were Gwen, Danny, Karolin (Caroline?). They would restrain us before accessing the situation and would use restraining as a punishment. I was there for a year and they constantly dropped me and others back to level one for simply stating our mind about the mistreatment/abuse. We were all given the same portion of food no matter if you were smaller or bigger, if you couldn’t finish your plate they would give you a consequence (paper where you right how you were wrong)or drop your level. The level system is from 1-7, it’s extremely punitive. Jewly Krause is a manipulative woman who just wants your money, this place will not help you or your child, it will simply cause your child to push their issues deep down. They do not allow girls to explore their gender identity and if you happen to be trans they will either ignore it completely or try to convince you you’re not. The only good thing about this place is they don’t have bars on the windows so you can smash them. That’s how I got out after a year mistreatment from this place, I don’t regret it. I’m completely stable now and happy, no thanks to moonridge. So please for me and every other kid that was hurt by this place, never send your kids here” – Wilson (Google Reviews)
Moonridge Academy Website Homepage