Oakley School (1998-2017) Oakley, UT
Therapeutic Boarding School
History and Background Information
The Oakley School was an Aspen Education Group behavior-modification program that opened in 1998. It was marketed as a Therapeutic Boarding School for teenagers (14-18) who struggled with a variety of emotional, behavioral, or academic chellanges. The program had a maximum enrollment of 75 teens, and the average length of stay varied greatly from just 7 months to 4 years. In 2012, the monthly tuition cost was $6,950, plus an additoinal one-time $1,750 enrollment fee. The Oakley School was a member of NATSAP from 1999 until its closure in 2017.
The Oakley School was located at 251 W Weber Canyon Rd, Oakley, UT 84055. The campus was situated in a rural valley in Northern Utah, about 33 miles from Salt Lake City. The primary center of activity was the 25,000 square foot building, which housed the school, administration, and therapist/clinical offices. Behind this building were the boys and girls dorms, which were separated by a pond.
The program was established in 1998 and was originally intended to act as a transitional program for teens who had been released from Aspen’s notorious and confirmedly abusive Island View RTC. In 2004, Aspen Education Group purchased Oakley, as well as Island View. The program then began accepting students who were transitioning out of a range of behavior-modification programs, mainly ones owned by Aspen Education Group. In August 2013, Oakley “partnered” with InnerChange LLC. The program announced that it would be closing in May 2017.
Founders and Notable Staff
Jared Balmer is one of the founders of Oakley School. He began his career by co-founding the Rivendell Psychiatric Hospital, which was an extremely abusive facility that is known to have practiced extreme forms of conversion therapy. He later helped open several other Aspen Education Group programs, including the notorious and confirmedly abusive Island View RTC and the Aspen Institute For Behavioral Assessment, which was a branch of Island View. In 2006, he was the recipient of the NATSAP Leadership Award. He is currently the Executive Director of WayPoint Academy, which he helped found in 2013 with Mike Bulloch, who is involved with various Aspen Education Group programs including the Aspen Institute For Behavioral Assessment and the Oakley School.
Lorin Broadbent is one of the Founders of the Oakley School. He was also involved in founding Island View RTC, a confirmedly abusive Aspen Education Group program.
- Kimball DeLaMare is one of the founders of the Oakley School. He was the previous director of the KIDS of Greater Salt Lake program, which was a confirmedly abusive drug treatment program and spin-off of Straight, Inc.. KIDS was under investigation in 1989 for allegations of false imprisonment, unlawful detention and assault. Like Jared Balmer, DeLaMare also helped co-found the Aspen Institute For Behavioral Assessment and the Island View RTC. In 2004, he was the recipient of the NATSAP Leadership Award.
James Meyer is one of the Founders and the former Executive Director of the Oakley School. He continued to work as the Executive Director until 2013. he also served as a Board Member of NATSAP for 8 years, serving as Ethics Chair and later the Treasurer. He currently works as a the CEO and an Educational Consultant of Meyer Education and Family Services, which is an Ed Consultant firm that he founded with his wife in 2014.
Mike Bulloch worked as the Clinical Director of the Oakley School for 6 years. He then co-founded and worked as the Clinical Director of the Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment. In 2013, he and Jared Balmer co-founded WayPoint Academy, where he still works as the Clinical Director and Assisstant Executive Director.
Andrew Nichols worked as the Director of Experiential Education at the Oakley School from 1998 until 2007.
Like other behavior-modification programs, Oakley School used a level system consisting of 5 levels. The names and specifics of the levels are unknown, but it has been reported that there were four “ordinary” levels and one level that was used as punishment.
If you attended this program and would like to contribute information to help complete this page, please contact u/shroomskillet.
Abuse Allegations and Lawsuits
Many survivors have reported that the Oakley School was an abusive program. Allegations of abuse and neglect that have been reported by survivors include punitive punishments, isolation tactics, and verbal abuse. Although Oakley was marketed as a “step-down” program and the teens were allowed more freedoms than in other behavior-modification programs, many survivors still report that they were deeply traumatized as a result of their time at Oakley.
1/26/2019: (SURVIVOR) “I went to a wilderness program, Second Nature, and an RTC, Vista Adolescent Treatment Center and I’ve always thought Oakley was at least as bad for the low quality of their therepeutic approach, the flippant nature of the rules, and the manipulative nature of their staff. If Vista brainwashed me into a robotic Golden boy, Oakley quickly shattered that and turned me into a jaded, cynical asshole. It’s true that you have to apply to go to Oakley but that’s kind of a mindfuck tactic. First of all, a lot of the time you are applying to Oakley out of a very strict RTC, usually island view, which Oakley also owned, and you just want to leave that place. I remember applying and thinking that if there was the risk of rejection than it couldn’t be that bad, right? Like it was probably a normal school? In the lobby when I applied, a former student at Vista approached me and encouraged me not to go to Oakley. When I returned to Vista that day, which had a relatively compassionate and invested approach. I started to campaign with my parents and counselors to find somewhere else, especially a place that my immediate friends were going and seemed to like. One of my counselors was actually advocating for me but ultimately bthe… Consultant? Idk what you call that person, that my parents had wouldn’t recommend any alternatives. Vista’s social paradigm was approaching the point where it would enter a very strict and confrontational “shutdown” mode and so I really wanted to leave on time. So to say that we “applied” to Oakley is true, but it is absolutely a reuse. It’s not like people were being rejected or something Oakley classically got by by having a conventionally beautiful campus and “offering” ( really forcing) it’s students to snowboard on the weekends. How can it be that bad? Vista was a heavily regulated and monitored experience and leaving that I was heavily into rules enforcement and compliance and this immediately out me at alienated me from both the student body and the staff. This paid off during my first snowboarding expedition. I’m very non-athletic and I didn’t want to go. I was terrified actually, but I was trying but staff basically ripped into me for a couple of weeks when I lost one of my gloves after bailing and put me on the punishment level for a few months. A student’s experience at Oakley was heavily dependent on their assigned counselors, one for academics, one for therapy, and one for student life/dorm stuff, and I guess one for weekend activities. These all tend to change over time but you are stuck with your therapist and during the course of my two year stay I was unable to Foster any kind of meaningful relationship with my therapist who, ironically, was only interested in surface level compliance and day to day drama. Oakley engaged in a number of manipulative practices to extend my stay beyond necessary. Different from other programs, most students are intended to remain at Oakley until they graduate high school. So when I amassed enough units to graduate early, staff engaged in a number of measures to manipulate my parents into keeping me there another month. First they shuffled my acquired units so that I did not meet the graduation requirements, when I actually did. They for instance redesignated the number of required community service units against the required physical activity units. They then started a therapy flavored campaign with my parents that I “wasn’t interested enough in college” when in fact I was very eager about film school, they actually hamstrung my abilities to produce sample films for my applications. At one point, I asked a teacher for a letter of recommendation to a college. When I later found the letter (I wasn’t supposed to) I found that the teacher recommend that college should not admit me. During this period, I was sent to Oakley’s own miniature wilderness program with a special “college focused group.” This was a typical abusive, isolation based wilderness thing but it only lasted a few days. I think Oakley has a reputation for being more lenient, and that’s definitely true, it is not a residential treatment center and it is also true that drugs made it in on occasion and people were getting in trouble for sexual contact fairly often, including myself. I do see this as ultimately normal teenage behavior at a boarding school, though, it doesn’t really affect my view of Oakley in a negative or positive light. Rather it’s their handling of these situations that cast it in a negative view. Oakley’s rules about physical contact are very strict considering it is a coe-ed experience, including strict punishments for hand holding. Lower form was actually not the lowest and most punitive form, although it was basically the standard and most common form for all students. The most punitive form was Off-Form, which was isolation based and indefinite. I was never placed on off form but the people I know who were insist that off form lacked a constructive therepeutic element, it was ultimately just punitive isolation and hostile confrontation based groups which includes personal attacks by staff towards students. One girl promised to ship cocaine in a teddy bear to her friend after she graduated and when the staff found out they shutdown the school for a month. A USB stick with porn was found to be passed around at the boys dorm and a lot of drug use was found during these intense, all day groups. 35 people were put on off form. Oakley had a punishment reward system not just in it’s level system but in it’s pink/blue/gold slip system. Pink slips were issued for rules in fractions and warranted a number of hours of on campus community service. They were so common, with dozens running at a given moment, that there was never any meaningful service to do. The windows of each building we’re getting washed at all times for instance, lol. The floor was always being vacuumed, the porch was always being swept…. I can’t remember what else people would do. You had to have none to make middle form and to maintain middle form. If you were on anything above lower form, you had to reapply every single week which included a five paragraph essay about why you should keep that form. And that got to be ridiculous and difficult after several weeks of maintaining the form. I found this especially difficult, because my house counselor was gone for weeks at a time, and would often come back and attribute random perceptions of me. Blue slips were punishments for academic infractions, and each blue slip is a Sunday study hall you have to attend. Sunday is the only day you can sleep in and the study hall was at 6am. If you did not attend, your blue slips doubled. At one point my friend over slept too many of his blue slips and had hundreds. There was no possible way for him to move up in form unless he remained at the school for something like a decade which was kind of funny, but also spoke to the flippant and apathetic nature of the schools programing. Because everyone knew their graduation date, and because that was always the same day in December or June, people would just stop attending these study halls at all in the weeks leading up to it. At one point, the day before graduation, the one of the heads of the school threatened to deny everyone graduation if they did not attend their final blue slip Gold slips were a reward for good behavior but I can count on one hand the number given out during my time. I don’t remember what they were used for actually. I do remember that at one point someone figured out how to copy or print out the gold slips, and forged a bunch of them, but that was the only time any one had them. This is consistent with other rewards systems at Oakley, the highest form was advanced form, which could score you a private dorm. But almost no one ever attained it, and staff would used the dorm that was set aside. I think like six people made it there during my time and, naturally, they were all secretly breaking the rules in some kind of extreme way. The staff definitely had some shadier shit going on but the information was carefully buried and partitioned away from us. At one point a staff member named Eddie asked my girlfriend what her pants size was. I heard a lot of things like that about Eddie, but the big thing that happened was a newer girl made some claim along the lines that he assaulted her. She was immediately isolated on off form, and we never got to talk to her before she left and we don’t know where she went. I can’t remember the name of this girl or the exact nature of the claim but certainly nothing was done about it, in fact Eddie was eventually promoted to head counselor for one of the girls dorms. I wish I can offer more details about the girl that was assaulted but she was isolated before most of us realized she was at the school At one point staff caused a gas leak in one of the dorms and tried to cover it up. Parents still found out and then they blamed it on a student. Another time during some kind of celebratory event staff accidentally mixed up snow cone flavoring with anti freeze and sent a few dozen students to the hospital. Some people hated the school so much they went to the hospital for the night even though they didn’t have a snow cone. They chose a stomach oump over a night at Oakley. They were bribed with snacks and fast food and little was made of it with the parents. Food was heavily commodified in a punishment sense. Only my dorm was locked out of our personal food amenities for most of my stay. The cafeteria food was really, bad so this was pretty rough and also characteristic of Oakley’s firm philosophy of punishing the entire group over the individual. Ultimately I feel like it’s hard to identify how else Oakley was so horrible, especially compared to stricter facilities. Perhaps I would say that Oakley is what happens when you take the punitive aspects of and RTC, remove almost all of the real therapy component, and place it in a cery nice prep boarding school. I would say that notions that “keep your head down and lick the staff shoes” is accurate about how to survive at oakley” – NivvyMiz (Fornits)
2017: (SURVIVOR) “I went to this terrible school for unwanted children, DO NOT support this school or any of their practices. DO NOT send you children here.” – Anonymous (Google Reviews)
2014: (SURVIVOR) “If i could give it negative stars I would. If you thought PTSD was only a negative effect of those in war this school will change your mind. I still to this day have nightmares about being systematically trapped there. I was so stressed I suffered physically, academically, psychologically, emotionally and my personal development was stunted. They lied to me and my family just to keep me. No child should ever be left with these people, regardless of their past.” – Kate (Google Reviews)
6/23/2013: (SURVIVOR) “I went to second Nature Dechanne or however you spell it. I spent three months there and I assumed that I would to go back home but as you all know that doesn’t happen. My mom told me before I went that I was not going to an after-care she promised me. I went there because I smoked pot daily and didn’t listen to what my dad said. I didn’t know how to deal with my anger and I couldn’t tell my dad that I didn’t want to live at his house because it made me sad. So I tried to get him to kick me out by not listening to his rules and being rude. That didn’t work so I stole his credit card and had an online shopping spree of 400$. I was told prior to leaving that I was going to residential treatment for 30 days so I agreed and my mom gave consent because I agreed. I found out it was Second Nature and was very unhappy but I learned how to deal. I eventually made it to water-phase which is not an easy feat. After three months of snow storms and tears I was told I was going to Oakley. I was pissed because I was lied to by my mom and my therapist from home. I went to Oakley and loved the freedom. The people were evil though. The staff did not care. I didn’t have a therapy session for the first three weeks I was there. The kids were cruel to each other and did aweful things to get high that were worse than pot. Like hand sanitizer, choking eachother, huffing paint, and huffing their own shit. They were also into fighting which makes sense because they were all violent at home but I was not and was not into fighting espesially not for fun. I made no friends for the first two months and wrote suicide notes and drew comics of me killing myself. I felt betrayed by my mom. One of the comics was found and I was dropped to Lower form. I was punished for my saddness. I then realized I had to fake happiness. I felt worse inside but appeared great on the outside. I couldn’t tell anyone how deppressed I felt, it was aweful. I went home in March last week and my mom decided I shouldn’t return because I told her what was going on. LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN PROGRAMS MANIPULATE YOU TEN TIMES MORE THAN THEY DO. they manipulate you by telling you that they are manipulating you. If you do send your child away make sure it is for a valid reason. If you send your child to an after-care which they almost force you to do at wilderness because they get paid for that, MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD NEEDS IT AND REALLY CHECK OUT THE PLACE GO THERE, GO ONLINE, RESEARCH AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.” – Jean-Luc (Tales from the Black School)
5/6/2013: (SURVIVOR) “I was a student at the Second Nature Cascade program when it was first begining. I was in Cindy’s group (she was my therepist), I can say that Wilderness was a very beneficial time for me. I learned to be self sufficient and I gained back confidence that I was missing due to social difficulites as well as a heavy drug abuse issue. I was there past my 18th Birthday which any one will tell you is a very difficult time. I made the desicion to stay and finish the program, I left on Water Phase, which is no small accomplishment. This being said, my parents then sent me to a place called the Oakley School in Utah which was a Thereputic Boarding school. where I was placed on Off-Form For having a “Negative Attitude” and I will be the first to admit that I did. however, after being placed on Off-form I was removed from the community for 6 Months unable to communicate with anyone. This was one of the most depressing times in my life. i eventually earned my way to Lower Form and was able to talk to people again. however many of the staff continued to reffer to me as a “Black Hole” and warned other students not to associate with me. This was not true even my therepist disagreed with this treatment of me. Due to all of the Verbal Harassment I suffered my therepist and I decided it would be best if I left. so in january I did. shortly there after roughly two weeks. I was again living with my parents and trying to get help to reverse the immense depression the Oakley School had caused, but I slipped further down and finally attempted suicide. I did not succeed, obviously, but I was able to get the help i needed, to overcome the immense depression Oakley had Caused. I understand that all of the parents out there who struggled with children who have issues similar to mine, wan tto listen blindly when you are told your child needs a second program. I am hear to tell you that it is true only for the vast minority. having watched many fellow students in these secondary care centers get worse and relapse I urge you to due more research and really think if they need it. many of those places are Profit Seeking Ventures and hire incompitent employees who emotionally abuse the students whom they do not like. not to sound like a conspirisist but the number of kick backs and special retreats for high preforming Educational consultants is discusting. I Implore you to LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN we are not trying to manipulate you, as you are so often told. you are being lied to by the administration at most of those places. I will again say that Wilderness helpped me SO much and i was able to overcome my drug abuse issues through wilderness, and it all was un-done by the RTC. I wish you all the best with your struggle and I hope you can see a little hope when i tell you that I speek with my parents on a daily basis even though I am out of state at college.” – Andy (Tales from the Black School)
Oakley School Website Homepage (archived, 2009)
HEAL Program Information