Old West Academy (2007-2019) Randolph, UT
Therapeutic Boarding School
History and Background Information
Old West Academy was a WWASP-affiliated behavior-modification program which opened in 2007 in the previous location of Majestic Ranch Academy. It is widely recognized as the re-branding of Majestic Ranch, as it used the same program and most of the same staff. It was marketed as a therapeutic boarding school for children as young as 7 to 14. It was located at 6450 N. Manhead Road, Randolph, UT 84060 on a 2000-acre ranch.
As of May 2018, marketing for the school was conducted by the Teen Paths subsidiary of WWASP.
The program is reported to have closed sometime in 2019 due to a dramatic drop in enrollment.
Founders and Notable Staff
Wayne Winder was employed by Majestic Ranch in 2001 as the Director of the program. In 2002, Wayne was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual abuse, a first-degree felony; child abuse, a second-degree felony; dealing in material harmful to a minor, a third-degree felony; and two counts of child abuse that are class A misdemeanors. This arrest came after reports that Wayne had been sexually abusing children at the facility. However, he was allowed to continue working at Majestic Ranch/Old West Academy as the Personnel Director and Daily Living Coordinator until at least 2012. Although the school claimed Winder was no longer the director of the program following his arrest, it has been widely reported that this was untrue, and he still maintained his role as Director and overseer of the program.
Tammy Johnson was reported to have become the Director of Majestic Ranch Academy in July, 2002. She supposedly took over as Director following Winder’s arrest in June, 2002. However, it has been reported that this was more a publicity move, and that her role within the school was not actually as the director.
Like other WWASP programs, Old West Academy used a level system (called “statuses”) based around children earning merits/demerits. The six statuses were as follows:
- Regular: When a child arrived at OWA, they were placed on “Regular” status. Children on this level were allowed to participate in the regular schedule of activities, but they had to be with a staff member at all times.
- Achievement: In order to move up to this level, a child would have to earn 200 points. On this level, children were allowed to purchase snacks from the School store on Fridays and Saturdays during the educational video and also on Sundays.
- Advanced: Once a resident had earned 1000 points, completed Orientation and Discovery seminars, been approved by the staff and the detainee council, and “voted up” by the Advancement Committee (consisting of detainees and staff), they were put on Advanced. Children on Advanced had all of the Achievement status privileges; and they could also attend two “special” on-grounds activities per month. Advanced status children could also start calling home as arranged with their family representative, but only once per month.
- Service: Children could advance to Service status when they have accumulated 2,400 points, successfully completed the Focus seminar, and had been approved by the staff and the detainee council. Service status detainees start over with 0 points and must earn 1600 points or more to move to Honor status. Service status children had all the privileges of lower statuses, plus two additional “Special” on-grounds activities per month. Service status residents were allowed set their own schedule with the exception of wake up, meals, group, three fitness classes, first and last academic periods and shut-down times. Service status residents also had the opportunity (as well as the responsibility) to participate in the Youth Leadership program. These residents were required to function as a staff assistant for three days per week. They were eligible for day visits with their family. They had to always let staff know what they are doing. They were also allowed two phone calls home per week.
- Honor: Once a child had earned 1600 more points, had staffed a minimum of two seminars (one of which must be a Discovery), with commendation, they were placed on Honor. Honor status children also started over with 0 points and must earn 1600 points or more to move to High Honor status. Honor status residents had all the privileges of lower statuses as well as the responsibility of functioning three days per week as a staff assistant. They were allowed two off-grounds activities per month. They were also eligible for overnight visits. They were also allowed three phone calls home per month.
- High Honor: 1600 points and have staffed a minimum of three seminars (one of which must be an Orientation) with a commendation. They were able to apply for Parent/Child III when they have accumulated 1200 points, but are not eligible to attend the Parent/Child III Workshop until they have received 400 points for a total of 1600 points. These residents had all the privileges of lower statuses as well as the responsibility of functioning three days a week as a staff assistant. They also had two additional off-grounds activities each month, and were eligible for home visits. They also were allowed four phone calls home per month.
Like other WWASP programs, Old West Academy required children to participate in a series of TASKS (Teen Accountability, Self-Esteem and Keys to Success) “seminars” (see LGAT). Use of these TASKS seminars indicate that Old West’s program likely shared a close resemblance to the model WWASP used before. Some of these seminars’ names included:
Rules & Consequences
If a student broke a rule, they received a demerit. Demerits would cost a child a certain number of points or, if severe enough, levels. The demerits also had levels. They were categorized as:
- Category 1: these demerits would cost a resident 5 points. They could be given for things such as bad posture, being even one second late to line up, or anything the staff or other residents felt was unsatisfactory.
- Category 2: these demerits would cost a resident 25 points. They could be given for things such as leaving their water bottle somewhere, talking to someone without permission, not following directions precisely, or even just making a noise without permission.
- Category 3: these demerits would cost a resident 50 points. They could be given for things such as sharing/borrowing items, having a negative attitude, or any blatant rule violation.
- Category 4: these demerits would cost a resident 2 of their levels and all of their points. This could be given for something as small as glancing out the window.
- Category 5: these demerits would cause a resident to lose all of their levels and all of their points, in effect starting the program over. This could be given for things like self-harm/self-infliction, or use drugs or alcohol. However, even minor things like popping pimples or throwing up from overeating were considered “self-infliction” and could result in a Category 5 demerit.
In addition to demerits, there were also consequences. Some examples of consequences commonly given to the residents were:
- Probation: When a was on Advanced to High Honor status, the staff, with the approval of the Director, may place the detainee on probation in situations where the staff feels that the detainee is not making an honest effort to maintain the standards expected for his or her particular status. Probation serves notice to the detainees that they are slipping in their progress or need to make some changes. The detainee may even lose some or all of his/her privileges until he/she was taken off probation. At this point, the staff and Director approve the detainee for reinstatement.
- Loss of Status: When children received a loss of status, they reverted to the prior status with the minimum amount of merits for it. For example, if detainees on Honor status lose two statuses, they would revert to Advanced status with 1,000 merits, which is the minimum amount of merits for Advanced status. The lowest the detainee may be moved to is Regular status with zero merits. For example, if a detainee is on Achievement status and loses 3 statuses, the detainee would move back to Regular status with zero points.
- Study hall: It means studying six, two-hour sessions of study hall with a ten-to-fifteen-minute break within every two-hour session.
- Study Hall Removal: Being placed in a an intervention office until the child willing to participate appropriately in the study hall process
- Academic Deficiency: The works of the student were reviewed by Teachers in account to the amount and quality of work of students’ work on a daily basis. If they determine that a student has not completed a satisfactory amount of academic work that day, the teacher gives a warning “Pink Slip.” If the detainee receives two Pink Slips in one week, the detainee receives a Category 3 – “Academic Deficiency.”
- Banishment to harsher treatment: If the student broke certain rules they could either be expelled or transferred to facilities like Tranquility Bay or Spring Creek Lodge Academy.
Abuse and Closure
Old West Academy is widely regarded to have been an abusive program. It is reported that a staff member was even fired after apparently reporting child abuse at the school to police. Students at the school had limited contact with their parents and the outside world, and all telephone calls were monitored by staff, so it was very difficult for them to report any abuse. There was also very little regulatory oversight of the school, and staff apparently received only minimal training to prepare them to handle children with behavioral problems. In addition, manby survivors report rampant molestation and other forms of sexual abuse by staff towards residents.
Due to a dramatic drop in enrollment, Old West Academy is reported to have closed permanently in 2019.
Heal Program Information – Majestic Ranch/Old West Academy
Old West Academy Wikipedia Page
WWASP Survivors – Majestic Ranch/Old West Academy