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Diamond Ranch Academy announces closure after license denied by the State of Utah

Posted at 7:32 AM, Jul 14, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Diamond Ranch Academy announced it will close after the Department of Health and Human Services denied a license renewal for the "troubled teens" school that has received multiple complaints and even lawsuits against it.

The school in Hurricane has been under investigation for months following the death of three students, including 17-year-old Taylor Goodridge, who died in of a treatable illness called peritonitis, an infection of the abdomen, which led to sepsis and organ failure.

Taylor's father, Dean Goodridge, is suing the school for medical neglect after reports and emails show his daughter was throwing up and complaining of severe pain for weeks.

“It's not easy for any of the family, from the grandparents, to the brothers, the sisters, the mom, the dad, the tribe, the community. She was my princess,” said Goodridge.

In the notice sent to the school by the DHHS, it cites multiple concerns that explain why their license renewal was denied. Reasons include "severe physical neglect,", failure to monitor staff, as well as the three student deaths.

In 2009, James Shirley Jr., 14, died of complications from congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a genetic disorder, while at Diamond Ranch Academy. According to a lawsuit, in 2013, the academy left a suicidal 16-year-old boy unsupervised and staff members did not help for nearly three minutes when he took his own life.

“I’m happy that the doors are shut," Goodridge said. "They can never harm another child again.”

Diamond Ranch must discharge all of its clients on or before August 14, according to a notice issued by the state of Utah.

Those who have experienced abuse at similar types of schools say the closure is a step in the right direction.

“It shows that speaking up, being unsilenced and being loud when it comes to your experiences is getting the attention," said Meg Appelgate, CEO of Unsilenced. "It needs to be able to create change. It is also really validating to see justice finally beginning to take place, and I think that this is the beginning of some beautiful justice that we're gonna see in the future.”

In a statement, the school's Executive Director, Ricky Diaz, called the license renewal decision "unfair."

"The decision to cease operations has been spurned by unfair treatment from the State of Utah which has consistently demonstrated its lack of concern for the safety, well-being, and treatment of youth in programs," the statement reads in part. "Additionally, the Utah State Department of Health Services and CPS failed to provide due process to DRA and have made false allegations against the DRA's assistant medical director and DRA which will be refuted in court."

In addition to the license renewal denial to operate as a therapeutic school and residential treatment, a second license was denied for the school to operate for day treatment and outpatient treatment.

The notice issued to Diamond Ranch Academy states that the business has 15 calendar days to request an administrative hearing if there is a disputed issue of fact.

"They took a life which they could have prevented and now they need to be held responsible for it," said Goodridge.