Thursday, May 17, 2007

Majestic Ranch - Utah facility for children 7-13 - Have things changed?

Late in 2004 and early 2005 an investigation into the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS) Majestic Ranch facility for children ages 7-13 revealed children were being abused and neglected and that the living conditions were deplorable. This investigation led to the report Majestic Ranch: A Living Nightmare for Kids.

Below is information that was provided to me by Majestic Ranch employees in 2004/2005.

But before you read what they had to say, I'd like to ask a few questions. This is addressed to current or recent employees, kids who attended, or their parents.

Have things changed? I would invite current Majestic Ranch employees to contact me, Isabelle Zehnder, at to let me know if conditions there have changed –for the better, for the worse, or if they are pretty much the same.

I’d also invite kids who recently left Majestic Ranch to let me know how things went while they were there. Are any of the things written below still going on there? If they are and you share your stories you could help other children there.

If there are parents who have information that could help the kids, I encourage them to contact me as well.

Some kids were restrained with their faces in horse manure. That is unacceptable. Some were made to move dead animal carcasses, some were denied prompt medical attention. Some had to witness animals being killed simply because they touched them. Some sat on milk cartons in the middle of the snow in the dead of winter for hours on end. Living conditions were horrible with problems surrounding the sewage system there. There's more - you can read about it below or in my Report: Majestic Ranch - A Living Nightmare for Kids.

If an employee witnesses child abuse they are mandated to report it – it’s not only the law but it’s the right thing to do morally. These kids are helpless, we need to help them.

Summary of Information Provided to Me by Majestic Ranch Staff

Majestic Ranch is a residential facility for children ages 7-13. I learned that the health of the children is at risk and that they are suffering from untreated ailments such as scabies, pneumonia, knee pain, and a broken, decayed tooth. Raw sewage has backed up and is flowing on the property. At the moment, the sewage is frozen, but it can still be smelled from the tap. When it thaws the smell will once again be despicable. Children and staff complain but nothing has been done to remedy the problem. One staff shower has a sign indicating they should not use it because of the leach field problem. Contaminated water and food that is left unrefrigerated make the children sick resulting in severe stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Backaches are common because children are forced to sit on hard cold floors for extended periods of time. Children are fed a minimum of high-carb, poor quality food and are hungry most of the time. There is no nurse on site. Night terrors, crying, and screaming are a nightly occurrence.

I could feel the pain these employees felt as they told me more. The children suffer from emotional abuse and look depressed and listless. They are made to sit on milk crates in the middle of a field without talking or moving for extended periods of time in sub-freezing weather as punishment. They are forced to shovel manure and if they resist they must do so with their bare hands. They were forced to remove maggot-covered animal carcasses from a large truck and the children who could do so without vomiting were given a Coke. Boys drink shampoo in hopes of getting sick enough to go home. Children are forced to shovel snow after dark in freezing temperatures. One child was not allowed to attend his own mother’s funeral because the program deemed it “not in his best interest.”

Children, including children as young as seven years old, are restrained by grown men who have dislocated their shoulders and broken their bones. These broken bones have gone untreated for days at a time. Recently an 8-year old child was restrained by several grown men who threw him to the ground, pulled his arms and legs behind him, inflicting pain, then released him and left him there lying in the snow. An employee recently ordered children to participate in a “blanket party” where an 8-year old child was wrapped in a blanket and thrown in the snow. Children were each given a bar of soap in a sock and were instructed to beat this child with the soap. He was covered with bruises from head to toe.

CPS informed me this child is no longer there. Others are missing as well. Further, I was told by CPS that once the child is gone and out of their jurisdiction, government officials who should be protecting these children can do nothing. If that is the case, then laws should be changed.

Children have been made to clean the owner’s personal guest house located on the property as well as his personal vehicles. They are made to think it is a privilege to do so. They are forced to walk trails herding sheep.

Living conditions are poor. Girls are housed in double-wide trailers as their parents pay $3,000 or more per month for tuition to the ranch. They are told they must mix powdered milk with regular milk because milk is too expensive. One side of the girls’ trailer does not have a working smoke detector. Windows have been screwed shut so children cannot escape in the middle of the night. They do not take into consideration this is a severe fire hazard. The kitchen is below health code, dishes are not washed in a sanitary manner. They have promised to hire more kitchen staff so children will not have to continue doing all the work. Clothing is rationed and some girls receive only two pairs of underwear per week. When they complain they are dirty they are told to turn them inside-out. One female staff member was forced to sleep in the boys’ dorm because they were severely under-staffed. She witnessed a bunk bed that fell on top of a child. Luckily the child was not seriously injured.

Animals are being abused and neglected as well. If a child is caught touching a dog they shoot the dog, saying that he is ruined once a child touches him. Ranch dogs feed off of animal carcasses. Sick animals have been shot in front of the children. Weanlings are made to stand tied to a fence with no water access, placing them at risk for dehydration, strangulation, and foundering. Mature horses eat snow as water is a far distance from their feed pile. Bands of horses roam the property in search of food.

I was told that Tori Jones is a family rep. Her husband, Dave Jones, allegedly beat up a boy last year and was put on driving duty and taken away from his parent duties. The boy who was beaten was sent to Jamaica while Dave continues to work there as a driver. However, he has filled in when they have been understaffed.


Special activities are on going and year round on the ranch. Students are allowed all their earned activities, plus several activities that are unique to our area.

Some of these activities include snow tubing, water skiing, snow skiing, swimming, ice skating, boating, ice hockey, and horseback riding.

NOTE: After talking to the employees who worked there with the kids, I was told that children did not enjoy these activities.