Girl, 17, Dies At School After Staff Were “Trained To Assume Students Will Lie About Illness”, Report Alleges

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According to the website for the boarding school Diamond Ranch Academy, the school is “a world-class residential treatment center and therapeutic boarding school for teenagers.” The school, which is located in Utah, claims students can enjoy a traditional high school experience including sports and academics while also receiving therapy.

Taylor Goodridge’s parents, Dean Goodridge and Amber Wigtion, believed these claims when they decided to send Taylor there. She enrolled in October 2021. Unfortunately, she also tragically died at the school one year later on December 20, 2022. She reportedly collapsed in the parking lot while the staff were attempting to take her to the ER. She was only 17 years old.

Now, Dean is suing the school claiming that they knew Taylor was sick in the days and weeks leading up to her death but failed to take her to the hospital until it was too late.

NBC News spoke to several current and former staff members about Taylor’s death, her life at the school, and about their experiences at Diamond Ranch Academy. Tianamarie Govan quit working at Diamond Ranch Academy on October 20, but prior to that she supervised the girls at night. She explained that some nights Taylor “would throw up and staff didn’t care to do anything.” She added, “There were times I’d have to stay in her room to make sure she was OK. She had a really high fever one night, but the [supervisory] staff refused to allow me to use a thermometer to check it.”

Matt Thomas used to work as a youth mentor at Diamond Ranch Academy. He said that he read a staff memo that Taylor didn’t want to go to lunch because she felt so sick. That memo was on December 19, one day before she died. He quit days after her death.

Another employee shared records with NBC News that shows that Taylor had vomited three times in the week leading up to her death. The staff member added that she was so sick that she couldn’t even walk to the office where the school’s medical professionals worked without assistance. The staff member explained, “We’d have to carry her arms to get over there. It was really bad, and they didn’t do much for her besides giving her Gatorade powder.”

Why would a school refuse to give medical treatment to what sounds like a clearly sick student? Why would a school refuse to take a sick student to the hospital? According to the staff members it’s because Diamond Ranch Academy tells the staff that the students there lie about being sick because they want attention, they want their parents to take them home, or they want to get out of doing something like their homework.

Alan Mortensen, Dean’s attorney, explained that the students are “trapped” when they’re sick. He said, “It’s not like if they disagree with what the staff is telling them that they can just walk out the door and go to the doctor, or even call their parents to take them to the doctor. It’s totally to the discretion of the school.” He told FOX 13, “Here is that this young teenager is sent down to Utah from the state of Washington to try and help her get her life back in order, and before they know it, she’s died from what we believe will ultimately prove out to be sepsis. And with no explanation. They had just called the family and said that she died of a heart attack.”

Taylor’s mother wants the school to permanently close. In an email to NBC News, she explained, “No student there deserves to be treated the way my daughter was treated or any other student before her. As I dig deeper into that school, it is horror story after horror story, and it breaks my heart to hear that so many have endured such horrible actions by the staff there.” 

Taylor is not the first student to die at Diamond Ranch Academy. In 2009, James Shirey Jr., died of complications from a genetic disorder called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. He was 14. In 2013, a suicidal boy died at the age of 16 when he tried to hang himself and the staff didn’t get him down quickly enough. He died two days later from injuries related to his attempted suicide.