On September 21, 1978, students at the Provo Canyon School for Boys filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah against the owners and operators of Provo Canyon School, and various agencies, officers, and employees of the State of Utah. The Juvenile Justice Legal Advocacy Project and private counsel represented the class. The plaintiffs sought damages along with injunctive and declaratory relief.
At the Provo Canyon School for Boys students were isolated from the outside world, allowed little to no communication with the outside world, subjected to physical confinement, subjected to physical punishment, and granted progressive restoration of liberty after an investigation of the students' "attitude," "truthfulness," and "future conduct." Students were subject to mandatory physical standing to promote "right thinking" and "social conformity." The students' mail was censored and visitors were discouraged. Negative comments about the institution were prohibited and punished. In order to graduate from confinement, the students' were required to pass a lie detector test. Students were placed at the school either at the insistence of their parents, or by a juvenile court.
The District Court (Judge Bruce S. Jenkins) granted a preliminary injunction and enjoined four practices at the Provo Canyon School: polygraph testing, mail censorship, the use of the "P-room" for isolation, and excessive use of physical force. The court held that these practices were unconstitutional and violated the right to the least restrictive treatment alternative under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Education for the Handicapped Act (EHA), 20 U.S.C. § 1401 et seq. On August 25, 1980, the District Court filed an exhaustive memorandum issuing its findings of fact and conclusions of law, which was not published. On that date, the court entered a permanent injunction, which merged with the preliminary injunction.
The case was appealed on procedural issues. On May 5, 1981, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit (per curiam) denied the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss the defendants' appeal for lack of a final judgment. The court also consolidated two appeals that dealt with whether the plaintiff was the prevailing party and therefore entitled to attorneys' fees and costs. Milonas v. Williams, 648 F.2d 688 (10th Cir. 1981).
On September 13, 1982, the Tenth Circuit (Judge Robert Hugh McWilliams, Jr.) affirmed the District Court's 1980 order establishing the permanent injunction. Milonas v. Williams, 691 F.2d 931 (10th Cir. 1982). The court held that the plaintiffs' removal from the school did not preclude them from having standing required for their representation of the class, that the owners and operators of the private school for youths with behavioral problems were acting "under color of state law" to support the bringing of a section 1983 action, that the record supported a finding that the students' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated, and that the fact that some parents had approved of the behavior-modification program did not make the practices employed necessary.
On April 4, 1983, the Supreme Court denied the defendant's petition for writ of certiorari. Williams v. Milonas, 460 U.S. 1069 (1983).
The only documents we have on this case are the Circuit Court opinions, the Supreme Court denial of certiorari, an incomplete docket, and a memorandum. Kaitlin Corkran - 05/29/2006