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Employee at Utah school for troubled teens charged with child abuse

The 3rd District Court is pictured in West Jordan on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

(Yukai Peng, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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WEST JORDAN — An employee at a school for troubled teens has been charged with child abuse and accused of breaking the wrist of a boy who was acting out.

Tyler Haunga Feinga, 21, of West Jordan, was charged May 4 in 3rd District Court with child abuse, a class A misdemeanor.

Police say a 15-year-old boy at West Ridge Academy, 5500 W. Bagley Park Road, was being disruptive in class on Jan. 4. West Ridge is a residential treatment facility for at-risk youth. A search warrant filed by West Jordan police further states that the boy was being "loud" and was swearing and was "acting out by interrupting the class and being defiant to staff."

Feinga, a staff member of the school who was also in the classroom, removed the teen from the room by placing him in a wrist restraint also known as a "gooseneck hold" or an "escort hold," according to charging documents.

When the boy began to resist, Feinga said he applied a "bent wrist procedure" that involved him bending the boy's wrist back and applying pressure, the charges state. He told investigators that "the wrist bent is used for when residents are harming staff, harming peers, run risk or causing damage to the West Ridge property."

The boy told police that while in that hold, "he heard a pop, resulting in his wrist being fractured. (He) said he was in significant pain and could not move his wrist," according to the court documents. The boy "was crying really hard" at the time and told Feinga "he probably broke it."

Two days later, other staff members took the boy to a local hospital where X-rays of his left wrist revealed a distal fracture, according to the warrant.

West Ridge Academy Executive Director Bob Stubbs said Feinga has since been fired.

"We take allegations of any type of abuse quite seriously and we'll wait for the results of the case before we take any further action," he said in a prepared statement.

Earlier this year, Gov. Spencer Cox signed a new law that places more regulations on Utah's "troubled teen" centers. A ceremonial signing last month was attended by Paris Hilton, who earlier testified before Utah lawmakers about how she was abused in the 1990s at Provo Canyon School.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021 after many years of reporting for the Deseret News


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