Missouri’s private teen reform schools have been peppered with lawsuits and criminal charges, accused of abusing teens, and at least three have closed amid bad publicity and declining enrollment, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The schools are winning in court, however, with many dismissals of criminal charges and victories in civil suits. Court rulings have cemented Missouri’s reputation as a state where such teen programs can operate almost entirely free of government regulations. Hundreds of families across the nation continue to send their rebellious teens to the ministries for their strict breed of discipline.
The rulings may have broader consequences, prompting the state to take a closer look at policies dealing with the emergency removal of children amid abuse investigations. One lawyer said the cases show the difficulty of proving in court abuse allegations involving ministries closed to the public. Complicating that process is a lack of credibility among those making the accusations, given that many of the teens may have had criminal problems in the past.