Scrutiny for Utah-Based ‘Tough Love’ Schools for Troubled Kids


During the past 15 years, a network of Utah-based “tough love” boarding schools for troubled youths has closed nearly two dozen programs amid claims of child abuse, which the schools have denied. But at least half a dozen other schools with business or family ties to those who ran the network are still operating, and others with those ties are newly opened, reports the New York Times. And once again, former students, parents and former staff members say that children at some of the schools have been routinely mistreated.

Interviews and e-mail exchanges with more than 30 former students, parents, current and former staff members, and owners of the schools reveal a rigid system of discipline at the facilities, which are typically locked compounds. Speaking, using the bathroom, taking showers and talking to parents are limited by the staff. Behavior modification programs for troubled teenagers have thrived as state and federal laws allow private boarding schools far greater leeway in how they treat children than is permitted in public school systems, which generally prohibit physical punishment, the isolation of children and other severe discipline methods.

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