Schools for Troubled Teens in Minnesota

By Erica Loop
Teens may learn study skills while receiving therapy at a school for troubled students.
Teens may learn study skills while receiving therapy at a school for troubled students.

When a traditional high school doesn't meet the educational needs of a troubled teen in Minnesota, a range of other options is available. In private schools as well as in public schools that offer specialized services, teens who are struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, defiance, attachment disorder and other behavioral problems may find the help and support that they need.

Accreditation and Schools

Accreditation for nonpublic schools in Minnesota is optional, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Although there is no state law requiring a private school to be registered, licensed or approved by an educational agency, some private schools voluntarily pursue accreditation. The Minnesota Nonpublic School Accrediting Association accredits private schools that meet the organization’s quality standards for curriculum and teaching. Not all schools for troubled teens are private, however, and public schools are subject to the policies, rules and regulations of their district or local school board.

Therapy for Boys

Mille Lacs Academy in Onamia sits on a 40-acre wooded lot 75 miles from Minneapolis and St. Paul. This residential school treats boys age 10 through 19 who have mental health issues and engage in harmful sexual behavior. Other challenges that the school addresses include autism, developmental delays, impulse control disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit disorder. Students receive individual treatment and therapy focused on reducing harmful behaviors and building healthy relationships.

Coeducational Residential Treatment

Austin, Minnesota-based Gerard Academy is a residential psychiatric treatment program and school for boys and girls from 6 to 19 years old. Teens come to Gerard Academy with a variety of problems, including eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, attention deficit disorder, abusive behavior and learning disabilities. The 12-acre campus sits next to a nature preserve. Gerard Academy provides educational services on a year-round basis, along with short-term residential services, emergency shelter and a bridging program to transition teens back to their communities. Therapeutic services include group therapy, family therapy and individual counseling. Treatment at Gerard includes family involvement. The staff regularly communicates with parents, providing information about behavioral progress.

Area Learning Centers

Among the state-approved alternative education programs in Minnesota are area learning centers. “Instruction (at ALCs) is designed to meet individual student learning styles as well as their social and emotional needs,” the Minnesota Department of Education explains on its website. “Teachers build connections with students and focus on vocational and career skills, including independent study options. Community, county and state partnerships provide additional support and resources.” In the 2010-2011 academic year -- the most recent year for which the department provides enrollment numbers on its website as of the date of publication -- 263 area learning centers were in operation across Minnesota.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.