Education: How to Save a Troubled Kid?

Tough-love academies march on, despite criticism. TIME looks inside one school's techniques

With its simple, log-sided buildings spread out over 150 acres among the Ponderosa pines in a remote part of western Montana, Spring Creek Lodge Academy might pass as a rustic retreat for budget-minded travelers. But Mary and Randy Carben didn't make the trip there from their home in Bridgeview, Ill., for a vacation. They were at Spring Creek because it's where their son John had lived since the morning in June when the Carbens paid two handcuff-brandishing escorts to take their 17-year-old there. Despite its bucolic appearance, Spring Creek is a specialty boarding school that uses strict behavior-modification techniques to rehabilitate...