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Military Schools for Troubled Teens?

By: David Bolthouse | 0 Comments

Military high schools are generally not for troubled or at-risk students today.  The days of using a military school to get your teenager in line are mostly past. Most military schools today have very high standards.

While there are some military-style schools or programs specifically designed for troubled youth, many traditional military high schools exist to provide a structured environment emphasizing academic excellence, character development, leadership training, and physical fitness. Here are some clarifications regarding military high schools:

Academic Rigor: Many military high schools have strong academic programs, often college-preparatory in nature, and expect high standards of achievement from their students.

Leadership Training: A significant component of military high schools is the emphasis on leadership development. Students often participate in JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs or other military-themed leadership courses.

Character Development: Honor, discipline, integrity, and responsibility are core values instilled in students at military high schools.

Physical Fitness: Physical training and sports are typically integral parts of the curriculum, emphasizing the importance of physical health alongside mental and moral development.

Post-Graduation Opportunities: Many graduates of military high schools go on to attend top colleges and universities. Some choose to pursue a military career and may seek appointments to service academies like West Point or the Naval Academy.

Troubled Youth Programs: There are separate, military-style boot camps or programs specifically designed for troubled or at-risk youth. These are distinct from traditional military high schools. Such programs may use military discipline and structure as a means of rehabilitating youth with behavioral issues, but they are not the same as military academies focused on academic and leadership development.

Voluntary Enrollment: Enrollment in military high schools is typically voluntary. Parents and students choose such schools for the structured environment and the values they promote, not necessarily as a corrective measure for behavioral problems.

Military Schools Generally Don’t Accept Troubled Teens

Military schools are not inherently designed to serve troubled or at-risk students. In fact, most of them don’t accept adolescents that have gotten expelled or other trouble.  However, the structured environment of a military high school can benefit some students who may need additional guidance and discipline.

That being said, some key points to consider are:

Admission Standards: Many military high schools have strict admission standards that consider academic performance, character references, and sometimes even entrance exams or interviews. If a student has a history of severe disciplinary issues, it could potentially impact their chances of admission.

Structured Environment: The disciplined environment of a military high school can be beneficial for some students who may be struggling with minor behavioral issues, as it provides clear boundaries, routines, and expectations.

Not Therapeutic Institutions: Traditional military high schools are not therapeutic institutions. They do not offer specialized programs for students with significant behavioral, emotional, or substance abuse issues. Students with such challenges may require a more specialized setting with trained professionals to address their needs.

Alternative Programs: There are separate programs, often called “boot camps” or “military schools for troubled youth,” designed specifically for adolescents with behavioral problems. These programs use military-style discipline and structure to address and correct behavioral issues. However, they differ significantly from traditional military high schools, which focus on academic and leadership development.

Each School is Different: The policies and approaches of military high schools can vary. While some may be open to giving students with past troubles a chance to reform and excel, others may have stricter policies about past behavioral issues.

What is the Better Answer for Troubled Teens?

The best educational option for troubled teens depends on the nature and severity of the issues they face. The term “troubled” can encompass a wide range of challenges, from behavioral problems to substance abuse to mental health concerns. Here are some educational options and interventions designed to help troubled teens:

  • Therapeutic Boarding Schools: These are residential schools that combine academics with therapy. They offer a structured environment, professional therapeutic support, and academic instruction to help students address their issues while continuing their education.

  • Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs): RTCs provide intensive therapeutic interventions for adolescents with significant behavioral, emotional, or mental health challenges. While therapy is the primary focus, they also offer educational programs to ensure students don’t fall behind academically.

  • Wilderness Therapy Programs: These are experiential programs where teens spend extended periods in the wilderness, participating in activities that challenge and teach them important life skills. Therapeutic support is integrated into the program.

  • Boot Camps: Some parents consider military-style boot camps for their troubled teens due to the discipline and structure they provide. However, these may not be suitable for all troubled teens, especially those with underlying emotional or mental health issues, as they don’t always offer therapeutic interventions.

  • Alternative Schools: Many public school systems have alternative schools designed for students who don’t thrive in traditional settings. These schools may offer smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, and additional support services.

  • Outpatient Therapy: If the teen’s challenges are not severe enough to warrant residential treatment, regular outpatient therapy, combined with traditional or alternative schooling, can be beneficial.

  • Day Treatment Programs: These programs offer therapeutic interventions during the day, and students return home in the evenings. They often combine therapy with academic instruction.

  • Tutoring and Academic Support: Some troubled teens struggle academically. Providing tutoring or additional academic support can address these challenges and reduce associated stress.

  • Medication: In some cases, especially if the teen has a diagnosed mental health disorder, medication might be recommended as part of the treatment plan.

  • Family Therapy: Issues faced by teens often have familial components. Engaging in family therapy can address and resolve dynamics contributing to the teen’s challenges.
therapeutic schools

It’s essential to remember that each teen is unique, and what works best for one might not be as effective for another. A thorough evaluation by professionals (educators, therapists, counselors) can provide insights into the most appropriate interventions for a particular teen. Collaboration between parents, professionals, and the teen is crucial to determining the best path forward.