MPR: Abuse cover-up at Buhl juvenile center

Word NEWS in Old Typewriter Typebar Letters Isolated on WhiteFor residents of the Iron Range, the KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl is just a part of the tapestry of the region’s economic metamorphosis. Once the beloved neighborhood Buhl school, the building was “saved” by becoming a juvenile correction center for boys.

This week, American Public Media Reports — a organizational relative of Minnesota Public Radio — released an investigative report showing evidence that Mesabi Academy concealed complaints of sexual abuse at the center and continued to pressure St. Louis County for business even after questions were raised.

The report was written by MPR’s Tom Scheck and Curtis Gilbert. Their story must be read in its entirety to see the full scope of what’s gone on.

A parent reported a sexual assault on her son and others. Mesabi Academy refused to report the incident to St. Louis County. When the county found out about it, they put an experienced investigator on the case. KidsPeace demanded that a different investigator be assigned because the one they sent also happens to be a union leader. (KidsPeace has been trying to keep a union out of its building for years). The county relented, but in the process also recommended a change that would have made it harder for KidsPeace to do business in Minnesota. After that, a veteran Iron Range politician stepped up to ensure that KidsPeace got its contract anyway so jobs wouldn’t be lost. Now the investigation is being dropped for lack of evidence.

In addition, Mesabi Academy has far more complaints per capita than any other Minnesota juvenile center. By magnitudes.

The county investigator who was removed from the case is identified as Dennis Frazier, who I know from my days in Cherry and who is an absolute straight arrow public servant. The politician is Tom Rukavina, St. Louis County Commissioner and former state legislator.

This story is an absolute jumble of agendas and motives, some good and some bad, all of which conspire to abandon justice for victims in favor of a business. KidsPeace Mesabi Academy sought to avoid this controversy. Good luck with that now.

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