Six Runaways in One Week at Idaho Youth Challenge Academy

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Earlier this month, the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy—located in the rural North-Central Idaho town of Pierce—opened its doors, with much fanfare from state officials who championed the tuition-free school for struggling teenagers.

The rigorous 22-week course was launched Jan. 20 with the school's first class of 96 students.

But some of those students went missing soon after the start of the program.

This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that six youth have already run away from the academy in the past week, according to the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office. AWOL students from the school can be charged as a runaway and booked into the jail until released back to the school, the CCSO said in a statement.

Of the six who ran away, including three individuals and a group of three others, all but one have voluntarily returned to the program, which is sponsored by the Idaho National Guard.

According to law enforcement, one of the students who ran away "got into trouble in the town of Pierce," and will make a formal apology to the city at the next meeting of the Pierce City Council in February.

"They're very emotional and going through a transition," academy director Derek Newland told the Tribune. "Part of our training is teaching them they have to be responsible, and if they get in trouble and are lucky enough to get back in the program, then they have to cover their actions for what they've done."

Newland said two of the runaways face possible criminal prosecution for their actions.

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