St. Louis County investigators asked for a tape recording a woman made of her son, talking about whether he had sex with a staffer at Mesabi Academy.
St. Louis County social services officials said Monday they have reopened an investigation into a child sexual abuse allegation at a juvenile correctional facility on the Iron Range.
At the same time, the Minnesota Department of Corrections said it planned to meet with officials from the facility, KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl, and the county to discuss the state's law requiring that certain abuse allegations be reported.
And Hennepin and Ramsey county authorities said they would be reviewing their options regarding the boys they have sent to the facility.
The St. Louis County decision came after APM Reports published a story Monday morning that detailed allegations about the conduct of some staffers at KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl.
The report included a recording of a phone conversation between a mother and her 15-year-old son. In the recording, supplied to APM Reports by the mother, the boy said he had sexual relations with a female staffer at Mesabi. He didn't cooperate with investigators."Mom. I'm telling you," he said on the tape. "Like I already told you the truth. Yes, I did stuff with that staff. But I'm not telling no cop."
Authorities closed their investigation, then reopened it after the mother complained in March. On Friday, St. Louis County said it had closed the case again because it had insufficient information to pursue it.
But the mother of the boy confirmed to APM Reports that investigators contacted her Monday and asked for a copy of the recording. A St. Louis County official also confirmed the case has been reopened.
The allegation was part of a broader, six-month investigation conducted by St. Louis County Child Protection into 20 allegations of sexual and physical abuse of boys by some staffers at Mesabi. The county determined it could not substantiate any of the claims.
St. Louis County investigators also found that Mesabi Academy conducted three internal investigations into maltreatment at the facility that were not immediately reported to authorities. That may be a violation of state law since juvenile correctional facilities are required to report allegations of abuse to authorities.
The state Department of Corrections said it planned to meet with Mesabi Academy and St. Louis County authorities "in the very near future" to address issues raised by the county.
"We are always concerned about the reporting requirements," said commissioner Tom Roy in a statement. "We will analyze the findings in light of rule requirements."
The presiding judge of the juvenile court in Hennepin County said Monday her county is reviewing its options when it comes to placing children at Mesabi Academy. Judge Margaret Daly said judges, social workers, public defenders and corrections supervisors are scheduled to travel to Mesabi Academy on Friday. The visit was scheduled months ago after several officials expressed concern about the treatment of boys being sent there.
Hennepin County sends more boys to Mesabi Academy than anyplace else does.
After the visit, Daly said, she intends to talk with other judges and the county probation department about the facility.
"We place kids in those facilities. We can remove them from facilities," Daly said. "We have an obligation to make sure that the children that we order to place there are treated appropriately, and if that's not the case then we of course would be responsible for doing something about that."
Daly said many of the children placed at Mesabi Academy are not easy to place in other treatment facilities.
In Ramsey County, social services and corrections departments will be reviewing the cases of 25 Ramsey County boys assigned there, said county communications director John Siqveland.
"In the next few days both departments will be independently reviewing each placement at Mesabi," Siqveland said.
An official with Mesabi Academy's parent company, KidsPeace, said in an e-mail that he was not aware of any investigation being reopened as a result of the report by APM Reports. The company released a statement Friday saying company officials "are confident that we have followed all applicable laws, and have acted appropriately in all our interactions with St. Louis County."