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Federal Regulation Sought For 'Gooning' Kids To School, Treatment

Within the 'secure transport industry', it’s called “gooning.” Brawny men show up under the cover of darkness and force a teenager into a vehicle, taking them to a boarding school, foster home or treatment center. The process is typically initiated by parents at wit’s end over what to do with a child they perceive as troubled. For the kids, it’s the traumatic first leg of a journey to an unheard-of place, perhaps hundreds of miles away from home, the Associated Press reports. Teens who resist are often told, “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.” They might be restrained with handcuffs or zip ties. They could be blindfolded or hooded. Though a secure transport company operator was indicted last month, criminal charges are rare because the little-known industry is virtually unregulated. The indictment was for violating a restraining order, not for the transport itself. Thousands of teenagers end up annually in some form of care facility or program aimed at dealing with issues ranging from behavioral problems to drug or alcohol abuse and crime.

In Missouri alone, more than 100 Christian boarding schools promise hope for wayward teens. In Utah, wilderness programs use a back-to-nature approach to help young people turn around their lives. Other kids end up in foster homes or treatment centers. Many children don’t want to leave home. That’s where secure transport companies come in. At a cost often reaching thousands of dollars, parents hire one of the many companies specializing in transporting children to congregate care. The secure transport industry is regulated in just one state — Oregon. That 2021 law prohibits the use of hoods, blindfolds and handcuffs, among other things. Other states may follow suit. Utah state Sen. Mike McKell, a Republican, and Missouri state Rep. Keri Ingle, a Democrat, plan to introduce legislation regulating the secure transport industry their states. Advocates say that because so many children are picked up in one state and taken to another, federal legislation is vital.


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