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The numbers are rising as now 30 lawsuits have been filed against two boarding schools in southwest Missouri, Circle Of Hope Girls Ranch and Boarding School and Agape Boarding School. Accusations include emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of former students.

The most recent case to be heard in federal court was one brought on August 12 against the now-closed Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in Cedar County. Maggie Drew, 30, initiated the lawsuit against the school where she was a student from 2007 to 2013. Drew claims that Circle of Hope illegally seized her inheritance money and subjected her to forced work that left her spine permanently damaged. Additionally, she claims that the school’s co-owner abused her sexually.

Allegations of abuse at unlicensed boarding schools in Missouri have been the subject of years’ worth of court battles, including those currently being waged against Circle of Hope and Agape Boarding School, which is also based in Cedar County. Boyd and Stephanie Householder, owners of Circle of Hope which has been closed since 2020, are accused of 101 felonies, including statutory rape, child abuse, and neglect.

Surprisingly, despite the several sexual assault and abuse charges against Agape Boarding School, they have managed to stay open.

Previously, the Department of Social Services did not keep track of residential facilities such as Agape and Circle of Hope. But do to the light that has been shed on such religious organizations, new laws have been put in place to keep a close eye on operations at such institutions.

While Drew was under custody at Circle of Hope, her lawsuit discloses that the pastor wrongfully accused her of using drugs and having sex, then forbid her from talking to her parents during the first 30 days under their care. Drew mentions the disciplinary methods the staff members would use on students such as throwing students to the ground, handcuffing, restraining with the use of zip ties, and other forms of abuse.

The claim alleges that despite knowing about the abuse taking place at Circle of Hope, Agape and its since deceased founder didn’t do anything to prevent it.

While the lawsuit continues, Circle of Hope still has 4 ongoing lawsuits as well as eight that have already been settled.

Options Available To Victims Of Abuse In Boarding Schools

Monsees & Mayer P.C.’s legal team is dedicated to holding these boarding schools accountable for failing to protect the children entrusted to their care. There may still be a legal option available even if the abuse happened in the past. If your child was subjected to mental, sexual, or physical abuse by a teacher, coach, member of the staff, or employee at a private boarding school, they can help you find the support you need.

Sources:

https://www.kcur.org/news/2022-08-22/lawsuits-are-mounting-against-missouri-religious-schools-accused-of-abusing-students

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