In August 2022, a federal lawsuit was filed against one of two Christian boarding schools in Cedar County, Missouri. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff sustained abuse in the now-closed education center.
This lawsuit is not the only one of its kind. Since 2020, at least thirty independent lawsuits have been filed against the two Missouri Christian boarding schools. These schools are known, respectively, as Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and Agape Boarding School.
The most recent lawsuit was filed by Maggie Drew, who is 30 years of age. She attended the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch from 2007 through 2013.
Allegations Against Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and Agape Boarding School
Drew claims that the boarding school obtained her inheritance money illegally. She also alleges that she was forced to provide labor that permanently damaged her back.
Finally, Drew’s lawsuit claims that Circle of Hope’s co-owner sexually abused her. Although Circle of Hope was closed in 2020, there are more than 100 felony charges against the previous owners.
Some of the allegations include:
- Neglect of children
- Statutory rape
Agape Boarding School also faces criminal allegations. Still, the school remains open to this day.
Exemptions for Religious Schools and Resulting Abuse
The Kansas City Star published an investigation into the two Cedar County boarding schools in 2020. The Star’s investigators detailed a lack of public oversight into the actions of those at the school.
The two boarding schools feature residences for students that religious organizations run. Because of the wide range of licensure exemptions provided to religious institutions, these facilities were not monitored by the Department of Social Services.
Once the Star’s investigation was published, there was clear evidence of sexual and physical abuse of students. A legislative investigation resulted from the article, and then a law went into effect, providing more regulatory oversight to the state of Missouri.
More on the Circle of Hope Lawsuit
Drew alleges that the physical and psychological abuse she suffered at the boarding school resulted in severe harm. Her father passed away in 2009 while Drew was still attending Circle of Hope.
According to the lawsuit, the school owners illegally took Drew’s Social Security benefits. They also allegedly stole $25,000 that was allocated for her future college attendance.
Drew’s lawsuit names the late founder of Agape Boarding School and the school itself as defendants. This federal lawsuit requests an unspecified amount of damages and a trial by jury.
In addition to Drew’s suit, there are eight other lawsuits against Circle of Hope Girls Ranch. Four of these lawsuits are still pending.
The Residential Care Facility Notification Act
In 2021, the Missouri legislature passed the Residential Care Facility Notification Act. This bill provides the state with increased regulatory power to prevent the abuse and neglect of children.
Following the passage of this bill, the Cedar County prosecutor only pursued a few of the charges that the Attorney General recommended. This heightened the awareness of unsavory ties between law enforcement groups and Christian education organizations.
The 2021 law does provide the Department of Social Services with the ability to seek a school’s closure in certain cases. To date, no official action has been filed against Agape Boarding School on behalf of the Department of Social Services.
Some of the victims have publicly noted that they hope for the closure of Agape. While victims can pursue financial damages, they note that no amount of money can make up for the experience of severe trauma.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Attorney
If you or someone you love has been the victim of sexual abuse, make sure to speak with a legal professional. The accomplished team of southern Missouri sexual assault and abuse lawyers at Privette Law Office can help secure justice in your case. Contact us today.