The stories of abuse told through reports by NBC News, the Kansas City Star and others prompted Missouri lawmakers to hold hearings and propose legislation last month to ramp up state oversight. Child welfare officials in Washington cited Agap for overcrowding and poor sanitation, according to a 1995 newspaper article. And that's what it's all about.. Hed hoped to get kicked out, which didnt happen. They have law-enforcement ties, too. 3/11/2021. Josh Bradney, 19, who attended Agap from 2014 to 2016, said staff members slammed him to the ground when he told his parents on a phone call that Agap employees hit another boy with a football helmet. For example, when many foster children age out of the system, they have lived in an average of 12 foster homes. Gaither says at this point, they dont know if there will be any charges. STOCKTON, Mo. Staff called it the intake room. They would put you down, says Breshears. By JIM SALTER. It would be helpful for them to come in early on this one as opposed to come in at a later date, said Gaither. The Clemensens sent 100 boys home, and moved the rest to base housing. The Missouri House Committee on Children and Families issued a report in November concluding that there are numerous facilities in the state that have abused vulnerable children in their care, with no state oversight, for many years. Still, it was only a partial picture, based on interviews with former students and information from state officials, because Missouri doesnt keep track of how many religious boarding schools exist in the state. Youre dirtbags, youre hoodlums. Meanwhile, Agap has phased out the boarding school, instead running multiple group homes on its property, which detractors fear is a shell game aimed at shielding it from the new laws. That is blasphemous.. Woody Harrelson Spreads Anti-Vax Conspiracies During SNL Monologue He is a manipulator, says Breshears. DSS added . The posts went viral even receiving a thumbs-up from Paris Hilton. The video follows numerous allegations of abuse against Agape, a Christian reform school for boys, which until a new law in 2021, had virtually no state oversight due to its faith-based status. At least three Cedar County Sheriff's Department employees currently or previously work at Agape, including two full-time deputies, one of whom is married to the daughter of Agape's founder, the petition read. I can't find any scriptures in the Bible that would say that it's OK to physically or sexually abuse children, to starve them as means of punishment, to withhold medication, to deprive them of sleep, to force them into manual labor, Ingle said. After the state removed students from the school in August, Circle of Hope voluntarily shut down. Circle of Hope closed in 2020, and its owners, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, face 101 felony charges, including statutory rape, abuse and neglect of a child. Agaps handbook states it has a strict hands-off policy regarding the students, and does not use corporal punishment. Agape Ranch is dedicated to making a difference within their community and building capacity within the team. If you need expert assistance finding the right program for your boy, fill in this inquiry form or call 888-363-0888 (24/7) for a free, confidential information service (not affiliated with Agape). The only thing it would have done, Smith said of her bill, is require these adolescent facilities to have oversight by our Department of Public Health and Human Services, just like a senior citizen home or a barbershop.. Hunt was one of a number of SBC leaders named in a 2022 report from the investigative firm Guidepost Solutions hired by the denomination in 2021 to resolve long-running conflicts over sexual abuse. ), Such alleged retribution was not necessarily confined to Brown Town. The last time would be his graduation. Operators advertise it as a national boarding school for at-risk or unmotivated boys. They insisted everyone call them Brother Jim and Maam, and their son Brother Bryan.. Court records show that David Earl Smock is wanted for assaulting children under 15 at the Agape Boarding School, a Christian private school in Greene County. Meanwhile, Agap was growing. Seven former students said staff members had assaulted them. And he said, No, theyre not., In 1996, the Clemensens purchased 40 acres just outside of town. Related: More than a dozen people reported abuse at a religious boarding school in rural Missouri before the owners' daughter launched a campaign that got action. I hired Agape to cut the lawn. The state Public Health and Human Services Department and the local sheriff did not fulfill NBC News records requests for information about any more recent complaints. This created an environment ripe for abuse to happen. The program markets itself as a Christian school that turns around rebellious boys. Schrags parents said they were unaware of any abuse occurring at the facility; the school had promised close supervision and to redirect his anger in positive ways. (361) 742-6330. Relevance: This course is designed for master's level counselors, addiction professionals, and nurses who have direct client contact. Agape's trouble began in 2020 when former students came forward with abuse allegations. 4/5/2021. A student at Agap Boarding School near Stockton, Missouri, performs push ups when his student guide ruled his clean up work was not good enough in September 2002. I was just like, Screw it, he says. Jan 5, 2023 9:58 am. The school is a nonprofit owned by the Agap Baptist Church, which was also started by the Clemensens. The action galvanized Agap alumni, as well, and they began telling their stories to local media and on podcasts. They claim Clemensen was on a power trip and seemed to enjoy brutalizing the kids in his charge. Still, administrators at many of these schools insist they are a force for good. The BBC was given access to their UK boot camp, where they learn how to teach Mormon beliefs and use social media to reach potential converts. Updated: Dec 13, 2022 / 12:48 PM CST. He cut it 1x and never would respond to my calls. February 28, 2023. It is one of the 2 times he saw his family between 2006 and 2010. But then, Breshears made friends and began to reconsider his allegiances particularly, he says, after he witnessed classmates getting restrained. Lawmakers held hearings and introduced a bill that would give the state some oversight. More than 90% of young adults aging-out of the foster care system will become homeless, incarcerated, in prostitution, sex trafficked, or dead within three years. They were very detailed and professional. The Agap case is just the latest scandal to emerge from the billion-dollar troubled-teen industry, a loosely regulated network of therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers, religious academies, and wilderness camps set up to help teenagers with drug addiction and behavioral problems. When speaking with Rolling Stone, Clemensen denied the allegations against him and explained his approach to reform. Church was on Wednesday and three times on Sunday. After abuse allegations at Circle of Hope Girls Ranch, a religious boarding school near Agap, began spreading on TikTok last spring, the Cedar County Sheriffs Department opened an investigation, which the state attorney general joined and is ongoing. Just last summer, former students at a pair of Wyoming ranches alleged in an NBC investigation that they had been forced to perform backbreaking manual labor and subjected to traumatic physical and emotional abuse. Youre going to be dead or in prison three months after you turn 18.. And he encouraged that kind of crap from staff members.. Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch was a reformatory boarding school located in Humansville, Missouri.The school opened in July 2006 and was closed in 2020 amid reports and lawsuits filed by former students alleging child abuse, as well as due to an investigation conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.. Before the school's closure, parents, former students, and staff filed multiple reports to . It was easy to get in trouble for stupid shit, Breshears recalls. Breshears spotted a baseball bat poking out of an equipment bag. Yet Agaps neighbors insist they never had any idea. Another describes a staffer holding a pocket knife to his throat. Agape Boarding School is located on a 200-acre ranch in Stockton, Missouri. Agape Baptist Church owns and operates the private boarding school for boys in Stockton, MO. One deposed student describes attempting to jump off a staircase at Agap in a gesture of suicidal desperation which prompted a staffer to grab him, throw him six feet across the floor, sit on his back, and bash his head into the floor multiple times, leaving him in a pile of snot and blood, while screaming, Is this what you want? (Agap confirms restraining the student, but says it was not a form of abuse but an attempt to prevent harm to the boy.) Another former student said under oath that he was yanked out of bed and slammed to the floor for waking up late, kicked and punched in the balls by former dean of students Julio Sandoval, and kicked in the ribs and face in front of the rest of the school by Bryan Clemensen. The school still faces a wave of lawsuits accusing administrators of abuse. But many lawmakers are also oblivious to the consequences of lax oversight until there's a scandal. In 1995, county officials shut them down after health inspectors found the school which by then had 140 students and 25 staffers had rotting food, holes in the walls large enough to allow rodents to enter, and exposed wiring. Missouri previously had virtually no . Agap did not respond to repeated requests for comment and interviews via phone, email and a letter left at the schools reception desk. The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time And in at least 14 other states, education and child welfare agencies exempt boarding schools from licensing requirements if they are privately owned or privately funded. That's no secret, as news stories in The Christian. Amanda Householder is suing her parents, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, owners of Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and Boarding School. Call us today and find long-term recovery. 2 min read. Jacob smelled foul and the . In September 2021, he charged five Agap staff members with a total of 13 counts of third-degree assault, the lowest degree of felony. They would say, Youre nothing. I got picked up by the Cedar County Sheriffs Department, and I tried to tell the guy, like, Theyre beating us, dont take me back there, he says. One night, he got into an argument with his mom and stepdad that turned physical, and they accused him of being possessed. The glass flew everywhere, he says. . Schrags adoptive parents placed him in Agap which takes its name from the ancient Greek word Christians use to describe the love of God for humankind hoping the program would help him deal with anger issues and disobedience. But under state law at the time, the schools didnt have to tell the government they existed, and it took years of complaints before child welfare officials shut down their operations in 2015, and prosecutors charged the owners and a counselor at the facilities with aggravated child abuse. Thanks to the generous support of The Frazier Family Foundation, Gala sponsors, Gala attendees, and the community, $369,402 was raised in support of the next two homes at The Ranch during the 2021 Legacy Gala: A Matter of Time! The state has been fighting to close Agap ever since. We felt they needed God in their lives. The state, he says, had no clue how to get to a kids heart.. Several lawsuits filed on behalf of former students also have named Agape and Circle of Hope. The 57-year-old is currently facing charges of second-degree statutory sodomy . By the time he ended up in the Padded Palace, he recalls, I was bleeding all over my head and hands. So he scrawled the words Fuck Agap on the wall using his own blood. Churches of Christ don't have enough preachers to fill all the open pulpits in our fellowship. When I first got there, I just stayed on the low, trying to do my best, hoping to get out, he says. He enjoyed watching movies, listening to Elvis, and playing soccer with his friends. On Dec. 21, a judge issued a preliminary injunction that will keep him off the list until he receives a full trial (with testimony and subpoenaed witnesses) or until further Order of this Court. In the meantime, Clemensen is prevented from having physical contact with students, but can continue working at the school. Cedar County Prosecutor Ty Gaither asked the governors office for help in his investigation of the Agape Ranch and Boarding School west of Stockton. Agape Ranch breaks that cycle by providing compassionate care, connections within the community, and now by creating a neighborhood to give them a place to call home with families that provide unconditional love. Copyright 2023 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved. The schools are unrelated and are not affiliated with any particular Christian denomination. The school states on its website that its staff are trained in proper restraining tactics, which are only used if a child is a threat to others and last for just a few minutes. (They do so much good for this town and you cannot believe the difference they have made in these young men, says Jackie Cargell, who has lived in the town for 57 years.) The term encompasses various facilities and programs, including youth residential treatment centers, wilderness programs, boot camps, and therapeutic boarding schools.. Since then, former students testified at legislative hearings that they tried to report the abuse at Agape and the now-closed Circle of Hope Girls Ranch for years, but that Cedar County authorities and other officials did not respond to the . Missouri has been a particular hotbed for religious schools since 1982, when the state passed a law exempting faith-based residential child-care facilities from state oversight. They were marched downstairs, where things escalated, until, Breshears alleges, he was lying facedown with a staffer sitting on his legs and two others digging their kneecaps into his pressure points. I had a staff member tell me were wasting our time giving you a diploma because youre not even worth the paper its going to cost to print it on, said Schrag. Former students say Clemensen, a paunchy middle-aged man with a buzz cut, a soft chin, and a stern manner, had a technique that he called Jurassic Elbow which entailed slamming his elbow into the back of a students skull, face, ribs, or down between the shoulder blades. Address . In 1991, Todd Bindley, then 13, moved in. He says one told local police that he had escaped from a Nazi camp.. Please enter valid email address to continue. 5151 Flynn Parkway Suite 106 Corpus Christi, TX 78411. McCrary said in an email on Friday that Graves was not present for social workers interviews with students. New court filings reveal some of the most brutal allegations of abuse at Agape Boarding School so far, including former students' account that two staffers sexually assaulted him. Meanwhile, the husband-and-wife founders of Circle of Hope, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, face a combined 99 charges that include child abuse and neglect, sex crimes and other counts. After being charged with more than 100 felonies last year linked to allegations of child sex abuse, physical abuse, endangerment and neglect, the owners of a now-defunct Missouri girls ranch . Clemensen has said the move was necessary because negative publicity has caused enrollment to plummet, and it was not financially feasible to stay open. (Householder has denied that any abuse occurred at the ranch.). Send us a tip using our anonymous form. Related: I am proof that money doesnt protect against abuse, Hilton told state legislators, speaking in support of a bill that would better protect children in troubled-youth treatment programs. But he struggled at home. The staff often singled out members of Brown Town for abuse, depositions filed by former Agap students suggest. Trump Melts Down Over Murdoch Admitting Fox Lied About Election Fraud. The most surprising thing is that nothing has been done so far to change anything, Ingle said. Robert Larsson, 89, a preacher and the founder of Pinehaven, gave folksy presentations about how his school improved the lives of children, who spent their days at the ranch wrangling calves, shoveling manure and learning Bible verses. The three were convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. For more on this story, watch NBC's "Dateline" episode, "Broken Circle". I shadowed a staff member for about three days, we didnt go over procedures, no restraint training, no discipline training really no clear set of rules that the students werent allowed to break., It was not unusual for physical restraints to last four hours or longer, and leave bruises on the children, according to Clidence and three former students. Thats where someone went too far. Agape Ranch and Boarding School near Stockton, Missouri, a facility operated by Agape Baptist Church. A decent life.. The Department of Social Services declined to comment on its investigations into Agap and the interviews with students, and would not release records, but said that there have been no substantiated reports of abuse or neglect at the school. Pour Salt Down Your Drain At Night, Here's Why, Tyler Kingkade and Liz Brown and Keith Morrison and Rachel White and Andrew Williams and Javier Rodriguez. By 5+ Local Business Owners! Other punishments, the former students and staff members said, included forcing boys to stare at a wall for hours, limiting meals to peanut butter sandwiches, and requiring students to haul rocks outside from one pile to another. The charges come after the Missouri State Highway Patrol investigated allegations of abuse at the boarding school. The argument grew heated, he says, and the staffer told the kids they were going to Brown Town. It received initial passage in the house and needs one more vote before going on to the Senate. Officials . The committee is considering bills introduced by Ingle and a Republican colleague last month to give the Missouri Department of Social Services oversight of religious boarding schools. Francis lied, he said, because Robert Graves a Cedar County sheriffs deputy who is on the board of Agaps church and has worked at the school was present for the interview. 1.0 Stephen H. Winter Haven, FL. By then, Circle of Hope had shut down after the state removed dozens of its students. The group claims a wide range of abuse, from starvation to physical and emotional abuse. Located just outside Stockton, Agape is the second unlicensed Christian boarding school in the state to be investigated for allegations of abuse. We want to make it about the children's rights rather than taking away religious rights. He would later set up a transport business to collect teens, hiring off-duty deputies to help him. But in July, his mother rewon custody and sprung him from Agap. But Breshears got a rude welcome. Agape's doctor is charged with child sex crimes and five employees are accused of assault, though Missouri's attorney general thinks many more workers should have been charged.. Alumni from Agap and Circle of Hope feel the momentum is swinging in their direction. I was scared I would get in trouble, and just make everything worse for me, said Francis, whose account was first reported by the Kansas City Star. Boyd and Stephanie Householder are facing more than 100 charges of sexual, physical and emotional abuse that allegedly took place at their faith-based boarding school in Missouri. In August, Sandoval was charged with arranging the kidnapping of an emancipated teen in Fresno, California, on behalf of the boys estranged mother, and then having him driven, handcuffed, 27 hours to Agap. They literally took the practices of Agape and opened up Circle of Hope, so we know for a fact that there is one other school that is ran just like Circle of Hope, and that place is what Circle of Hope modeled their school after, said Amanda Householder, daughter of Circle of Hope operators. (Image: KY3 / Video screengrab) Nineteen former students of an embattled fundamentalist boarding school in Missouri have made new claims of brutal physical and sexual abuse in court filings this month. One killed in officer-involved shooting in Branson, Mo. There was a small room down a dark staircase with blue padded floors and holes punched in the wall. The curriculum included traditional math and English. Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch, a nearby Christian boarding school for girls, was shut down in 2020. A Tri-City Herald story from 1996 said that Franklin County officials ordered the facility to close for code violations over removing and . Colton Schrag remembers the night at the Agap Boarding School when, he says, a staff member punched him in the face. We need people who will financially contribute and volunteer at the event to help give these . The evening began with a social hour and silent auction and continued with dinner and inspirational testimonies as we opened the next chapter of Agape Ranch. but has gone public in the past year with his . There were horses, a swimming pool, and a football team. To keep order, Agap instituted a military-like hierarchy, indicated by colored shirts that denoted ranks. One former student reportedly mentioned Agap in a suicide note. It appeared to be a vast improvement over his previous digs. But legislation she pushed for several years to require these programs to be licensed by the state the same way as secular facilities repeatedly failed to even get a vote. Meanwhile, tales of abuse continue to emerge. There is no cost to you, not even if you enroll in any school we might mention to you. First published on January 11, 2023 / 6:04 PM. Upon completion, our self sustaining community will care for up to 132 foster children and young adults at a time. According to AG Schmitts office, the Cedar County Sheriffs Department employs at least three people who used to work at Agap. NBC News reported on the allegations earlier this . McCrary said his office has received complaints about Agap, and that theyve all been investigated as far as it could go. He called Graves a very good deputy. McCrary said that he ensures there is no conflict of interest when investigating Agap complaints by involving other agencies, like the social services department. So they were all, in my book, guilty of association, said Schrag. 3 KCPD officers shot; standoff continues into Wednesday morning. Posted Apr 03, 2022 11:00 AM. Munton allowed the school to remain open, with state supervision.Allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Agape and nearby Christian boarding school Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch prompted a . Lack of oversight is not limited to Missouri. He likes to get in peoples heads.. Families looking to adopt are invited to meet, play, and talk to these children, and we need help putting it on. He says staff would restrain boys on the ground and use pressure points to the point of bruising. After Schrag, then 14, refused to answer their questions, he said, one of the employees knocked him to the ground, and then others held him facedown, pressing a knee into his back and head. In May 2021, the law requiring religious schools to register with the state passed. TOUGH-LOVE SCHOOLS CAN BE traced back to the 1950s, when a secular group called Synanon pioneered an approach to curing heroin addiction with isolation, humiliation, and sleep deprivation. Many children in foster care feel unlovable because of the abuse they've suffered all their lives. Missouri previously had virtually no oversight for religious boarding schools. Its about getting these kids to a place in their life where they have to look to God for help, he says. 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