In the wake of a flood of nearly 20 lawsuits by former students filed in the last year charging that they were subjected to prolonged and repeated physical, sexual, and emotional abuse while at this Missouri-based boarding school, it appears that political momentum is building to shutter the Baptist Agape Boarding School, as those lawsuits have led to criminal charges being filed against the school's former medical director and five other employees.
Predictably, the school has publicly denied the accusations, castigating the charges as "sensational." To the contrary, Agape has stuck to its commercial message that they continue to provide a wonderful environment for troubled youth, stating:
“At Agapé, we lovingly, patiently, and biblically teach your child the importance of submission to authority and the joys of being an obedient law-abiding citizen,” a soft-spoken voiceover actor says while images of smiling teenagers flash across the screen. “Mom and Dad, we want to support you in your effort to rescue your son from himself.”
The dichotomy between the student experience touted by Agape and these alumni could hardly be more stark; in contrast to the warm, nurturing environment described by the school, these former students describe being subjected to physical restraints for hours on end, hazing, repeated beatings, forced isolation from parents and peers, the censoring of their mail, and gross malnutrition.
And the tuition for this boarding school was $48,000/year.
How Some Laws Have Made it Easier to Pursue Sexual Assault Claims from Long Ago
Recognizing that in many instances victims of sexual abuse at school are unable to come to grips with what happened to them for many years, thereby leaving these victims without legal recourse against the schools because the time to pursue those claims tends to expire relatively quickly, some states, like New York (which passed the Child Victims Act), allowing for a longer window of time to pursue these claims. Some of the highlights of the Child Victims Act included the following provisions:
- Extended the statute of limitations in civil actions arising from child sexual abuse, which currently range from one to five years at most, to allow survivors to bring suits until they reach age 55.
- Created a one-year window during which presently time-barred civil claims could be revived.
- Permitted claims against both public and private institutions by explicitly eliminating the notice of claim requirement for bringing suits against public institutions both prospectively and during the revival window.
An Important Caveat
At the risk of stating the obvious, school assault claims that are based upon acts that occurred several years ago will often, if not usually, present a significant evidentiary challenge, because to the extent there may have been objective evidence to back up these claims, that evidence may now be long gone.