Military School Seeks Gag Order In Abuse Lawsuit

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

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UPDATE: Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Kansas military school is asking a federal judge to bar the plaintiffs and lawyers in a lawsuit alleging abuse of former cadets from talking publicly about the case.

Attorneys for St. John's Military School, in Salina, filed a motion Thursday seeking a gag order in the lawsuit by parents claiming their sons were repeatedly beaten by higher-ranking students in charge of discipline.

U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum scheduled a Tuesday hearing on the motion.

St. John's contends public discussion would prejudice its ability to get a fair trial. The school issued a statement Wednesday saying it was studying the allegations but denying the existence of a "culture of abuse."

St. John's has settled nine other lawsuits filed since 2006 alleging abuse.

UPDATE: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Parents of four former cadets at a Kansas military school have filed a lawsuit claiming their sons were repeatedly beaten by older students who were in charge of handing out discipline to younger boys.

The federal lawsuit was filed last week in Kansas City, Kan., against St. John's Military School in Salina and the Episcopal Church. It seeks more than $75,000, plus costs and punitive damages.

The suit accuses the school and church of shirking their duties to make sure students were safe at the residential boarding school, which serves boys in sixth through 12th grades.

The plaintiffs claim the school allowed experienced students, called "Disciplinarians," to abuse students, including in the presence of faculty members.

"The school allows and encourages older students to abuse young students — physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually," the lawsuit alleges. "Although St. John's requests that students inform school personnel if beatings occur, it subsequently tells the Disciplinarians which individuals reported the beatings. It is commonly known throughout the school that if a student reports any beatings, he will suffer significant retribution."

The suit does not claim any of the four plaintiffs was sexually abused, but alleges one of the students did witness an attempted rape.

In a statement Wednesday, St. John's denied "there was culture of abuse, lack of institutional control, failure to supervise or any kind of cover-up." The school said it was investigating the allegations with its legal counsel and would file a response in court in the next several days.

Two of the plaintiffs are from Colorado, and one each is from Texas and Illinois. All are under 18 years old. Attorney Daniel Zmijewski said more students could be added later.

The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas are named as defendants because St. John's is affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

Wednesday afternoon, the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas released a statement saying its listing as a plaintiff in the lawsuit is inaccurate.

"The inclusion of the Diocese of Kansas is a mistake, since the school is not connected to this diocese but is instead associated with the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas. The two dioceses are separate and distinct jurisdictions, with different bishops and different governing bodies. Our attorney has contacted the plaintiffs' attorney to inform him of this mistake and has asked him to correct the filing to remove the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas from the action."

The lawsuit claims that if students or their parents reported abuse to school officials, the information was passed to the Disciplinarians and more beatings followed.

One plaintiff who attended the school in the spring of 2011 claims he was bound, gagged and beaten by several students, and photos of the abuse were posted to Facebook. He also claimed he was forced to roll in mud, then several students urinated on him in the shower.

Another plaintiff claims he tried to leave the school and hitch-hike home, but was tracked down by several students and a ranking faculty member on a highway. He claims he was beaten, hooded and beaten again in the presence of the faculty member while being driven back to the school.

A third plaintiff said he was sent to a hospital with a broken eye socket after being kneed in the face by a ranking student.

The lawsuit claims parents whose sons claimed they were abused were told by the school that the children were exaggerating or making up stories because they wanted to go home.

Zmijewski said St. John's has settled nine such cases since 2006.

"This case is similar, the same kind of allegations," Zmijewski said. "I don't think the school is going to be shocked by this."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Kansas military school is being sued by parents of cadets who say their sons were regularly abused by older students with the blessing of school officials.

The federal lawsuit was filed against St. John's Military School last week in Kansas City, Kan. It claims the school allows older students,
called "Disciplinarians," to discipline younger students who step
out of line.

The parents of four boys claim their sons suffered severe beatings by the Disciplinarians, and when the boys reported the abuse to school officials, the beatings got worse.

School President Andy England says he was meeting with legal counsel and the school was doing "due diligence" before responding to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the school has settled nine similar abuse cases since 2006.

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