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. These include allegedly being choked, having their heads bashed against the floor, and genitals punched.
Plaintiffs made more than 50 claims in the filings, graphically describing the physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse they allegedly suffered for decades at Agape Boarding School near Stockton.
The filings are the latest in ongoing litigation between former students and Agape Boarding School and Agape Baptist Church, the Independent Fundamental Baptist church that runs the school. The church’s pastor, James Clemensen, founded the boarding school, and his son, Bryan Clemensen, runs the school.
Some of the alleged abuse has been allegedly been captured on video, as previously reported in The Roys Report (TRR). Several employees of the school have also been charged with numerous counts of felony assault. They have reportedly pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for hearings next month.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the church and school, Robert Bucklin, says in his filing that Bryan Clemensen kicked and punched him, as did other staffers. He adds that staff physically abused him “countless times,” including strangling him and slamming him to the ground.
Bucklin adds that the school didn’t do anything after he was sexually assaulted by another student. These and other abuses led to a “pandemic” of suicide attempts among students, he claims.
Bucklin and other former students are identified by their initials in the lawsuits.
The new claims date from as early as 2007, when Bucklin was first enrolled, to as recent as last year.
One student passed out when staff sexually abused him, according to the filing. Staffers reportedly pinned down another student, called J.M., and bashed her head into the floor, breaking her nose. She was forced to lay in a pool of her own blood and snot, the filing claims.
Additional claims include that staffers restrained students in ways that caused “excruciating pain,” slammed them to the ground, punched their genitals, smashed their heads on stairs or through drywall, choked them, and subjected them to “constant verbal abuse.”
Several students suffered broken bones, bruising, or other injuries, the filing states.
Attorney Ryan Frazier represents 18 of the 19 plaintiffs, including Bucklin. Frazier did not provide a statement in time for publication after TRR reached out to him. However, he told other outlets that the new allegations came out during depositions.
The evidence “shows that Agape had a complete indifference and conscious disregard for the safety of the students,” Frazier told the Springfield News-Leader. “The allegations are horrific and support a claim for punitive damages, which is why we have asked this Court to allow us to present evidence to the jury for a punitive damage award.”
John Schultz, attorney for Agape Baptist Church and the boarding school, said in a statement to TRR that the church and boarding school deny the alleged abuse.
“We intend to file a response to these lawsuits, denying the allegations and look forward to a trial where evidence can be presented to refute these allegations,” Schultz said in an emailed statement.
He also said the school enrolled more than 6,000 boys over three decades.
“We are disappointed to learn of the sensational allegations that some of our former boys are making now—for the first time,” Schultz said in the statement. “We have read many specific allegations that we know could not have happened given the 24/7 supervision that extends to the sleeping quarter, shower bays, classroom, dining hall and all outdoor activities.”
The former students argue the school should be forced to pay punitive damages because it disregarded state law and its own policies. The school hired or kept staff on who were clearly unsuitable for the job, the plaintiffs claim, and failed to train or supervise staff and students to prevent the alleged abuse.
A judge will hear arguments November 28 about whether to allow the plaintiffs to pursue punitive damages, court records show.
Reporting in recent years has revealed numerous allegations of sexual abuse linked to the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. And the new filings add to a mountain of accusations against Agape Boarding School.
The state of Missouri tried in September to shutter the school, but the attempt has reportedly stalled in court.