Missouri boarding school can remain open, with oversight

Sep 12, 2022, 12:46 PM | Updated: 12:59 pm

A Christian boarding school in southwestern Missouri can remain open despite the state attorney general alleging a “dark pattern of behavior,” a judge ruled Monday.

Judge David Munton’s ruling allows continued round-the-clock monitoring of Agape Boarding School in Stockton by Missouri child welfare workers. The school serves about 60 boys.

The Kansas City Star reported that the state was prepared to call two former Agape students to testify on Monday. Agape attorney John Schultz told the judge there was no proof of any immediate health or safety concern for students and allowing former students to testify was “simply for publicity,” the Star reported.

The judge didn’t allow the testimony but scheduled another hearing for Sept. 21.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office first sought to shut down Agape on Wednesday after learning that someone on the state registry for child abuse and neglect was actively working there. On Friday, the attorney general’s office filed an amended motion alleging systemic abuse.

“Agape’s operation of a residential care facility must cease because it presents an immediate health and safety concern for the children residing at Agape,” the court filing stated. It also accused Agape of providing the state with incomplete information concerning which adults have access to children.

“These new developments are sadly consistent with the dark pattern of behavior at Agape previously exposed by the Attorney General’s Office” and the Missouri Department of Social Services, the filing stated.

Agape’s website proclaims, “We’re still open and accepting students!” It calls itself a “Christian Boarding School That Turns Around Rebellious Boys.”

Munton last week considered closing the school, but Agape officials told authorities that the person on the abuse and neglect registry was fired on Wednesday. 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 state law last year requiring stricter oversight of such facilities. Among other things, the new law allows state or local authorities to petition the court for closure of a facility if there is believed to be an immediate health or safety threat to the children.

Last year, Agape’s longtime doctor, David Smock, was charged with child sex crimes and five employees were charged with low-level abuse counts. Schmitt’s office contended that 22 workers should have been charged, and with more serious crimes. But in Missouri, only the local prosecutor can file charges, and Cedar County Prosecuting Attorney Ty Gaither has said no additional employees would be charged.

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. The school was ordered shut down in 2020.

Several lawsuits filed on behalf of former students also have named Agape and Circle of Hope.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Protesters stand outside of the Senate chamber at the Indiana Statehouse on Feb. 22, 2023, i...

Associated Press

LGBTQ+ Americans are under attack, Human Rights Campaign declares in state of emergency warning

The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. on Tuesday.

3 days ago

FILE - People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in Washington to listen to oral arguments in a...

Associated Press

Supreme Court opened the door to states’ voting restrictions. Now a new ruling could widen them.

Within hours of a U.S. Supreme Court decision dismantling a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Texas lawmakers announced plans to implement a strict voter ID law that had been blocked by a federal court. Lawmakers in Alabama said they would press forward with a similar law that had been on hold.

3 days ago

Gavel (Pexels Photo)...

Associated Press

Ex-teacher sentenced to prison for making death threat against Arizona legislator

A former Tucson middle school teacher was sentenced Tuesday to 2 ½ years in prison after pleading guilty to making a death threat against Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers.

3 days ago

FILE - Police officers stand outside a Target store as a group of people protest across the street,...

Associated Press

Pride becomes a minefield for big companies, but many continue their support

Many big companies, including Target and Bud Light's parent, are still backing Pride events in June despite the minefield that the monthlong celebration has become for some of them.

4 days ago

FILE - Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden plays music on a phone as he arrives to spe...

Associated Press

Biden, looking to shore up Hispanic support, faces pressure to get 2024 outreach details right

Joe Biden vowed in 2020 to work “like the devil” to energize Hispanic voters, and flew to Florida seven weeks before Election Day to do just that.

4 days ago

Editorial members of the Austin American-Statesman's Austin NewsGuild picket along the Congress Ave...

Associated Press

Correction: US-Gannett Walkout story

Journalists at two dozen local newspapers across the U.S. walked off the job Monday to demand an end to painful cost-cutting measures and a change of leadership at Gannett, the country's biggest newspaper chain.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

5 mental health myths you didn’t know were made up

Helping individuals understand mental health diagnoses like obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder or generalized anxiety disorder isn’t always an easy undertaking. After all, our society tends to spread misconceptions about mental health like wildfire. This is why being mindful about how we talk about mental health is so important. We can either perpetuate misinformation about already […]



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...

Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.

Missouri boarding school can remain open, with oversight