Missouri House speaker urges feds to shut down Agape school

Sep 26, 2022, 10:40 AM | Updated: 12:30 pm

The speaker of the Missouri House is urging the U.S. attorney in Kansas City to shut down Agape Boarding School, accusing the Christian school of “what amounts to organized crime against children.”

Republican House Speaker Rob Vescovo sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore that was made available to reporters on Monday. In it, Vescovo said state efforts to close the school have failed, and the local prosecutor has failed to take action to protect the boys who attend the school in the southwestern Missouri town of Stockton.

“Right now in Missouri we are faced with the horrifying truth that a network of immoral individuals have engaged in what amounts to organized crime against children,” Vescovo wrote. But he said the situation is “more far-reaching and contains more deeply-rooted corruption than we are able to address solely at the state level.”

Vescovo didn’t immediately respond to an interview request to explain his concerns about corruption.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City declined comment.

Agape’s attorney, John Schultz, called the allegations against the school “100% false.”

“There’s no evidence to support closing down Agape,” Schultz said.

A Cedar County judge is still weighing the request from Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to close Agape and require the release of the boys who live at the campus. On Monday, Judge David Munton rescinded an order allowing state Department of Social Services workers to remain on the premises of the school.

Schmitt’s office on Monday filed an amended petition and asked for a new judge. The new filing seeks a court order allowing state workers to remain at the school to make sure the students are safe.

“We have been steadfast in our fight to protect the students at Agape, and we will not stop until justice is done in this case,” Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for Schmitt, said in an email.

The new petition said Agape’s director told the state that plans call for moving away from a boarding school facility starting Tuesday. Instead, the petition states, boys will live in five group homes on the property, with about nine boys in each house.

“The State will not allow Agape to escape accountability or continue to present an immediate health and safety concern to children through corporate shell games while employing the same people and methods that originally led the State to bring this action to protect children,” the petition states.

Agape’s website calls it a boarding school “for teenage boys exhibiting bad behavior or failing academics. Our mission is to turn around your troubled teen.”

Schmitt’s office first filed a motion to close Agape earlier this month, accusing the school of allowing someone on the state registry for child abuse and neglect to work there, and alleging systemic abuse. Agape officials told authorities that the person on the registry was fired, but a court filing from Schmitt’s office said the school presents “an immediate health and safety concern for the children residing at Agape.”

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.

Several lawsuits filed on behalf of former students also have named Agape and Circle of Hope, a Christian boarding school for girls in a neighboring county. Circle of Hope was shut down in 2020 and its husband-and-wife co-founders face a combined 99 charges that include child abuse and neglect and sex crimes.

The abuse allegations at the two schools prompted lawmakers to pass a new law last year requiring stricter regulation of boarding schools.

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

AP

Associated Press

Feds say cyberattack caused suicide helpline’s outage

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack caused a nearly daylong outage of the nation’s new 988 mental health helpline late last year, federal officials told The Associated Press Friday. Lawmakers are now calling for the federal agency that oversees the program to prevent future attacks. “On December 1, the voice calling functionality of the 988 Lifeline […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Workers at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., walk by a Nissan Altima sedan on May 15, 2012....
Associated Press

US board clears path for mini-union vote at big Nissan plant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Fewer than 100 employees out of the thousands who work at Nissan’s auto assembly plant in Tennessee can hold a vote on whether to form a small union, the federal labor board has decided. The ruling Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board overturns a June 2021 decision by one of […]
17 hours ago
A person gambles as betting odds for NFL football's Super Bowl are displayed on monitors at the Cir...
Associated Press

Super Bowl prop betting increasing in popularity

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jay Kornegay was behind the counter in 2004 when someone approached with $5,000 to bet on the Super Bowl but had no idea how to decide. The man, not a regular sports bettor, thought for a few moments and decided to put it all on the Carolina Panthers to score exactly […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Ford, Starbucks fall; Clorox, Gilead Sciences rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that traded heavily or had substantial price changes Friday: Ford Motor Co., down $1.09 to $13.12. The automaker reported disappointing fourth-quarter earnings and said its costs are too high. Amazon.com Inc., down $9.52 to $103.39. The online retail giant’s fourth-quarter profit slumped and missed analysts’ forecasts. Alphabet Inc., down $2.96 […]
17 hours ago
Maria Colarelli, left, assists customer Gregory Williams with his purchase of a marijuana product a...
Associated Press

Legal recreational pot sales begin for Missouri adults

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Recreational marijuana sales in Missouri officially began Friday after the state health department unexpectedly began approving dispensary permits early. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since a ballot measure passed in 2018, but voters went a step further this November by approving a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug for […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

How major US stock indexes fared Friday 2/3/2023

Wall Street’s rally hit a wall after a surprisingly strong jobs report fueled worries about inflation and higher interest rates. The S&P 500 fell 1% Friday, its first drop in four days, though it took an up-and-down route to get there. The bond market was more decisive in thinking the strong jobs data may push […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Missouri House speaker urges feds to shut down Agape school