Former Students Claim Years of Abuse at Adventist Schools

(CN) – Two former residents of Seventh-day Adventist affiliated boarding schools in West Virginia and Tennessee are seeking compensatory and punitive damages for what they claim were years of extreme sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their teachers and fellow students.

The complaint filed Jan. 27 in Kanawha County Circuit Court in West Virginia alleges that numerous youths who attended the boarding schools were routinely and repeatedly anally raped, forced to perform oral sex, and touched on the genitals while restrained and unable to defend themselves by both staff members of the school and fellow students.

The defendant Miracle Meadows School in West Virginia was shut down on Aug. 14, 2014, after the arrest of defendant Timothy Aaron Arrington, a progress coach at the school, who was charged with three felony counts of child abuse creating risk of serious injury and one count of child abuse resulting in injury.

The criminal complaint against Arrington alleged he choked a student to the point of unconsciousness in June 2014, and that the child woke up handcuffed in his room. The allegations against him came to light after a different child was brought to a local hospital to receive medical attention.

Immediately after Arrington’s arrest, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services took emergency custody of the school’s 19 students, and returned them to their families. The state Department of Education then revoked exemptions Miracle Meadows received as a non-public school. Without the exemption, students are no longer considered to be attending an academic facility.

Defendant Susan Gayle Clark, founder and director of the now defunct school in West Virginia, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges — neglect creating a risk of injury, failure to report, and obstruction — in February 2016, and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation.

The other defendant school is the Advent Home Learning Center located near Calhoun, Tennessee.

In their civil complaint, the plaintiffs, identified only as L.B. and T.B., say that students were routinely transferred between the two schools during a period beginning in 2009 and ending in 2014.

In addition to their allegations of sexual abuse, L.B. and T.B. claim students at the Advent School were punished through a “quarantine” method, in which staff members locked the children alone in a 10 foot by 4 foot room for extended periods of time — sometimes as long as a month —  with nothing more than a bucket to urinate and defecate in.

L.B. and T.B. claim that while in quarantine, those being punished would be forced to memorize Bible verses or write out whole Bible chapters while being served nothing more than bread, fruit, rice and beans for their meals.

Both plaintiffs also allege they were handcuffed and bound with duct tape on various occasions while attending the schools. L.B. claims that in one case he was handcuffed to a younger boy who defecated on himself; T.B. says he was once handcuffed to a bed naked and kept that way for two days.

They both claim numerous staff members knew of the abuse, but either condoned it or simply chose to ignore it.

The plaintiffs are represented by Guy Bucci in Charleston, West Virginia, a V. Paul Bucci II of Laffey, Bucci & Kent in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Representatives of the Advent Home Learning Center did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Representatives of the other defendants could not be located.

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