KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – Parents claim in Federal Court that a Christian military school lets students known as “the Disciplinarians” abuse younger students who are bound, gagged, beaten and urinated upon.
Parents of four students sued St. John’s Military School, of Salina, Kan., and The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
The plaintiffs claim St. John’s has settled nine lawsuits alleging abuse since 2006.
The parents claim the residential boarding school for grades 6 through 12 allows senior students, known as the Disciplinarians, to discipline lower-ranking students.
“Through this model, St. John’s hands over to adolescent students the school’s obligation to act as parent to each child enrolled at the institution,” the complaint states. “These Disciplinarians abuse that power and take their authority beyond any reasonable limits while putting the younger boys in constant fear of physical and mental harm.
“Because St. John’s grants its Disciplinarians the authority to discipline the younger boys, it should have heightened security and increased personnel to monitor all activities and protect its children. Yet, in practice, it does quite the opposite.
“St. John’s students live in dormitories that even its former president called ‘a terrible place.’ The dormitories significantly lack monitoring in the form of personnel and cameras. At most, only one adult supervisor remains in the dormitory overnight to monitor the student activities.
“By housing students in facilities with minor supervision, St. John’s grants its Disciplinarians carte blanche to do what they wish and inflict harm upon the younger boys.”
One student says he was bound, gagged and beaten by multiple students, who took pictures of the assault and posted them on Facebook. This student says he was locked in a locker for 30 minutes, was forced to roll around in the mud in his uniform, then discard his clothes and was urinated on while showering.
Another student claims he witnessed multiple suicide attempts by students, and an attempted rape.
A third student says he was forced to perform physical training until he vomited.
All of the student-plaintiffs claim they were victimized by multiple beatings, including one assault that led to a broken orbital socket and permanent loss of vision.
The plaintiffs say the school encourages students to report abuse – but then tells the Disciplinarians which students made the complaint. Therefore, students who report abuse fear retaliation by the Disciplinarians, the complaint states.
They seek damages for negligent supervision, intentional failure to supervise, intentional infliction of emotional distress or outrage, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy to assault and batter.
They are represented by Daniel Zmijewski, with Miller Schirger, of Kansas City, Mo.
St. John’s is a member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools.