The state of Missouri has launched a criminal investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect at Residential School in Agape, a Christian institution in the rural southwestern part of the state, a spokesperson for the state confirmed on Friday. the State Highway Patrol. NBC News reported on the allegations earlier this month.
Agapé is presented as an installation which “revolves around rebellious boys“. More than a dozen alumni and former staff previously told NBC News that Agape employees frequently assaulted boys in their care and that the school had censored students’ communications with their children. parents.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Friday its drug and crime control division was investigating Agape “at the request of the Cedar County Sheriff and the Missouri Department of Human Services Children’s Division.”
A spokesperson for the Highway Patrol declined to say what prompted the criminal investigation or when it began. The development comes two weeks after NBC News and “Dateline” published the results of an investigation into allegations of abuse in Agape. The Kansas City Star has published similar articles in recent months.
The Missouri Department of Social Services declined to comment on the Agape investigation, citing privacy rules regarding child abuse investigations, but said such investigations “are often co-investigated with law enforcement. local “. Cedar County Sheriff James McCrary did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Agape.
Agape executives have not previously responded to requests for comment on the abuse allegations. On its website, the school claims to have welcomed more than 4,000 students aged 12 to 17 over the past three decades. Agape also says the boys “will find any excuse to give their parents as to why they shouldn’t stay here,” and if the school were closed, the students would end up in jail.
Missouri is one of 17 states that exempt religious boarding schools from licensing and oversight by state child welfare and education authorities, NBC News investigation found. . At least 23 states, including Missouri, don’t even require residential schools to notify their education departments of their existence.
After hearing testimony from former religious boarding school students, including Agape, this month, a Missouri House committee proposed bipartisan legislation to require those schools to register with the state. The legislation would also give the Department of Social Services the power to seek to close facilities following suspected abuse cases.