BREAKING: Agape Boarding School Closes Its Doors
Updated: Jan 13
Agape Boarding school is closing its doors. This Missouri facility, which was not licensed, was accused of using physical restraints on dozens of students. After a string of civil lawsuits and an investigation by the Missouri Attorney General, the school announced Wednesday that it would "stop providing services" beginning January 20, 2023.
Former director Bryan Clemensen claims this decision is due to a shortage of financial resources. "Agape's goal is to get the boys in the program safely transferred to their parents, foster care or other residential programs," Clemensen stated Wednesday in a statement. "Agape’s decision to close was voluntary and solely due to the inability to continue caring for these boys."
Clemensen claimed that Agape had provided "over 6,000 boys" with an opportunity for their lives to turn around. But hundreds of those given Agape's particular brand of "opportunity," were unaware of the school's staunch IFB Cultist beliefs and military-esque hierarchy. They also suffered extreme punishments, bordering on torture.
Agape was located in Stockton, Missouri. It claimed to be a right-wing Independent Fundamental Baptist reform school for " at-risk and unmotivated boys." However, several lawsuits against Agape claim that at least 18 former students allege that certain faculty members assisted or directly committed abuse towards them. Other claims are that students were forced into walls and ground, starved and then made to sleep in handcuffs for up to eight days.
Civil suits allege that there was a "pandemic of students trying to hang themselves."
All allegations against the school have been denied.
"They would put you down," said Andrew Breshears. He was a former student at Agape. "They would tell you that you are nothing. You're dirtbags, you're hoodlums. You're never going to make it out."
A number of people associated with the school were charged, including David Smock (the school's doctor) and Julio Sandoval (Agape's former deputy dean), with crimes against teens under their care. Both of them have pleaded guilty. In November, an allegedly former Agape employee was accused of 215 counts of child pornography possession. Clemensen, despite the pressure from all sides, has maintained that the school's tactics weren't abusive and were focused on helping teens in their care -- even though a preliminary injunction has prevented him from the Child Abuse Central Registry but has prohibited him from having physical contact with students.
Clemensen stated, "it's about getting them to a point in their lives where they have to turn to God for help." Clemensen stated. "They must stop looking at drugs or their friends and instead say to God,, 'I need your assistance to feel better'."
Even though the school has closed its doors, administrators still face at least 19 active civil lawsuits from former students. They claim that the abuse caused them nightmares, hypervigilance, lasting stress, and trauma.
Colton Schrag, a former student at Agape, said that he was "happy" that no children were being abused at the school. He had previously stated that he saw Clemensen beat Schrag and his classmates and encouraged other staff members to do so.
"I don’t know if that chapter can be closed, but I can certainly move on to the next goal. Schrag said he doesn't believe that chapter in his life will ever be closed after reflecting on his time at the reform facility. He added, "I feel like a burden is lifted off my shoulders."
Josh Bradney, another survivor, stated that he started "tearing up" when he heard that the school was closing. Bradney, who was only 12 years old at the time he arrived at school in 2014, said that students sexually assaulted him and one student later became a member of staff.
Bradney continues to keep in touch with survivors and receives comfort and guidance from them. "We all share the same situation. All of us can support each other in one goal: To close the schools that abuse children and to protect them.
Let's thank God that this awful, evil place has been shut down. We still have work to do as these abusers, as in the past, will rebrand and start another "ministry". Their website has removed all branding and staff but does link to other like-minded boarding schools. They are still actively collecting leads in the contact form.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."