Agapé Boarding School faces personal injury lawsuit

An aerial view of Agapé Boarding School, which faces a personal injury lawsuit in Cedar County Circuit Court.

Suit alleges student with disabilities was physically, sexually and emotionally abused

In the same week Agapé Boarding School was featured on an episode of Dateline NBC about boarding school abuse in the local area, the Cedar County school for troubled boys was also hit with a personal injury lawsuit on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

According to online court records, the suit’s defendants are listed as Agapé Baptist Church Inc. — frequently known as Agapé Boarding School — along with James L. Clemenson, Frank Burton, Robert L. Graves, Tim Cleveland and Scott L. Dumar.

Clemensen previously acted as administrator for Agapé. Graves, Cleveland and Dumar have acted as Agapé board members, and Burton acted as an officer.

The suit’s plaintiff — John Doe I — is listed anonymously.

The four-count petition filed in Cedar County Circuit Court states Doe I — who has disabilities, including autism and Aspberger’s requiring specialized care — attended Agapé from Feb. 2015 through March 2016.

For many years prior to Doe I’s arrival at Agapé, there were multiple acts of physical, emotional and sexual abuse perpetrated by Agapé staff and residents against Agapé residents, including acts resulting in criminal sexual abuse charges and conviction, the petition states.

Prior to the incidents of physical, emotional and sexual abuse occurring to Doe I, another resident at Agapé was the victim of multiple sexual assaults, which lead to former resident and former staff member Jacob Mayer being charged with and pleading guilty to multiple charges of felony child molestation, the petition states.

In the petition’s first count, the defendants are alleged to have failed in placing appropriate policies for monitoring and supervising Agapé staff members and residents so as to prevent harm to Doe I, and were not qualified or properly experienced in addressing Doe I’s special needs.

The petition also alleges the defendants failed to take reasonable steps to prevent Doe I from being physically, emotionally and sexually abused by staff members and other residents at Agapé.

Doe I has “suffered physical injuries, emotional distress and psychological injuries as a result of the abuses suffered while a resident of Agapé that have necessitated medical and psychological care and treatment and will necessitate future care,” the petition states.

The petition asks for damages in a fair and reasonable amount determined by the jury as the court deems appropriate.

According to online court records, Doe I is represented by Randall Ray Cowherd of Springfield.

Agapé’s representation has not been listed as of press time Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The Cedar County Republican reached out to Agapé for comment. Bryan Clemenson, school principal, said they had not been served with the lawsuit papers and were unaware of the suit yet, so he could not provide comment.

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