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Agape Boarding School announces it’s closing due to 'lack of financial resources'

Colton Schrag, who spent years at Agape Boarding School in southwest Missouri, where dozens of former students have described experiencing abuse, testifies during a committee hearing at the Missouri Capitol on Feb. 10, 2021.
Tim Bommel
/
House Communications
Colton Schrag, who spent years at Agape Boarding School in southwest Missouri, where dozens of former students have described experiencing abuse, testifies during a committee hearing at the Missouri Capitol on Feb. 10, 2021.

Agape Boarding School in rural Cedar County has been the focus of child abuse allegations, lawsuits and government investigations in recent years.

Agape former director Bryan Clemensen announced Wednesday that the Christian reform school for boys would stop providing services January 20.

Originally founded on the West Coast, Agape operated near Stockton since 1996. At least 6,000 children had been students there, according to the announcement, first reported by the Springfield News-Leader.

In a written statement, Clemensen said the decision to close was solely due to "lack of financial resources to continue caring for the boys" — not abuse allegations by former students and others, or investigations by state authorities.

In September, a Cedar County judge ordered the school shut down, but later suspended the order.

Earlier this week, former students filed four new civil lawsuits against Agape in federal court. Their attorney told KSMU the cases had previously been filed in state courts, but were dismissed there.

Roughly 20 lawsuits have been filed against Agape to date.

Josh Bradney is a 21-year-old now living in California who attended the school from 2014 to 2016. He alleges he was the victim of emotional, physical and sexual abuse while attending Agape and sued the school seeking damages.

“It’s just a huge blessing that finally a lot of people’s healing process can start," Bradney told KSMU shortly after news of Agape's closing became public. "It's very emotional but also it's very rewarding because I can finally sleep at night knowing there's no kids right now that are going to be abused at that school anymore."

Robert Bucklin, another former student, now lives in Michigan.

"Today, the hundreds of victims who have come forth can rest assured that no more children will be hurt at Agape Boarding School," Bucklin told KSMU in a Wednesday text message. "The healing process can start for so many. After years of fighting for justice, justice has finally prevailed."

Clemensen's attorney did not immediately respond to written questions sent by KSMU Wednesday about how many students were living at Agape recently, or what owners of the campus plan to do with the property.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs and investigations.