STOCKTON, Mo. — The leaders of the Agape Boarding School announce that the institution will close its doors on Jan. 20.

The announcement comes after calls for Agape’s closure from state officials and former students and several criminal cases against former school staff.

For the past 30 years Agape Boarding School has provided over 6,000 boys with an opportunity to get their life back on track and toward a bright future. Agape has made the decision to stop providing services to the boys in its care effective January 20, 2023. Agape’s focus is on getting the boys who remain in the program safely transitioned back to their parents or to foster care, other group homes or residential programs. Agape’s decision to close is voluntary and solely due to the lack of financial resources to continue caring for the boys.

Agape Boarding School press release

Agape is a religious boarding school near Stockton in Cedar County, Missouri. The school was marketed to assist “troubled” boys and housed up to 60 youths. It was in operation for over three decades.

Former Missouri Attorney General and current U.S. Senator Eric Schmitt called for the closing of the school in September of 2022, citing reports of abuse and the fact that employees had not undergone criminal background checks.

Criminal cases

Court cases regarding employees of the school and a doctor who treated students have moved through the courts in recent weeks.

Three former counselors or staffers at the school have seen assault charges reduced to misdemeanor counts and have been sentenced to two years of parole and probation each. Charges against one staffer were dismissed and a fifth was to appear in court this week for a case management conference.

A doctor who treated boys from the school and who is accused of sexual misconduct involving students is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 17 in the Dade County Circuit Court where the case was moved on a change of venue.

He is charged with multiple counts, including sexual misconduct involving a child, statutory sodomy, stalking and child molestation.

Recent Developments

An in-depth feature from Rolling Stone magazine contributor Adam Piore explains how Agape’s allegations add to a “troubled-teen industry” in regard to treatment at boarding schools. He notes that many boarding schools are allowed to “operate with virtual impunity, thanks to federal inaction and permissive state laws.”

According to the article, a 2007 government report found thousands of abuse allegations between 1990 and 2007 with boarding schools in at least 33 states tied to incidents of abuse. Agape Boarding School currently faces at least 20 other civil lawsuits over allegations of child abuse, per Missouri court records. A nearby girls’ boarding school, Circle of Hope, closed during an investigation in 2020.

Piore’s article particularly focuses on the experiences of Andrew Breshears, who says some staff members were on a power trip, “a manipulator,” or enjoyed brutalizing kids in their charge. He claims he was ordered to do thousands of push-ups for an incident of cussing and told told if “I didn’t get it done, I couldn’t eat my next meal.”

Rolling Stone also cited information from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which claims that Agapé staff threw students into walls, pushed them to the ground and forced them to sleep in handcuffs, among other things. Previous Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt recommended prosecuting 22 staff members with a total of 65 counts on behalf of 36 students.