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Kan. military school seeks dismissal of abuse suit

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ROXANA HEGEMAN | April 9, 2012 12:43 PM EST | AP


WICHITA, Kan. — A Kansas military boarding school that has settled nine abuse lawsuits since 2006 has asked a court to dismiss the latest one, which accuses the school of allowing and encouraging older students to discipline younger ones by beating and otherwise abusing them.

The St. John's Military School filed motions in federal court Friday saying the abuse alleged in the lawsuit either didn't happen or happened without the knowledge of school officials. The school asked that the lawsuit, which was filed by parents on behalf of six former cadets and by an adult former cadet, be dismissed or ordered to be settled in arbitration. It says its contract with cadets' families includes a provision requiring disputes go to binding arbitration.

The plaintiffs, who are from California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and Illinois, allege that St. John's allowed experienced students, called "Disciplinarians," to abuse students, including in the presence of faculty members. One plaintiff alleges that during the four days he attended the school, he suffered repeated abuse and broke both legs. Another says a ranking student kneed him in the face and broke his eye socket, and a third says he was bound, gagged and beaten by several students, and that photos of the abuse were posted on Facebook.

The lawsuit also names as defendants The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas, entities which the suit says created the school.

St. John's, which charges families nearly $30,000 per year for students grades 6-12, denied in its court filings that a culture of abuse exists at the school and notes that each student is required to sign an anti-hazing pledge. It also denied the former student's claim that his legs were broken as a result of abuse and said investigations by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and Salina Police Department found no validity to his claims.

The school also asked U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum to strike from the court record the alleged Facebook photo of the cadet and the X-ray of the other former student's leg, which shows his right femur bone displaced several inches above the knee. St. John's contends they are "scandalous exhibits" and alleges that the cadet posed for the Facebook photo.

In the court filings, St. John's denied that a culture of abuse exists at the school and noted that each student is required to sign an anti-hazing form.