Military school lawsuit settled on eve of trial
By ROXANA HEGEMAN | The Associated Press | Published: March 4, 2014
WICHITA, Kan. — On the eve of a federal trial, a Kansas military school's attorney said Monday that issues have been resolved regarding a lawsuit filed by 11 former cadets who claimed the school's practice of giving higher-ranking cadets the power to discipline younger ones encourages physical and mental abuse.
No details were immediately released.
"The issues in the case have been resolved and the case is being dismissed," John Schultz, attorney for St. John's Military School in Salina, wrote in an email.
The court confirmed that the trial scheduled to begin Tuesday before U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum in Kansas City, Kan., had been cancelled.
The attorney representing the students did not return messages for comment.
The former cadets — who hail from California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and Illinois — filed a lawsuit in 2012 alleging that higher-ranking students, called "Disciplinarians," abused younger students, even in the presence of faculty members. The plaintiffs claim negligent failure to supervise, intentional failure to supervise, as well as both negligent and intentional emotional distress.
The 126-year-old Episcopalian boarding school in the central Kansas town of Salina has long denied a culture of abuse exists.
A trial would have provided a rare public airing of recurring abuse allegations against the private, quasi-military program.
Plaintiffs have long contended that at least nine other abuse-related lawsuits have been filed against the school since 2006, but an Associated Press examination of federal and state court filings found at least 14 lawsuits filed since 2003 by cadets and their families. All were settled without trial.
St. John's has noted that each student is required to sign an anti-hazing pledge and has cited its efforts to curb abuses by installing surveillance cameras and conducting regular bruise checks of students.
Among the plaintiffs was a boy from Auburn, Calif., who says he was tormented by adults and students after suffering two broken legs in separate incidents during the four days he attended the school in August 2012.
Other alleged incidents were: a Tennessee student claiming his stomach was forcibly branded as a rite of initiation; a Texas boy who says he was urinated on in the shower; and an Illinois boy who says he suffered a fractured eye socket after being kneed in the head by a higher-ranking cadet.
St. John's officials have claimed that some of the alleged abuses were fabrications, some were accidental injuries and others involved misconduct by the plaintiffs.
The school, which charges nearly $30,000 a year for students in grades 6 to 12, says many of the cadets who filed suit were dismissed or withdrew from the school in lieu of dismissal for failing to follow the rules.
It has also criticized parents, saying they often look to blame the school for their sons' unwillingness to take advantage of opportunities at the school.