‘Organized crime against children’: Missouri House Speaker calls for closure of Agape Boarding School

STOCKTON, Mo. – The speaker of the Missouri House is calling for the U.S. attorney in Kansas City to shut down Agape Boarding School amid several abuse and neglect accusations.

House Speaker Rob Vescovo said in a letter Monday the situation is “more far-reaching and contains more deeply-rooted corruption than we are able to address solely at the state level.” He went on to say the school is committing “organized crime against children.”

The school is in Stockton, Missouri, about an hour north of Springfield. The all-boy school describes itself as a “National Boarding School for At-Risk or Unmotivated Boys” and as a “School with a Heart, in the Heart of Missouri.” Agape has operated since 1996. 

The abuse accusations are nothing new for Agape and Circle of Hope, a nearby girls’ boarding school unaffiliated with Agape. Last year, longtime Agape doctor David Smock was charged with sex crimes against children, while five others were charged with abuse counts. The attorney general’s office said at least 22 individuals should have been charged, but local prosecutors disagreed. 

Circle of Hope, in Humansville, closed in 2020 after its husband-and-wife co-founders were charged with 99 charges, including abuse, neglect and sex crimes. Vescovo, along with many others, are calling for Agape to be shut down too as it faces similar allegations. 

The two cases led to a new Missouri law last year that set minimum health and safety requirements for boarding schools regarding such things as food, clothing and medical care, along with mandatory employee background checks. 

Agape’s attorney, John Schultz, told the Associated Press the allegations of abuse were “100% false” and that, “There’s no evidence to support closing down Agape.”

On Tuesday, a Cedar County judge ruled the school would remain open for now, but scheduled two hearings Oct. 13 and 14 to determine its future.

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