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Survivors of southwest Missouri boarding schools share stories of alleged horrors they endured

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Amanda Householder is suing her parents for the abuse she allegedly suffered at their religious boarding school for girls called Circle of Hope.

Former students of Agape Boarding School and Circle of Hope have sought to expose the operators of schools where they allege students were subject to years of abuse.

The Agapé Boarding School for Boys in Stockton, Missouri, has been hit with 14 lawsuits accusing staff and other students of abuse. New lawsuits also allege that Agapé violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by misrepresenting or concealing information given to the students and their families.

Plaintiffs Robert Bucklin and Amanda Householder are working to get the school shut down for good.

Amanda is the daughter of Boyd and Stephanie Householder, who are currently under house arrest awaiting trial on dozens of counts of felony abuse at Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch, a reformatory boarding school in Humansville, Missouri. The school opened in July 2006 and was closed in 2020 amid reports and lawsuits filed by former students alleging child abuse.

Boyd Householder worked at Agapé caring for horses and other animals before opening Circle of Hope in 2006. Although Agapé and Circle of Hope were run separately, the two schools had close ties and were less than half an hour's drive from each other.

Amanda lived on the grounds of Agapé with her parents for five years when she was a child. During that time, she alleged, she saw boys being beaten, tortured and raped.

"I truly think my dad opened up the girls school for his own sick perversions now looking back at it," she said. "I think he thought that he could control the girls different than he could control the boys."

Up to Date reached out to the parents of Amanda Householder and Agape Boarding School for comments but received no response.

Despite Amanda Householder's success in getting Circle of Hope shut down, Agapé is still open, leaving many kids in an environment Robert Bucklin alleged is unsafe.

Bucklin said he survived abuse while attending Agape Boarding School from 2007-2012 and the faculty did majority of the beating and torturing. He also pointed out that classmates were scared to tell their parents what was going on, because when they reported what was happening to administrators and the dean, nothing was ever done to help.

"Nowhere in the United States would a teacher who was charged with sexual or physical abuse be employed," said Bucklin. "They would be put on leave to protect the victims and prevent future victims."

The schools are not affiliated with any particular Christian denomination. But both opened in southwest Missouri under a 1982 state law that allowed unregulated operations of religious boarding schools.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
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