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As Civil Lawsuits Continue – Agape Boarding School Shutters It’s Doors

The Agape Boarding School, a Missouri boarding school for boys that was labeled the “Christian Reform School from Hell” by Rolling Stone magazine, announced that it will be closing later this month. According to a statement obtained by 5 On Your Side, the former director of the school, Bryan Clemensen, said that the school had been providing over 6,000 boys with an opportunity to get their life back on track and towards a bright future. But Agape’s decision to close is voluntary and solely due to the lack of financial resources to continue caring for the boys. Robert Bucklin, who said he spent five years at the Baptist facility in Stockton, Missouri and was one of several victims of abuse there, stated that after years of fighting for justice, justice has finally prevailed. He also urged for more legislation not only in Missouri, but all over the U.S. to prevent situations like this from happening.

Allegations Of Abuse At School For Boys

Trouble for Agape Boarding School began in 2020 when former students came forward with allegations of abuse. Former students reported being raped and suffering permanent injuries from being disciplined or forced to work long hours of manual labor. As a result of the abuse allegations at Agape and Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch, a state law was passed in 2021 requiring stricter oversight of such facilities. Prior to this, Missouri had virtually no oversight for religious boarding schools.

2021: David Smock Charged With Sex Crimes

In 2021, Agape’s doctor, David Smock, was charged with child sex crimes, and five employees were charged with low-level abuse counts. However, the then-Attorney General’s office contended that 22 workers should have been charged, and with more serious crimes. But, in Missouri, only the local prosecutor can file charges, and Cedar County Prosecuting Attorney Ty Gaither has said no additional employees would be charged. The husband-and-wife founders of Circle of Hope, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, currently face a combined 99 charges that include child abuse and neglect, sex crimes, and other counts. This school also closed in 2020 amidst investigations.

Closure Of Agape – “Justice Has Prevailed”

Several lawsuits filed on behalf of former students have also named Agape and Circle of Hope. One former Agape student who filed a suit, Robert Bucklin, said that the closure means justice has finally prevailed. “Today, the many victims who have come forth can rest assured that no more children will be hurt at Agape Boarding School,” Bucklin said in a statement, “The healing process can start for so many.”

School Closes Before Any Judge Determination Or Court-Ordered Closure

Among other provisions, the new state law passed in 2021 allows state or local authorities to petition the court for the closure of a facility if children’s safety or health are believed to be in immediate danger. The then-Attorney General of Missouri, Eric Schmitt, last year asked a Cedar County judge to close Agape, but the judge had not yet issued a decision. However, Schmitt was elected to the U.S. Senate last year and sworn in this month. The new Missouri Attorney General, Andrew Bailey, has said that he will continue the state’s legal action against Agape after he was sworn in on January 3rd.

The Agape Boarding School has been under investigation for abuse allegations for over a year. In June 2021, the school lost its accreditation from the National Council of Private School Accreditation and the Association of Christian Teachers and Schools, according to the Springfield News Leader.

What Can Survivors Of Agape Boarding School Abuse Do?

I have extensively covered the civil litigation ongoing against Agape Boarding School and have had the ability to interview the sexual abuse attorneys directly handling the cases. Those who are witnesses or survivors of abuse and are interested in filing a claim should contact Abuse Guardians Ryan Frazier and Reed Martens by calling: (866) 577-2786 or visiting:

For more information on sexual abuse in boarding schools, visit this page:


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