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Salina military school settles lawsuit with 11 former students

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, March 3, 2014, at 6:31 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at 6:12 a.m.

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A military boarding school in Salina, Kan., has resolved a civil lawsuit filed by 11 former students who alleged they endured physical and mental abuse from higher-ranking fellow cadets.

The allegations of abuse and hazing were brought forth in a lawsuit filed in 2012 in U.S. District Court by the parents of a former student of St. John’s Military School, a private, 126-year-old Episcopalian boarding school. Jury selection was to begin today in federal court in Kansas City, Kan.

However, the case was dismissed Monday. Details of the agreement were not disclosed. A sealed order from a federal judge overseeing the case was entered into the court record Monday.

“The issues of the case have been resolved and the case has been dismissed,” said Ken McClain, an Independence attorney representing the plaintiffs. McClain declined to comment further.

Attorneys representing St. John’s Military School could not be reached for comment.

Among the allegations, the parents of Jesse Mactagone alleged that the former student said he was beaten and abused by older students within days of arriving on campus in August 2011. Mactagone, who was 13 at the time, suffered two broken legs, including a displaced femur, and needed to be rushed to the hospital, the parents alleged.

Other allegations of abuse include forced hot “brandings” with insignia pins, repeated beatings by upper classmates and sexually humiliating punishments, such as students being forced to perform push-ups in the nude. One student said seven boys entered his room as he slept and repeatedly struck him with “locks in socks.”

The lawsuit alleged one former student was bound with duct tape — body, hands, eyes and mouth — and endured such repeated abuse at the school in 2009 and 2010 that he eventually attempted suicide. It alleges that while another student stood under inspection in front of a superior-ranked classmate, the classmate forced the boy’s head into his knee, cracking the boy’s eye socket.

The school denied the allegations. Salina police investigated abuse allegations and closed its case without taking action, the school has previously said. All students sign an anti-hazing form, the school has said.

In a June 2012 story in The Star, the school’s president called the charges “hurtful,” “disheartening” and wrong.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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