Former students sue over alleged abuse at WV boarding school

A lawsuit against a Harrison County boarding school, forced to close about three years ago, alleges a “culture of silence and secrecy” at the school led to widespread abuse.

Two former students of the Miracle Meadows School in Salem filed the lawsuit late last month in Kanawha County Circuit Court. The former students, who are identified only by their initials, L.B. and T.B., claim they still suffer because of the alleged abuse — and always will.

Miracle Meadows had its state-recognized education status revoked in August 2014, and the Department of Health and Human Resources removed the school’s 19 students.

The former students claim they were subjected to neglect and extreme physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Between 2009 and 2014, the school was named in more than a dozen complaints involving abuse and mistreatment of students, the Associated Press previously reported.

Susan Gayle Clark, the former director of Miracle Meadows, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was sentenced in April to spend six months in jail and five years on probation after pleading guilty to child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury.

Clark isn’t allowed to leave the state during the five years of probation, something the Harrison County prosecutor argued was important to keep her from opening a similar school in another state, according to The Exponent Telegram.

The students allege staff at the school used handcuffs and isolation rooms and covered up sexual assaults.

“Numerous children at Miracle Meadows would be ‘quarantined’ — where children would be locked inside a 10x4 room alone for extended periods of time with nothing more than a bucket to urinate and defecate in,” the complaint states.

L.B. was allegedly quarantined at one time for more than a month.

“Children were handcuffed and duct taped while in quarantine. T.B. was handcuffed to a bed for two days with no clothes on,” the complaint states. “L.B. was once handcuffed to a younger child who defecated himself.”

Miracle Meadows was described as a Christian boarding school for boys and girls between ages 6 and 17.

“Specifically, MMS enrolled boys and girls experiencing defiance, dishonesty, school failure, trouble with the law, spiritual disinterest, poor social skills, adoption issues and other behavior harmful to them and to others,” the school’s website stated, according to the lawsuit.

The website, www.miraclemeadows.org, now states only, “Because of all that’s happened the board has decided to dissolve the corporation and close the website.”

The complaint alleges the students experienced similar abuse at a Tennessee school, which they attended before being transferred in 2012 and 2013 to Miracle Meadows.

The Advent Home Learning Center in Calhoun, Tennessee, like Miracle Meadows, was affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which the lawsuit is also against.

The former students are represented by Charleston lawyer Guy R. Bucci and Brian Kent, of Pennsylvania.

While at both schools, the lawsuits claim the two former students and other children were sexually assaulted and abused by staff and students.

School officials knew of the abuse and “did absolutely nothing to prevent said abuse or neglect nor report it pursuant to their obligations to do so,” the complaint states.

Last year a lawsuit with similar allegations of abuse was filed against a shuttered Kanawha County Christian boys boarding school.

A juvenile and his guardian filed a lawsuit claiming students who attended the Blue Creek Academy, which was near Clendenin, were subjected to child abuse and educational neglect. The lawsuit also named Bible Baptist, a Belva church sponsoring the school and its former directors.

The state DHHR removed the school’s students, and the school was shut down in 2014.

Reach Kate White at

kate.white@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-1723 or follow

@KateLWhite on Twitter.

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