WICHITA — After settling nine previous abuse lawsuits in recent years, a Kansas military school asked a federal judge Thursday to bar parents and others involved in the latest such litigation from publicly talking about the case.
Attorneys for St. John’s Military School in Salina filed a motion Thursday seeking a gag order in the lawsuit filed by parents alleging their sons were repeatedly beaten by higher-ranking students in charge of discipline. U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum scheduled a hearing for Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed last week, contends the Kansas boarding school “allows and encourages older students to abuse young students — physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually.” It was filed by parents from Colorado, Texas and Illinois.
“This is not a case about mere hazing, or a case of ‘boys will be boys.’ This action chronicles a dangerous and disturbing culture at a boys military school which must end,” according to the complaint filed in federal court in Kansas.
The military-style boarding school — which draws students in grades 6-12 from across the nation — issued a statement Wednesday saying it was studying the allegations and was determined to defend itself.
“St. John’s denies that there was a culture of abuse, lack of institutional control, failure to supervise or any kind of cover-up as alleged by the attorney for the parents who have sued,” according to the statement.
St. John’s has settled nine other lawsuits filed since 2006 alleging abuse.
The school is now seeking a court order prohibiting the parties, attorneys and their staff and witnesses from making public comments or conducting interviews about the current allegations, prior lawsuits and prior settlements. It took issue with public statements plaintiff’s counsel made about prior lawsuits and the merits of the pending case.
“To permit plaintiffs’ counsel to subvert the jury via the public forum is wholly inappropriate and must be stopped if defendant is to receive a fair trial,” attorneys for St. John’s told the court.
The lawsuit contends some students suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the abuse.
The latest lawsuit filed last week contends a student who attended the school in the spring of 2011 was bound, gagged and beaten by several students, and photos of the abuse were posted to Facebook. He also claimed he was forced to roll in mud, then several students urinated on him in the shower.
Another student alleges he tried to leave the school and hitchhike home but was tracked down by several students and a ranking faculty member on a highway. He contends he was beaten, hooded and beaten again in the presence of the faculty. Another cadet was sent to a hospital with a broken eye socket after being kneed in the face by a ranking student.