31 August 2023 |
AP News reports that a second lawsuit has been settled for approximately $50 million, which claimed extensive sexual, physical, and mental abuse at the now-defunct Miracle Meadows School in Salem, West Virginia, for troubled youth. Adventist Today reported on the first lawsuit in 2017, which also settled, but for approximately $52 million. The legal representatives for the 32 plaintiffs characterized the years of abuse suffered by children at the school as horrific. The alleged abuse by former students, now adults, involved being chained to beds, confined in small isolation rooms, frequent beatings, sexual assault, and more. This recent lawsuit also unveiled allegations of children between ages 7 to 12 contracting sexually transmitted diseases from staff, and two clients became pregnant by a staff member, leading to forced abortions.
The Miracle Meadows School, an independent ministry of the church, was operational from 1988 to 2014. It was shut down after an incident where a student consumed a cleaning substance and later pleaded for assistance at a hospital, which initiated an investigation into the school. Subsequently, the school’s educational status was annulled in August 2014. Susan Gayle Clark, the co-founder of the school, was convicted in 2016, receiving a six-month prison sentence followed by five years of probation on child neglect charges.
Previous to its closure, Miracle Meadows faced over a dozen complaints about abuse and mistreatment within a five-year period. Typically, these complaints would be passed to the local prosecutor. However, verifying these complaints was challenging, since many students hailed from outside the state and often withdrew their allegations or left the school, while a significant portion of the school’s staff, from other countries on religious work visas, would promptly exit if accused of misconduct.
Following the first settlement, the legislature extended the statute of limitations for abuse claims to age 36, which led to the second lawsuit. The recent settlement will be covered by insurance carriers, with some claims still pending.