Mar 15, 2016

Lawsuit targets Midwest Academy, owner

Lee Rood
The Register
March 15, 2016
Midwest Academy has been closed since law enforcement officers raided the private boarding school near Keokuk and Montrose in January.
DHS and the FBI investigated after allegations involving several children were made in April and May 2015. One former student said after he was interviewed about the sex abuse by a DHS child protection worker, Trane took him to lunch, offered to buy him books and said “I can make sure you get things,” the lawsuit says.
“This was an effort by Benjamin Trane to interfere with the FBI and State of Iowa investigation,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit accuses the boarding school near Keokuk and Montrose of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, false imprisonment, battery, assault, negligence, educational malpractice, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and violations of Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act. The defendants are seeking a judgment “in an amount which will fully and fairly compensate them for the damages suffered," according to the lawsuit.
Midwest Academy, a tough-love school for troubled youths in far southeast Iowa, was raided in late January by state and federal investigators. Trane has not commented publicly on the criminal probe. Trane's lawyer, George Jones, did not return a call Monday seeking comment on the lawsuit. Claims made in a lawsuit are not evidence and only represent one side of the story.
Caregivers of children can be found responsible for a kind of abuse called "denial of critical care" when they fail to properly supervise children who come into harm's way. The lawsuit says Trane was placed on the state's central child abuse registry as a result of the DHS finding. Trane appealed that decision, but the outcome is unknown. The registry and appeals are generally confidential under Iowa law.
centuries ago. It was as if out of 'Oliver Twist.'"
Ferleger says he's heard the stories of youths and parents who reported benefits from Midwest's programming. "I don't think so, but even if that is so — the barbaric use of concrete boxes to confine kids, the beatings, the rats scurrying in the ceilings and the humiliation people suffered — none of that has any justification at all," he said.
School officials, the lawsuit says, maintained an illegal and dehumanizing culture of “punishment, confinement, coercion, physical confrontation and violence” that sought to break the will of children in its care.
Midwest Academy also is accused in the lawsuit of misleading parents about the widespread use of segregation “boxes;” false claims of being an accredited education program tied to the local high school; and billing for therapy and other treatments that were never provided.
In the lawsuit, students recount allegations of a rape in the shower, a female staff member having sex with a student, male students being sexually assaulted by other male students, and a staff member with a criminal record acting as a counselor without proper training. One of the plaintiffs said he lost 40 pounds because he was underfed. Others recounted being told to sit absolutely still for 19 hours a day in the out-of-school suspension, or isolation, rooms, until a mattress was provided at night.
The lawsuit also alleges Trane instructed female students in a "body image" class  to enter a uniform room, undress in front of two mirrors and come out and describe to him their body type.
The lawsuit names as plaintiffs former students Grace Ferguson Hunt, Kodi Dick, Roger Palinsky, Elijah Meyer, Radhi Choukaier and a minor identified as Z.D. All attended Midwest within the past five years. Also named are parents Aaron Dick, Maria Adelaida Brown, Michelle Palinsky, Matthew and Cheryl Meyer, Eli Petrova Choukaier and Jenna Devereaux.
The lawsuit names as defendants Trane, Midwest Academy, Midwest Twister, Midwest Academy Treatment and the Midwest Academy Scholarship Fund.
Nineteen abuse reports had been confirmed at the academy prior to the January raids, according to the Lee County sheriff. Twenty-eight investigations were conducted when the raids happened. At least five sex abuse reports were made over the past three years, among 80 calls from Midwest Academy to the sheriff.
Among other allegations:
Kodi Dick alleged he was sexually harassed by other students and disciplined when he complained.Roger Palinsky said he had special education needs that were not addressed by boarding school employees, which kept him from advancing in the program.Radhi Choukaier, who had Crohn’s disease, alleged he was forced to exercise two hours a day, resulting in bruising, fever and an eventual trip to the emergency room. When his mother pulled him out of the facility, the school refused to refund his $46,000 annual tuition, despite having guaranteed refunds for medical reasons.
Ferleger noted in a news release that conditions in such boarding schools have gained national attention, following two reports by the Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C., highlighting deaths, abuse and deceptive marketing.

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