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Reformatory CP - April 2003
Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, 23 April 2003
School closed amid abuse allegations will reopen
By Alan Maimon
A McCreary County boarding school that was ordered to close last year amid allegations that students were abused plans to reopen, but the state will appeal.
In a ruling Monday, Circuit Judge Jerry Winchester said Beulah Mountain Christian Academy doesn't need a license to operate as a state child-care facility. Winchester said the abuse allegations were immaterial to his ruling.
But the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children plans to appeal and will try to keep the coed academy for at-risk youths closed permanently, agency spokesman Mike Jennings said yesterday.
Blaine Shaw, the academy's executive director, said he was thrilled by the ruling and hopes to reopen May 8 with about 10 students. Shaw and his son, Jeff, were acquitted of criminal-abuse charges in October.
"I think this is an amazing victory," Blaine Shaw said. "It's been a long, long struggle."
Merril Hayden of Hobe Sound, Fla., whose 18-year-old son graduated last summer, also was elated. "Beulah Mountain did wonders for him," Hayden said of his son. "This gives us all a real boost."
Rhonda Campbell of Prestonsburg, the former academy parent who said it was her tip that led the cabinet to launch an investigation resulting in the order closing the school, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.
In February 2002, the cabinet won an emergency order from Judge Paul Braden to close the academy, which the state claimed was operating as an unlicensed child-care facility.
The order allowed the state to remove the academy's 27 underage students, none of whom were from Kentucky. The students were taken by bus to a Louisville crisis-care center and then sent home. Three students 18 or older remained at the school.
The state alleged that the school violated its own guidelines and state regulations on corporal punishment by paddling children, banging children's heads together and kicking them for such infractions as sleeping at inappropriate times. But when evidence of corporal punishment was presented at trial, a jury took 45 minutes to acquit the Shaws.
Jennings said the state's appeal will be based on its contention that the academy needs a license. "That's where we hang our hat in this case. We believe this is a child-care facility in the language of the law."
State law defines child-care facilities as any institution or group home providing 24-hour residential care to children other than facilities "certified by an appropriate agency as operated primarily for educational or medical purposes."
The Kentucky Department of Education does not have licensing or accreditation requirements for private religious schools.
Beulah Mountain gets $250,000 annually from the Bible Missionary Church, a Rock Island, Ill.-based denomination with churches in 40 states and overseas.
The academy accepts students recommended by the 230 pastors of the Bible Missionary Church. Parents and guardians were required to sign a waiver that allowed staff members to use corporal punishment.
The waiver says the academy "will endeavor to train and direct your child in the way they should go." But it also says that when "proper and reasonable rules have been deliberately violated, there should be appropriate consequences."
Shaw said he plans to continue running the school as before with minor changes, including creating a policy handbook and making students fill out a card explaining why they received a paddling.
Copyright 2002 The Courier-Journal.
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