Miracle Meadows School, a Seventh-day Adventist-run alternative school in Salem, West Virginia, made headlines for all the wrong reasons back in 2014. The year-round school encouraged parents to send kids there if they were dishonest, defiant, or experiencing “spiritual disinterest.” And many parents did, in part because the staff members were said to have a “divine commission to live as examples of God’s high calling, inspiring the students to follow their lead in responsible Christian living.”
It all came crashing down that year when we found out the school’s leader, Susan Gayle Clark, had surrendered on charges of child neglect resulting in injury on top of three other misdemeanors. The school’s custodian was also charged with child abuse.
Their crimes are horrific but still worth pointing out: In one instance, the custodian tightly handcuffed a 14-year-old student because he suspected him of “sexual misconduct” and kept him overnight in a “quarantine room.” His wrists were bloody the next day. Clark knew about incidents like this but did nothing to prevent the abuse.
The school was shut down that year.
Now we have an update to this story more than six years in the making:
A $52 million settlement was announced last Thursday related to acts at the Harrison County institution. Twenty-nine students suffered physical and sexual abuse, in which the lawsuit also noted school administrators, including founder Susan Gayle Clark, attempted to cover up the acts.
Clark pleaded guilty to child neglect, failure to report and obstruction of justice, and received a six-month jail sentence along with five years of probation.
“Finally, for the first time, these former children were believed, they were heard,” [attorney Guy] D’Andrea said. “Now, they have an opportunity. With this resolution, they will finally have at least an opportunity at a new life.”
It’s wonderful to hear about this record settlement. It’s disturbing to know that the women who traumatized nearly 30 kids under the guise of Christian discipline received a prison sentence that amounts to a slap on the wrist.
It’s also another reminder that the word “Christian” is not synonymous with virtue, and anyone who believes otherwise may be in for a very troubling surprise. How many stories like this do we need to see before more people realize that?
(Screenshot via WDTV. Portions of this article were published earlier. Thanks to Andrew for the link)