According to NBC News, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, the owners and operators of Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch and Boarding School in southwestern Missouri, were taken into custody and face over 100 charges of abuse combined. The private Christian-based boarding school was located at 20285 E Hwy N, Humansville, MO 65674.
A criminal record check indicates 72-year-old Boyd Householder has been charged with 78 felony charges and one misdemeanor, including six counts of second-degree statutory rape, nine counts of sodomy, sexual contact with a student, and neglect of a child.
Stephanie Householder is facing twenty-two felony counts of abuse or neglect of a child and endangering the welfare of a child.
The alleged incidents were said to have occurred between 2017 and 2020. However, many former students claim the abuse began as soon as they opened.
Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch was a private Christian-based reformatory boarding school located in Humansville, Missouri. The school first opened in July 2006 but was closed in 2020 due to reports and lawsuits filed by former students alleging abuse.
The ranch was advertised as a safe place where troubled girls could become stronger in their faith while they learned to obey authority and their parents. Parents of these young girls, ranging from just 5 years old to 17, signed a contract that their child would stay a minimum of two years. After two years, the decision was to be up to Boyd whether the student could leave.
Prior to the school's closing, many former students, their parents, and former staff filed reports to state authorities. However, they did not receive any response. Federal prosecutors refused to file charges after a report by the Missouri State Highway Patrol regarding child abuse at the ranch, and prosecutors in Missouri also refused to file charges after another report the previous year. According to former students, the Department of Social Services also ignored multiple reports regarding ongoing abuse at the ranch.
Amanda Householder, the estranged daughter of the ranch owners, agrees that the abuse started as soon as it opened. She was forced to work at the ranch and witnessed many incidents of abuse. However, she did not come forward until she received a message from one of her father's friends after she had left the ranch. Along with the message was a video that included audio of Boyd's voice ordering a girl to "knock...out" another. The man said he witnessed Boyd hit a girl, then make her chug water until she was sick, then forcing her to consume her own vomit.
After this message, Amanda decided to use the TikTok platform to encourage more victims to speak out. She received an overwhelming response that spurred the investigation, ultimately leading to the closing of the boarding house.
Amanda has filed a lawsuit against her parents, the institution, the Baptist Agape Boarding School, its founder James Clemensen, and its parent church Agape Baptist Church. She also added Jeff Ables, a former Circle of Hope board member and pastor of Springfield's Berean Baptist Church as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Another lawsuit was brought on by a victim that was only 15 when she arrived and claimed Circle of Hope's treatment program consisted of an abusive and strictly regimented boot camp environment where every detail of the residents' lives was monitored, manipulated, and controlled. The harsh policies and procedures at Circle of Hope were designed to break the residents by physically and mentally intimidating them.
Girls were forbidden from conversing with each other. The staff monitored many of the most private parts of daily life, including showering and using the restroom. The suit says food and water deprivation were used as punishment, and physical "restraints" were often used to address student behavior.
Many of the officials that received the reports of the ongoing abuse claimed their hands were tied due to the school being a private religious school. In fact, this classification allowed the school to operate without a license and go unchecked for years. Many of the students complained that the lack of accreditation made transferring to other schools difficult.
Many are hoping the new laws will put a much-needed end to the 1982 state law that gave private boarding schools the ability to hide behind their religious classification. These new regulations will help officials to keep a closer eye on these schools and allow them to take action quicker.
Attorney Ryan Frazier of Monsees & Mayer P.C. has been retained in the lawsuits against Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch. As more lawsuits have been filed, alleging abuse at the hands of the boarding school owners, many more are gaining the courage to step forward with their own accounts. Ryan explains how victims can seek just through civil lawsuits against boarding schools.
"These current boarding school abuse lawsuits include many allegations of ignored harassment, ongoing sexual abuse, inappropriate contact, and more. Many of the accusations made by the victims have come as a shock to parents and the public alike, as they occurred in well-respected Christian-based boarding schools such as Circle of Hope and the Agape Boarding School."
"Parents who enroll their children in boarding schools place a lot of trust in an institution designed to protect their young ones from harm. When boarding schools fail to take adequate steps in protecting their students, they can and should be held responsible. Additionally, those around them that know of the abuse but failed to act, may also be liable.”
The attorneys at Monsees & Mayer P.C. are dedicated to holding these boarding schools accountable for not protecting the children in their care. Even if the abuse happened years ago, there may be a legal remedy still available. If your child was abused by a teacher, coach, staff member, or volunteer at a private boarding school, they can get you the help you need.