Students Back After Abuse Charge
By The Associated Press
New York Times, November 2, 2001

MONTICELLO, Mo. (AP) -- More than 100 students removed during a police raid on a Christian school for troubled youngsters are free to return, lawyers for the Heartland Christian Academy said Friday.

Tuesday's raid stemmed from a charge of child abuse against a Heartland staff member, the third such abuse allegation in the past five months.

During a closed-door juvenile hearing Friday, authorities dropped their efforts to bar students from returning, Heartland lawyer David Melton said. State officials left the hearing without comment.

Heartland founder Charles Sharpe said armed officers with dogs surrounded the school, rounded up the children and put them on school buses. They were taken to a juvenile center, and later turned over to their parents.

``In my lifetime, I have never seen anything like this,'' Sharpe said.

The school offers a tough-love philosophy based on Christian-based education and work therapy. It is not clear how many of the 115 children will go back.

Authorities have accused staff member Jason Flood, 19, of striking a 13-year-old boy in the ear with his elbow, causing his eardrum to burst.

In June, five staff members were arrested for allegedly forcing misbehaving children into manure pits as punishment. Four people associated with Heartland have also been charged with abuse for allegedly striking a teen-ager with a board.

Heartland officials have denied any wrongdoing.

The 200-acre complex school is in remote northeastern Missouri, about 150 miles north of St. Louis.

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