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Kansas military school received 339 abuse complaints

WICHITA — Nearly 340 current and former students made complaints to a Kansas military school claiming they were beaten, hazed, harassed, or abused during the past five years, including 21 who say they were branded, according to a court document.

The numbers surfaced last week in a federal lawsuit brought by 11 former cadets and their families against St. John’s Military School. The latest filing in the case makes public for the first time the extent of abuse that the plaintiffs allege is part of the culture at the Salina boarding school.

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But the school says the number reflects its concern for student safety and welfare, because it investigates and corrects every such instance, including the most minor, and keeps records of them. St. John’s president, Andy England, said in an e-mail that the school averages fewer than six incidents a month, even though students are in close contact 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The school has been sued by former cadets from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas. They say its quasi-military program, which gives higher-ranking cadets the power to discipline other students, encourages physical and mental abuse. They also say the school intentionally fails to supervise its students, allowing the abuse to continue.

The school reported receiving 339 verbal and written complaints from students over the past five years. A more specific list of complaints was filed under seal.

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