WICHITA — For years, a Kansas military boarding school has quietly settled multiple lawsuits alleging cadet abuse outside of courtrooms.
This week, St. John’s Military School goes to trial in federal court over claims made by 11 former students who contend its practice of giving higher-ranking cadets the power to discipline younger ones encourages physical and mental abuse.
The former cadets — who hail from California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas, and Illinois — filed a lawsuit in 2012 alleging that higher-ranking students, called ‘‘Disciplinarians,’’ abused younger students, even in the presence of faculty members. The plaintiffs claim negligent failure to supervise, intentional failure to supervise, as well as both negligent and intentional emotional distress.
The 126-year-old Episcopalian boarding school in the central Kansas town of Salina has denied a culture of abuse exists, saying it is confident the jury will decide in its favor.
The trial, set to start Tuesday before US District Judge John Lungstrum in Kansas City, Kan., could provide a rare public airing of the allegations against the private, quasi-military program. It is expected to last three weeks.
Plaintiffs have long contended that at least nine other abuse-related lawsuits have been filed against the school since 2006; an Associated Press examination of federal and state court filings found at least 14 lawsuits filed since 2003 by cadets and their families.
Neither the school’s president nor the lawyer for the students returned e-mail messages seeking comment Monday.