Kansas family fights to make clergy mandated reporters

By Angie Ricono
October 15, 2018

A Kansas family says Kansas clergy should be mandated reporters.

[with video]

A Kansas family says Kansas clergy should be mandated reporters.

They have started an online petition calling on Kansas lawmakers to change the law.

They feel former church leaders at Eagle Rock Church in Lawrence compromised their son’s criminal case by how they handled the allegations. The church denies the claim and says they followed state statutes.

The debate exposes the different ways churches across the nation handle allegations of sex abuse.

In Missouri, clergy are mandated reporters, but that is not the case in Kansas.

Across the nation, it’s a split issue with a little more than half of all states requiring clergy to directly report allegations to police.

What happened

Sheldon is a 10-year-old boy who says teenagers at his church sexually abused him during a lock-in.

His parents took him to Children’s Mercy Hospital where he was diagnosed as a sexual assault victim.

His parents shared details with KCTV5's investigative unit, including Sheldon’s statement that are too personal and graphic to share.

Our ability to fully investigate the case was blocked by investigators and prosecutors who say the case involves juveniles.

The alleged crimes were reported last December. In the end, DCF ruled the abuse claims were “unsubstantiated” and no prosecutor ever filed charges.

The parents say the church tipped of the alleged abusers families and that hurt the case.

“They wanted to pray for 24 hours,” said Shedon’s mother Lori. “When it came down to it. It didn’t matter the situation that happened it was all about the church’s name. that wasn’t fair to Sheldon.”

Sheldon’s family says the teenagers admitted to sodomy and other behaviors but the teens claim the 10 year-old consented.

KCTV5 reviewed Eagle Rock Church’s “action plan” which framed what happened between Sheldon and the teenagers as “sexual exploration.”

The action plan recommended Christian counseling and that church leaders would interview the teenagers. It does not mention any police involvement.

They didn’t want cops involved at all. They were upset with us because we took him in and got his police statement done,” said Sheldon’s father Larry.

We contacted church leaders who would not sit down and discuss that “action plan” or the allegations made by Sheldon’s parents.

Eagle Rock Church statement

“Eagle Rock Church adheres to ‘A Kansas Guide to Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect’ compiled by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. ERC leadership does and will always report any form of child abuse. Eagle Rock Church believes firmly that every child be given a voice.

When an allegation of abuse by a minor child toward another minor child was brought to the attention of the leadership at Eagle Rock Church (ERC), they followed protocol, and gave immediate attention to the situation. ERC gave their full support to all families affected by the allegations brought forth and formulated a plan of action beginning early the next morning. In less than 24 hours, before interviews of all minor children could be conducted and a meeting could be held, the reporting family took the matter to the civil authorities. ERC had compiled the written plan of action and offered support & counseling of all parties and their families involved. However, these offers were rejected by the reporting family. Eagle Rock Church cooperated 100% with the civil authorities and interviewed with a detective from Douglas County Sherriff department. All families were again given an opportunity to receive extensive counseling on sexual exploration including a section specifically for same sex minor children, but the reporting family refused.”

Family goes public

Sheldon’s family has been very public about what happened to their son hoping his case can prompt change. And help people understand the importance of mandatory reporting.

“You know it effects everybody. If we can stop one kid from this happening to them, it’s worth it. That’s what we want,” said Sheldon’s father Larry.

“We’ve had people say you are hurting your son by making this public. But what message are we sending his if we are quite and act like it didn’t happen? We are not going to sit by. We refuse,” said Sheldon’s mother Lori.


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