MO reform school’s ties to law enforcement stifle abuse investigations, students say

Kansas City Star

November 29, 2020

By Laura Bauer and Judy L. Thomas

Word spread inside Agape Boarding School last fall that a report had been made to Missouri’s abuse and neglect hotline and a social worker was on campus to investigate.

Lucas Francis, a student at the time, said he was told that someone had called the state to report that a group of boys was running laps on school grounds in below-freezing temperatures. Francis, one of the boys who said he was forced to run for hours in sleet and snow with only a light jacket on and no cap or gloves, was pulled aside to speak to the Children’s Division worker.

“I was pretty excited because I was finally going to be able to tell them what was going on,” said Francis, now 18, who left the school in March. “I was just going to let them know.”

Until, that is, he said he realized that he wouldn’t be talking to the Children’s Division worker alone. Also inside the parents’ lounge on the sprawling campus, in uniform and waiting for the interview, was Cedar County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Graves.

Graves, not only a deputy but an Agape alum and long-time employee of the school. Son-in-law of the owner, James Clemensen. And brother-in-law of the school’s principal, Bryan Clemensen.

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