WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Former Students, Parents Sue Midwest Academy

Mar 15, 2016

A group of former Midwest Academy students and their parents are suing the school, the owner, and several associated “corporate entities.”  The students claim they were subjected to a “culture of punishment, confinement, coercion, physical confrontation and violence.”

The 34-page lawsuit was filed late Monday afternoon at the south Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk by attorneys Curtis Dial of Keokuk and David Ferleger of Jenkintown, Penn.

The six students involved in the lawsuit attended Midwest Academy Nov. 2010 through Sept. 2015.

Grace Ferguson Hunt (June 2014-July 2015)

Kodi Dick (Oct. 2014-Sept. 2015)

Roger Palinsky (Feb. 2014-Nov. 2014)

Elijah Meyer (June 2014-May 2015)

Radhi Choukaier (Nov. 2010-Mar. 2012)

Z.D. [juvenile] (Nov 2013-Nov 2014)

The students and their parents claim Midwest Academy “seeks to break the will of the vulnerable children entrusted to its care through a harsh and inflexible indoctrination system. Every child witnesses actions taken against the others and is placed in fear of similar victimization.”

They describe a system in which students earn or lose points/levels “at the discretion and whim of staff, as well as under vague and irrational rules. Staff often mock or provoke students, causing them to react and thus lose points, resulting in longer confinement at Midwest.”

The lawsuit also alleges:

  • Sexual Assault
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Inadequately trained professional staff
  • Insufficient numbers/training for non-professional staff
  • False representations of an accredited school
  • Use of segregation boxes/out of school suspensions
  • Inadequate medical care
  • Student embarrassment/humiliation
  • Invasion of privacy

The lawsuit also provides personal examples of the above for each student and their parents. The plaintiffs are accusing Midwest Academy of 13 different claims:

  • Fraud (material misrepresentations of practices and conditions)
  • Negligent Misrepresentation (Supplying false information)
  • False Imprisonment
  • Battery
  • Assault
  • Negligence
  • Educational Malpractice (provided “grossly inadequate education”)
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Negligent Hiring, Supervision & Retention
  • Respondeat Superior (School liable for employee negligence)
  • Consumer Frauds Act
  • Punitive & Exemplary Damages
  • Plaintiff Parents Against Midwest

The students are seeking a judgment that “fully and fairly compensates them for the damages suffered.” They want their case to be heard by a jury.

This lawsuit comes as a former employee is also suing Midwest Academy. Cheyenne Jerred says she was fired for reporting the sexual assault of a student by owner Ben Trane to her supervisors and the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Trane was also a target of several search warrants executed at the school and a nearby treatment center in late Jan./early February. No charges have been filed in that case.