Missouri lawmakers pass new oversight for private, religious boarding schools

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 12:34 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri lawmakers have passed legislation providing oversight for private, religious boarding schools.

The proposal gives the Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division oversight over faith-based boarding schools in the state. State law includes a full religious exemption from oversight. Representatives Rudy Veit and Keri Ingle sponsored the legislation.

Survivors claiming they were abused at the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch near Humansville fought for the passage. Boyd and Stephanie Householder, who operated the facility, face 102 abuse charges. Their daughter, Amanda Householder, has spoken out for years about abuse at the facility.

Here’s how the proposal works. It requires minimum health and safety checks. Facilities must notify the Department of Social Services of its existence. The facilities would need fire and safety inspections, health department inspections, and medical records for all the residents. The state would conduct background checks of all employees and volunteers. And if there is an allegation of abuse or neglect, the facility must provide access to the child. Facilities would face fines, misdemeanor charges, and the potential removal of children if they fail to comply with the health and safety requirements.

“It’s all like hitting me now,” said Amanda Householder. “I’m like, oh my gosh, not only where we heard, we got legislation passed. We are very, very grateful to everyone who has helped get us here. We do understand that it’s not the strongest bill. But we are still going to work next year to enforce these.”

Governor Parson must sign the legislation to become law. If it becomes law, Amanda Householder says she and the group of survivors will continue to fight to ensure the law is enforced.

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