Dozens of child abuse survivors alleging they were routinely beaten, starved and sexually assaulted at a Christian boarding school have reached a record $100 million settlement, their attorneys announced.
The now-defunct Miracle Meadows School in rural West Virginia was sued by former students who claimed they were subjected to widespread abuse including rape, solitary confinement for months and being denied food and medical care.
Attorneys alleged hundreds of students were subjected to “horrifying and unspeakable forms of sexual, physical and psychological mistreatment” at the boarding school in the Appalachian community of Salem.
The school offered treatment for at-risk children aged 7 to 17, and for those with learning disabilities. It operated from 1987 to 2014, when it was closed by the state.
The school operated as a ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and according to the lawsuit, investigators began examining the facility after a student drank a cleaning product and was taken to a hospital.
While being treated, she begged the medical staff for help, prompting authorities to investigate her claims. The school’s state education status was revoked in August 2014, authorities said.
School co-founder Susan Gayle Clark pleaded guilty in 2016 to child neglect charges and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation, local media reported.
Local authorities have previously said investigators were hampered by students who recanted their accusations after being returned to their families, and by staff members who were overseas natives and returned home before they could be questioned.
“The abuses suffered by these children wouldn’t be believed in a Stephen King novel,” said attorney Jesse Forbes in a statement announcing the settlement.
"Children deserve to be loved, nurtured and treated with care, not handcuffed, abused and thrown in isolation cells with a coffee can for a bathroom," Forbes said.
Inside Edition Digital has reached out for comment to the defendants' attorney but has not heard back.
The lawsuit was filed against Clark, the Columbia Union Conference Association of Seventh Day Adventists, Mountain View Conference Association of Seventh Day Adventists, and the North American Division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
In an answer to the lawsuit, the named defendants denied all of the allegations.
Last week, the victims' attorneys announced that settlements against the former school now totaled $100 million in what is believed to be the largest settlement of its kind in West Virginia.
The suits settled last week were consolidated in a case filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court in October 2021 by a former student identified only as H.S.
A previous $52 million settlement was reached in 2020. Other lawsuits against the former facility are pending, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys.
The latest suit included allegations that some students became pregnant after being raped and were given abortions. Some children ranging in age from 7 to 12 were infected with sexually transmitted diseases after being assaulted by staff members, the suit claimed.