- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) - Lee County sheriff’s records show that dozens of reports about runaways, assaults and suicide attempts by troubled teenagers at Midwest Academy in Keokuk often were not made until days after they occurred.

Sheriff Jim Sholl said that in some of the incidents, law enforcement was notified only after the Iowa Department of Human Services got involved. Most of the 73 reports released by the sheriff’s office were not criminal in nature, according to The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1PTmNF3 ).

“Whether they intended to do it or not, (academy staff) did a good job of keeping law enforcement, DHS and parents in the dark,” Sholl said.

Police raided the boarding school for troubled teenagers and a nearby treatment center on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 to investigate allegations that a staff member sexually assaulted a student. The investigation has since expanded to other possible criminal activity and abuse.

The facilities have been closed, and all 90 or so residents either have been returned to their parents or transferred to shelters.

The Register reported Sunday that Sholl confirmed at least five reports of sexual offenses at the academy and at least 19 abuse reports that the Human Services Department deemed founded, meaning evidence suggests that some type of abuse occurred.

Academy owner Ben Trane has not responded to interview requests. At a Feb. 8 news conference, he declined to answer questions about the sex assault allegations and addressed only the raid and the closure of the facilities. Trane didn’t immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press.

A privately funded school without state-ordered placements, the academy didn’t need a license to operate and was otherwise unregulated. State Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, has drafted a bill that would require such operations to be licensed as group foster care facilities with oversight from the state Human Services Department.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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