- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) - It could take several weeks to decide whether to bring charges related to child abuse allegations at an Iowa boarding school for troubled teenagers that has temporarily closed, a prosecutor said Monday.

Lee County Attorney Mike Short said that evidence seized by officers during a Jan. 28 raid at the Midwest Academy in Keokuk is undergoing forensic examination at a state crime laboratory. He said he is looking at “multiple circumstances” that may involve charges but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.

Dozens of state and local officers served a search warrant over two days at the academy in response to a complaint alleging a resident was sexually assaulted by a staff member. Another staff member claims in a lawsuit that she was fired for reporting a female resident’s sexual assault by an employee to authorities in December.

Since the raid, the school’s roughly 90 students have left the campus.

Academy owner Ben Trane told reporters during a brief news conference Friday that no students are currently enrolled and that the academy has laid off its final 60 employees. He declined to answer questions, including one about the lawsuit allegations.

In a statement, Trane called the search “unexpected and frightening for our staff and students” but added that officers acted respectfully.

“We appreciate the law enforcement looking into allegations in an effort to keep us all safe,” he said.

He said he was saddened to announce the layoffs of employees who “worked late and long hours giving their talents and service.” He defended the academy’s 13-year tenure in Keokuk, saying it had served troubled youth and contributed to the local economy.

Short said that academy leaders have indicated they may want to reopen. Because the academy doesn’t have a state license, he said nothing would prevent them from doing so.

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