A second lawsuit alleging widespread sexual, physical, and mental abuse at the now-closed Miracle Meadows School in Salem, West Virginia, has been settled for approximately $50 million. The lawsuit, filed by 32 plaintiffs, described the abuse suffered by children over several decades as gruesome and unfathomable. The former students, now adults, claimed they were subjected to chaining, shackling, isolation, routine beatings, starvation, and forced labor. The abuse also included instances where children were denied toilet paper, leading them to remain in unsanitary conditions or use their clothing for cleaning. The lawsuit named the school’s co-founder and its operating entities as defendants.
According to the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, the settlement will be paid out by insurance carriers. However, some other claims from the lawsuit remain pending. The previous lawsuit, filed on behalf of 29 students, was settled in 2020 for $52 million. Following the first settlement, the state Legislature extended the statute of limitations for abuse claims to age 36, which prompted the second lawsuit.
The latest lawsuit also included allegations that children between the ages of 7 and 12 contracted sexually transmitted diseases from staff members. Additionally, two clients claimed they were impregnated by a staff member and forced to have abortions. The attorneys involved expressed their shock at the extent of the children’s suffering.
Miracle Meadows School, founded in 1988 and operated as a ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was closed in 2014 after a student consumed a cleaning product and required emergency medical attention. The subsequent investigation into the incident led to the discovery of the abuse allegations. The school’s state-recognized education status was revoked in August 2014.
Susan Gayle Clark, the co-founder of Miracle Meadows School, was sentenced in 2016 to six months in jail and five years on probation after pleading guilty to child neglect charges. Prior to its closure, the school had faced numerous complaints of abuse and mistreatment over a five-year period. However, substantiating these complaints had proven challenging due to various factors, including students being from out of state and recanting their allegations, as well as staff members leaving abruptly when accused of wrongdoing.