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Ex-cadets seek sanctions against military school

Published on -9/19/2012, 4:07 PM

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Former cadets of a Kansas military school have asked a federal judge to impose sanctions and order the school to release information about prior complaints, records and lawsuits they say would show a pattern of abuse.

Tuesday's filing is part of an ongoing lawsuit by 11 students and their families against St. John's Military School in Salina. The students sued earlier this year, contending the school's quasi-military cadet program, which gives higher-ranking cadets the power to discipline students, encourages physical and mental abuse. The lawsuit claims the cadet program not only fails to prevent but also tacitly encourages violent acts among students.

St. John's has vehemently denied culture of abuse exists at the school and has vowed to fight the lawsuit.

The latest legal dustup comes as the sides prepare for the October 2013 trial.

The plaintiffs contend the school has repeatedly refused to provide information about prior similar incidents, as well as certain internal documents and financial data. It is seeking internal reports regarding complaints of abuse, nurse assessments of student injuries, photographs or video depicting hazing or harassment.

The court document contends the information that plaintiffs are seeking to court to force school officials to turn over "get to the heart of the Plaintiffs' claim that St. John's has a culture and patterned history of abuse of which it is aware."

The plaintiffs' attorney, Daniel Zmijewski, declined comment, saying the court filing speaks for itself.

St. John's has argued the requests are overly broad and unduly burdensome and say some of the requested material is irrelevant to the lawsuit, subject to confidentiality or a violation of privacy.

St. John's Military School said in an email that the motion is a normal part of litigation, saying the parties have a disagreement over the scope of the discovery permitted and require a ruling from the court.

"Under no circumstances is the school attempting to conceal any information that is appropriate to be shared with the plaintiffs," St. John's said in its written statement.

The plaintiffs -- who hail from California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and Illinois -- filed the lawsuit in March.

St. John's Military School, which charges families nearly $30,000 per year for students in grades 6-12, draws students from across the nation.

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