A Christian school in Saskatoon, Canada was a hub of physical and emotional abuse for several years, according to 18 former students. Several of them recently shared their stories with the CBC, arguing that, no matter what happens legally, the government needs to stop giving subsidies and tax breaks to the private religious school.
All of this centers around Christian Centre Academy (now called Legacy Christian Academy). If you read the stories compiled by CBC reporter Jason Warick, you see one horror after another.
There’s Christina Hutchinson, who clammed up when asked to recite the school prayer, only to be subject to an exorcism by her teacher.
There’s Coy Nolin, who was subject to a “violent exorcism” to cast out his “gay demons.”
There’s Caitlin Erickson, who was accused of whispering in church and then paddled by two male staffers. (Paddling and other forms of corporal punishment were banned nationwide in 2004, but those methods allegedly continued at the school well after that.)
There’s Sean Kotelmach, who reacted to dull, boredom-inducing, self-directed lessons by talking back to the adults… and was punished with “solitary confinement.” Only 13 at the time, he was told to go to a tiny windowless room for the entire school day. That continued for two full weeks. It was only when he was older that he realized he struggled with dyslexia.
Those are just 4 of the 18 students who filed complaints with law enforcement officials. The Saskatoon police have apparently been investigating the matter for over a year and they’ve now handed their findings over to government prosecutors. It’ll be up to them to decide whether to pursue further action.
It doesn’t help that the school used to promote a book called “The Child Training Seminar” that included 20 pages on how to discipline kids with spanking and paddling even if it was visibly abusive:
“Sometimes, spanking will leave marks on the child. If some liberal were to hear this, they’d immediately charge us with advocating child-beating,” states the handbook.
It gives detailed instruction on the types of infractions that warrant paddling, such as riding a bicycle while “forbidden.”
“Have him bend over and apply the paddle firmly. Don’t permit any wiggling around or jumping around. Don’t allow any pre-discipline howling and sniveling. Don’t let his crying and begging diminish the severity of punishment,” the handbook says.
The school, of course, denies any wrongdoing and claims it’s a very different place than it was two decades ago… even though many of the staffers never left, and even though the former administrators still have jobs in the field (albeit at different schools), and even though the school has never apologized to the students much less acknowledged any disciplinary mistakes. The school also claims the pro-corporal punishment handbook is no longer used, but not putting something in writing doesn’t mean it’s no longer happening.
What’s also troubling is how this school has received government funding for decades. The student-victims want the government to at least halt all funding until the investigation is complete. It’s not a huge ask. But a decision about charges may not be made until next spring.
In the meantime, the victims are calling out other people who knew about the abuse but took no action:
Students say the people who committed the abuse must be held accountable, but that there were many other adults who witnessed it and did nothing. They wonder why this systemic abuse was ignored for so long.
That’s why they want the provincial government to investigate the school itself, freezing any funding and cancelling any tax breaks until all questions are answered.
Maybe the saddest thing about this story is how typical it is. We’ve seen so many recent examples of how Christian schools are simply unable to police themselves. Abuse runs rampant. No one puts a stop to it. The trauma lingers long after the students graduate.
It takes so much courage for these students to speak publicly about how they suffered at the hands of their Christian teachers. Imagine how much better their childhoods would have been if other Christians in their circles had the decency to call out the faith-based forms of abuse. They could’ve spoken out against the homophobic beliefs and against the violent paddlings… but they didn’t because they were cowards who likely believed the bigotry and abuse were part of God’s Plan.
This school, by the way, is affiliated with the Mile Two Church (formerly the Saskatoon Christian Centre). The church didn’t speak with the CBC either, and as of this writing, there’s no public statement from church officials about this story. You would think they’d at least express sympathy for the victims… but that assumes they care about anyone else’s interests. When people are blinded by religious loyalty, their allegiance to God often overtakes basic decency.