St. Louis -- A Christian reform school sued over the state's removal of 115 students whom officials said they were trying to protect from abuse.
Heartland Academy and its parent corporation, CNS International Ministries Inc., were joined by more than 50 parents and children in the federal lawsuit.
The school, located 150 miles north of St. Louis, relies on a strict Christian doctrine and corporal punishment to try to turn around wayward students in kindergarten through high school.
In October 2001, a state juvenile officer ordered 115 students removed. Among the abuse allegations was that students were required to stand in manure and shovel it.
Charles Sharpe, the school's founder, said Tuesday the school required some students to shovel manure but he called the claim they were made to stand in it "an outrageous lie."
Several parents came to the school's defense after the students were removed, and a judge later allowed the children to return.
In 2004, a federal judge in St. Louis prohibited future removals unless students were deemed in imminent danger, a decision affirmed in 2005 by a federal appeals court. In December, the state agreed to pay $775,000 to settle a lawsuit Sharpe filed over the students' removal.
He said he has spent nearly $5 million defending Heartland against a laundry list of allegations largely related to its discipline methods.
He said the school does enforce corporal punishment on "kids everyone else gave up on" but that the state never had a legitimate concern for the children's safety.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses former and current employees in the Department of Social Services of unlawful search and seizure, and violations of parental and family rights, and the right to associate, attorney Timothy Belz said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
The Department of Social Services said in a statement that it "will continue to follow its statutory mandate to protect children."
Sharpe said the only harm to students in 10 years was when staff placed two out-of-control students in a restraining device and broke their arms. Another student had his ear drum punctured in a confrontation with a staff member that got out of hand, he said.