Newark - Students at Heartland Community Center of rural Newark, where several employees have been charged with child abuse, were evacuated Tuesday afternoon and taken by buses to a juvenile justice center in Kirksville.
An officer at the Kirksville Police Department reported the approximately 120 students arrived at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, and numerous agencies were involved in assisting as most of them were to be returned to their parents.
He believed the students had been removed from Heartland by order of a judge.
Among law enforcement officers and other agencies at the Bruce Normile Juvenile Justice Center in Kirksville who were helping with the evacuation were Family Services, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Adair County Sheriff's Department and several juvenile justice officers.
The JJC in Kirksville is for residents of Knox, Lewis and Adair counties, and in addition to JJC personnel from these three counties, juvenile officers from Schuyler County were assisting.
Mike Waddle, a juvenile officer at the JJC in Kirksville, was among the officers involved in the evacuation. He also is among several law enforcement officers being sued by Heartland for their involvement in the arrest of several Heartland employees on charges of child abuse.
Heartland was founded by Charles Sharpe in 1995 to treat troubled youth and adults with a combination of work therapy and Christian-based instruction. The school is on a 200-acre farm complex.
A Heartland staff member reported at about 2:55 p.m. Tuesday more than a dozen vehicles surrounded Heartland Christian Academy, and police and juvenile officers guarded the doors and refused to allow any students to leave.
The staff member provided the following statements: Juvenile officers sorted the students into groups. All students age 17 and under without a parent present were taken, totaling about 120. They were taken in two Kirksville school buses. The students were upset and crying as they were loaded. At about 4 p.m. the buses were full and left, without holding all the students. Some students tried to run from the school. A decision was made to load all available vehicles with students.
At about 2:51 p.m. faxes began coming to the school office, with court orders for students, placing them in protective custody with the state of Missouri. Some had names of students no longer there, and many students who were taken were not listed on a court order.