Michael Kelly says he went to St. John's Military School to build a better future for himself. But Kelly says he couldn't move beyond the "culture of abuse" at the school. A picture that Kelly says shows him bound and blindfolded is now part of the latest allegations against the school.
"They sent it to my mother's phone. I think they took my cell phone and most likely got her number out of there. And then sent it to her,” Kelly said.
Kelly talked to FactFinder 12 via the internet from Tennessee. He's one of the three most recent former students to join a federal lawsuit against the school. Kelly says the picture doesn't show the worst of it.
"I have a brand on my stomach, numerous cigarette burns, and about 30 scars on my right arm,” Kelly said.
Another new plaintiff says both of his legs were broken. The complaint says staff and students "dragged him by his ankles, shaking them wildly, kicked him in the knees, demanded he stand up on his broken legs." The complaint alleges an X-ray shows the student was abused so badly, "that the bone was displaced several inches below his knee."
St. John's Military School issued a new statement following these latest allegations. It says, it denies the existence of a culture of abuse. It also says some of the allegations in the lawsuit were investigated by law enforcement. And, no charges were filed.
"I want to get it out there that this is real. This is happening. And, I don't want other kids to suffer like I did,” Kelly said.
Kelly says he tried to kill himself by over-dosing on prescription medication.
"I didn't really want to be there after seeing everything that was happening,” Kelly said.
The picture is now part of the lawsuit. St. John's says it will respond to each allegation in the upcoming days.
St. John's Military School issued a statement in regards to the picture allegedly showing Michael Kelly. It says, in part... "St. John's cannot confirm or deny the validity or authenticity of the photograph as no discovery has been conducted in the case. Plaintiffs' counsel continues to insist on trying this matter in the media where the rules of evidence do not apply."
Statement from Current St. John’s Parent
Our family has nothing but good things to say about our son’s education and safety at St. John’s Military School. He has been enrolled there for two and a half years and throughout that time has never experienced any mistreatment by the school, or fellow students.
We visit our son and the campus about every six weeks and are extremely impressed with the school and the education our son is receiving there.
Our greatest fear is that allegations raised in this lawsuit could alter the terrific program at St. John’s. We searched the country for a military school for our son before finding St. John’s, and we are so very pleased with our decision. They have outstanding staff and the students are very respectful. We fully support St. John’s and have the utmost confidence in our son’s attendance at the school.
Parent of St. John’s 6th Grader
Walnut Creek, California