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Former student of Christian school asks education minister to close it

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On Wednesday, former students of Legacy Christian Academy and Education Secretary Dustin Duncan met for the first time since the allegations were first reported by CBC.

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A former student at a Christian school in Saskatoon has demanded more action after what she and others alleged were decades of abuse, and directly asked the Saskatchewan Education Minister to close the school.

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Caitlin Erickson was among three former students of Legacy Christian Academy – formerly known as the Christian Center Academy – to meet with Education Secretary Dustin Duncan and ministry officials on Wednesday. The meeting, which included students’ attorney Grant Sharfstein, took place at Duncan’s request weeks after Erickson and the former students sought to sit down in person to discuss their allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Erickson is the lead plaintiff in a $25 million class action lawsuit against Legacy Christian Academy and Mile Two Church.

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According to Erickson, after providing Minister and Deputy Minister Donna Johnson with specific examples and evidence of their allegations, Erickson directly asked Duncan to close the school. Erickson said Duncan somehow failed to commit to keeping the school open.

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“We appreciate their meeting with us, but there is a lot going on in that institution. We are now talking about four decades of abuse victims who have come forward,” Erickson said in an interview.

“I don’t think anyone would want his legacy as the current Minister of Education, the fiftieth decade of abuse. Therefore, I directly asked him to close the school.”

The Department of Education confirmed in an email that Duncan met with former students to hear firsthand their experiences and historical allegations against the school. The meeting was a follow-up to one between former students and an appointed official at Legacy Christian Academy.

“While the name of the Ministry of Education was not mentioned in the lawsuit, it will continue to monitor this situation as the legal process progresses,” the governorate said in a statement.

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Education Secretary Dustin Duncan needed to step up efforts when it came to the government's handling of charter schools and the Christian Heritage Academy.
Education Secretary Dustin Duncan needed to step up efforts when it came to the government’s handling of charter schools and the Christian Heritage Academy. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Leader Post

In its statement, the governorate indicated that it had implemented administrators in three schools whose names were mentioned in the lawsuit, and that it was “working to strengthen regulations and control over schools, and to cooperate fully with the children’s and youth lawyer in its investigation into oversight.” Independent Schools in Saskatchewan.

Erickson said the conversation on Wednesday, first reported by CBC, was one-sided, with the former students and their attorneys doing most of the talking.

“They listened a lot, which we appreciate, but with so much information on this situation we would have hoped to get more from them as much as they would do to prevent this from happening in the future,” Erickson said.

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Scharfstein said in an interview that the students had been waiting for the meeting for some time. He called it a step in the right direction and said Duncan had listened “attentively”. Sharfstein said the meeting was an opportunity to provide the minister and department with information about what happened at the school, and share their concerns about charter schools, school district funding, and what students feel is the lack of oversight of schools. .

“I have no doubt he heard what we said. Can I tell what’s going to happen from her? I can’t. I don’t know. But they certainly know what the issues are,” Scharfstein said.

Sharfstein added that their allegations are not political, as the “total failure of this ministry” has occurred under the NDP, Conservative and Saskatchewan governments.

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“We wanted to make it clear that there is a complete failure to protect the interests of these children, academically, based on the curriculum being taught and who is teaching, in addition to the issues of abuse that arose in these schools,” he said.

Saskatoon police have confirmed a criminal investigation into the allegations.

Saskatoon StarPhoenix requested comment from Legacy Christian Academy as well as its parent organization, Mile Two Church, but received no response.

Legacy Christian Academy shares the same building as Mile Two Church, which is located in the Lawson Heights neighborhood of Saskatoon.  Photo taken in Saskatoon, Sussex.  Wednesday, August 3, 2022.
Legacy Christian Academy shares the same building as Mile Two Church, which is located in the Lawson Heights neighborhood of Saskatoon. Photo taken in Saskatoon, Sussex. Wednesday, August 3, 2022. Photography by Michael Berg /Saskatoon Star Phoenix

In August, former students at the school filed a class-action lawsuit against Legacy Christian Academy, formerly Christian Center Academy, and Mile Two Church, alleging that both organizations committed and permitted beatings of students, fondling of minors by church staff and others. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

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The lawsuit, which is seeking $25 million in damages, named 21 people as defendants, including former teachers and administrators. The allegations have not been tested in court.

As of Friday, no defense transcripts have been filed.

Postmedia spoke with dozens of former students who attended the school between the mid-1980s and early 2010s, who alleged that people working at the church and school hit them with large wooden paddles as a form of discipline. The Supreme Court declared the use of corporal punishment against students illegal in 2004.

The department appointed directors in late August to oversee Legacy Christian Academy, Grace Christian School in Saskatoon and Regent Christian Academy in Prince Albert.

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A Duncan spokesperson said earlier that Duncan revoked Grace Christian’s school permit to operate after the school principal refused to cooperate with the administrator.

Legacy Christian Academy is classified as a “qualified independent school” that is operated and owned by a not-for-profit organization, but receives direct regional funding. Now it must follow the district curriculum, but can offer locally developed courses at the secondary level approved by the Department of Education.

In 2020-2021 it received $736,000 in county funding.

Caitlin Erickson is one of two main plaintiffs in a $25 million class action lawsuit against former employees of Legacy Christian Academy, as well as that school and the church it runs.
Caitlin Erickson is one of two main plaintiffs in a $25 million class action lawsuit against former employees of Legacy Christian Academy, as well as that school and the church it runs. Photography by Michael Berg /Saskatoon Star Phoenix

– With StarPhoenix files from Zak Vescera

[email protected]

The news seems to fly to us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics, crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, I created Saskatoon StarPhoenix Afternoon addresses The newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you’re up to date with the day’s latest news. Click here to subscribe.

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