The workers had been sued by Thayer Learning Center in a case that eventually was dropped. In that lawsuit, Thayer alleged that the ex-employees made false statements and false allegations to law-enforcement officials and others about activities at the camp.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, the former employees allege that Thayer sued them to keep them and others quiet, describing the lawsuit against them as an attempt “to keep the truth about their facility secret.”
The workers’ lawsuit also accuses Thayer of suing them “to hide from the appropriate authorities and parents the fact that … the usual methods used by (Thayer) did indeed and actually constitute child abuse.”
The case filed in Caldwell County Circuit Court names Thayer Learning Center and the facility’s owner, Willa Bundy, as defendants.
Bundy and an attorney for the center did not return phone calls Monday and Tuesday.
Allegations of child abuse at Thayer — about 50 miles northeast of Kansas City in Kidder — came to light after Roberto Reyes, 15, died in November 2004, less than two weeks after enrolling.
No charges were filed in connection with Roberto’s death, but the FBI recently conducted a preliminary investigation and sent its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice. Officials there are reviewing the case.
Thayer officials have said that allegations of abuse were “ludicrous and false.”
In its 2003 lawsuit, Thayer alleged that the workers made false statements to third parties about the center “physically abusing and harming its students” and accused them of violating written contracts by contacting parents, government agencies and law-enforcement officials to discuss specific students and school operations.
Those contacts, Thayer alleged, forced the school to “have to continually … deny these false allegations” and caused the loss of potential students. Thayer dropped its lawsuit last month.
In their lawsuit, the ex-employees said contractual agreements could not be used to prevent individuals from reporting abuse. They accuse Thayer of “covering up the fact that they had an unqualified and unsupervised staff engaging in child abuse.”
Phil Elberg, a New Jersey attorney representing the plaintiffs, alleged by phone that Thayer’s 2003 lawsuit “was clearly intended to scare people into shutting up.”
The plaintiffs did not specify a dollar amount but alleged that the center’s “outrageous” behavior “showed an evil motive” and therefore entitles them to exemplary damages in addition to actual damages, attorneys’ fees and “such other relief as the court deems just and proper.”
Elberg said the plaintiffs — Nanette Burge and Candessa Williams of Gallatin, Mo.; Linda Glenn and Janet Traylor of Hamilton, Mo., and Regina Burge of Jamesport, Mo. — would not comment. (Unable to locate story at time for archiving. Source: www.kansascity.com Date: June 3, 2008)