Two Say Academy Saved Daughter

Life at Baptist School is Described as Strict - But Successful

St. Louis Post-Dispatch/March 29, 1996
By Kim Bell

The parents of a former student at Mountain Park Baptist Academy describe life at the school as strict, with tight restrictions on clothes and conduct.

Mountain Park Baptist Academy, where 16-year-old Andrew Futrelle II was slain Monday, charges parents $750 a month for each child, with a one-year minimum. Many of the school's students come from California, Oregon and Washington state. Juvenile courts in those states refer many of the children to the academy in rural Missouri.

Tom and Pat Moore, of Piedmont, sent their 12-year-old daughter to the school after she ran away from home with a 17-year-old boy two years ago. With their daughter now home, the Moores swear by the school.

"The first thing people start doing after a tragedy like this is accuse places of being cults," said Tom Moore, who works at a rock quarry. "But it's not. It's a wonderful school."

The school, about 110 miles south of St. Louis, is run by the Rev. Bobby wills, 60, and his wife, Betty Wills, 58.

The school has strict guidelines.

Parents must agree to keep their child at the academy for at least a year.

No visits for the first three months - and only 17 days of visits for the entire year.

Students who disobey rules get paddled after two warnings.

Students are awakened at 5 a.m., in bed by 9 p.m. and must memorize 3 Bible verses a day.

Only one 10-minute phone call with parents every two weeks.

All letters between parents and children are screened by school officials.

"They didn't want us saying negative things like, 'I miss you' or 'I wish you were home,'" Pat Moore said.

When their daughter needed minor surgery at a Poplar Bluff hospital, the parents had to observe the school's policy on visitation. They were allowed in the waiting room, but could not see the girl.

Tom Moore said the school helped his daughter: "She's a Christian now."

Parents provide clothes for the students; if the clothing is unacceptable, the school returns it to the parents, Moore says. No black clothing and no short shorts are allowed. The school prefers skirts for girls.

When their daughter's grandparents gave her a fingernail clipper set as a gift, the school kept it under lock and key, the Moores said.

Students can decorate their rooms with stuffed animals, but no radios or TVs. The only books the Moores ever saw were Bibles. On Friday nights, the school brought in a popcorn machine and students gathered for "Movie Night". Only Disney movies were shown.

The Moores' daughter, who used to make excuses to skip church on Sundays, now quotes Bible verses. After her first three months at the academy, the Moores picked their daughter up for their first visit. By academy rules, the Moores could not take her home. So they went to Branson. "We saw the change in her immediately," Pat Moore said. "When we stopped to eat at Hillbilly Junction, the first thing she did was pray over her food."

The daughter, a smiling girl with braces, said Bobby and Betty Wills, who she calls Mama and Papa, changed her life. "I got saved," she said.

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