Supporters of a Baptist boarding academy where a student was killed onMarch 25 have planned a rally this morning outside the Wayne County courthouse, where a judge is to review a juvenile officer's report on the school.
The Rev Eimo Parker, pastor of a church in nearby Piedmont, Mo., said he expected a large crowd from his and other area congregations to attend the rally on behalf of the Mountain Park Baptist Church and Boarding Academ, a school for troubled youths.
The school is on 165 secluded acres about 110 miles south of St. Louis.
Parker objected to a visit to the school Tuesday by a team of juvenile officers and state social workers, who interviewed all of the roughly 200 students. When they left 10 hours later, 21 of the female students left with them.
"We feel this has been a misuse of state power," said Parker. "Do you think the state would let anyone enter their juvenile facilities and give troubled youth the option of leaving? How many youths do you think they'd have left?"
Parker is pastor of Victory Baptist Temple, which works closely with the Mountain Park academy. He said many supporters of the school suspect that Robert Barr, chief Juvenile officer in a five-county area, is trying to force the school to close. Barr said Thursday that was not true.
"There is no move to shut the school down," Barr said. "If my petition were to disclose allegations of abuse or neglect, the first effort would be to correct them."
Barr filed a report with the Wayne County Circuit Court that is based on interviews with the students Tuesday.
Circuit Judge William Camm Seay will hold a closed hearing at 9 a.m. today in Greenville, MO., the seat of Wayne County- He also will consider the status of any of the 21 students who have not already been sent home to their parents. Barr said Thursday afternoon that all but three girls had left or had arranged for their travel.
Most of the school's students are girls.
On March 25, a 16-year-old male student was killed on the grounds of the school. A senior, 18, faces a charge of first-degree murder, and juvenile officers have commended that a 15-year-old also stand trial for murder as an adult. Another 15-year-old has been sent to a juvenile center on a lesser charge.
The Rev. Bobby R. Wills, who runs Mountain Park with his wife, Betty has refused to say anything publicly since the killing. His son, Brett Wills, said Bobby Wills would attend the rally outside the courthouse.
A spokeswoman for Mountain Park said Thursday the school was "rallyinq our parents and supporters."
Wills sent letters to parents on April 1, giving some details about the killing and asking them to discuss it with their children "only once in a passing manner."
"Because of our refusal to grant access to the press, we have received much criticism from the media, even to the point of being called a cult," Wills' letter says.
The student who was killed was William A. Futrelle II of Boca Raton, Fla. Anthony G. Rutherford, 18, of Siloam Springs, Ark., is charged.