Bipartisan legislation aimed at regulating faith-based boarding schools like the now-defunct Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch in southwest Missouri’s Humansville will be heard Wednesday by a Missouri Senate committee in Jefferson City.
The Senate Seniors, Families, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee will hear the bill from State Reps. Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville) and Keri Ingle (D-Lee’s Summit). The Missouri House gave final approval to the Veit-Ingle bill in late March. That vote was 148-0.
Current Missouri law doesn’t allow any regulation or oversight on residential care facilities for children, as long as the facilities declare themselves as religious.
“That meant that they had absolutely zero oversight at all,” Ingle told Missourinet in mid-February. “There were no regulations, no oversight. And that means no health and safety standards. No background checks, no criminal background checks.”
The owners of the Circle of Hope ranch remain jailed without bond, after being charged with 102 felonies between them. Boyd and Stephanie Householder are from southern Missouri’s Nevada, which is near Humansville.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) announced the criminal charges in March in Jefferson City, telling Capitol reporters that the charges against the Householders are horrific.
“With 16 victims so far, we believe this to be one of the most widespread cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse patterns against young girls in Missouri history,” Schmitt announced in March.
Boyd Householder is charged with 80 felonies, including 56 counts of child abuse or neglect. Many of the charges are for alleged sex crimes.
Court documents allege that Boyd Householder punished one girl for drinking water, by forcing her to drink 220 ounces of water and then run until she vomited. In another case, duct tape was placed over a child’s mouth for several hours, before Boyd Householder allegedly “ripped the pieces off all at once,” according to court documents.
The 22 felony charges against Stephanie Householder include 12 counts of child abuse or neglect and ten counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The next court appearance for the Householders is a preliminary hearing, which is set for May 20 in Stockton.
Ingle, the top Democrat on the Missouri House Children’s and Families Committee, was featured during a February episode of NBC’s “Dateline”, for her legislation.
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