Todd J. Van Emst  /  AP
The Lyman Ward Military Academy is being sued by several parents of boys who say they were brutalized at the school.
updated 3/23/2005 3:39:25 PM ET 2005-03-23T20:39:25

Michael Miller says he still carries the scars from the night senior cadets at Lyman Ward Military Academy came into his room, pinned him down and used an electric drill to bore holes into his palm.

Miller, who was 15 at the time, endured beatings, broken ribs and bruises for more than six weeks. After the attack with the drill, he says, “I felt so bad, I wrote home a suicide note.”

On Wednesday, a mediator will begin hearing eight lawsuits alleging brutal hazing and abuse by senior cadets and school officials at Lyman Ward in the 2002-2003 or 2003-2004 school years.

Most parents are seeking reimbursement for tuition and medical expenses, while others want the century-old school shut down.

Lyman Ward’s attorney, Thomas Radney, said the east Alabama military school, which covers grades 6-12, denies all allegations and he looks forward to mediation.

“They intend to defend this vigorously,” he said.

'Bullying starts on Day 2'
Miller’s parents, Ray and Sherry Miller of Destin, Fla., have joined their son in suing the school. They said they took him to the Camp Hill campus in August 2002 with the hope that a more structured environment would help him buckle down.

When they toured the school, Ray Miller said, academy officials told them the school had a “zero tolerance” policy toward abuse and provided “24-hour supervision.”

But Michael Miller said that was all a front.

“The first day, when the parents are still around, they’re extremely careful about how things are run. The bullying starts on Day 2,” he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. He said the scars on his palm from the drill, while faded, are still there.

Chester Carroll, who is president of the academy and mayor of Camp Hill, refused to comment on the lawsuits or the plans for mediation. Carroll took his post in July 2003 after Maj. Gen. Clyde Hennies stepped down for personal reasons. Hennies declined to comment to the AP.

Charles Livings, who was the admissions officer at the time and served as a campus liaison to parents, also declined to comment.

Other parents' complaints
Another couple who filed suit, Wayne and Dale Holden of Alpharetta, Ga., said their son, Ryan, wanted an early start on the road to The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college. Instead, the beatings became so severe that he ran away once and also wrote a letter that alarmed his parents.

“In his last letter, he sent his Lyman Ward name tag. He said that would be the last time I would hear from him and the name tag was for me to remember him,” Dale Holden said. “I got in the car and went straight there. I have no doubt in my mind he would’ve killed himself.”

Anne Brown of Mary Ester, Fla., a recently divorced mother battling lung cancer, looked to Lyman Ward to be a “positive male influence” for her son, Shaun, while she sought long-term cancer treatments.

Shaun, who was 11 at the time, is the youngest and smallest plaintiff. In a series of letters, he told his mother that the older cadets would routinely beat him. In January, some other cadets came forward and told Brown that Livings, the school official, allegedly punished Shaun for misbehaving in gym class by kicking and stomping him on the practice field until the 4-foot-2, 85-pound boy vomited.

The parents said they were accustomed to receiving disturbing letters from their sons about beatings and verbal abuse, but initially believed administrators that the boys were exaggerating injuries suffered during normal horseplay.

“There’s been an excellent job of the school telling the parents that the child was not telling the truth,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, William “Trip” Walton.

Lawyer: Police encouraged charges
The majority of the parents found out about the severity of the abuse after two other students fled the campus and were spotted by an Auburn police officer. After hearing accounts of the ongoing beatings, police encouraged the parents to press charges, Walton said.

Some of the boys, such as 13-year-old Shaun, are now thriving at new schools. For others, it’s not as easy.

“I’ve tried my best to move on,” said Michael Miller, now 18 and pursuing his GED. “There are times I still do get nightmares.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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