Teen Handcuffed And Forced To Boarding School

A mother is being charged for forcing her child on a handcuffed, 27 hour long ride to a Missouri boarding school.

By Kari Apted | Published

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Missouri boarding school

Parents of adolescents may tease their unruly teens about sending them away to boarding school, but a California mother recently followed through—by force. Shana Gaviola, 35, was charged last week for violating a protective order and hiring people to kidnap her son. His destination? A Missouri boarding school for troubled youth.

Julio Sandoval, 41, former dean of the Agape Boarding School in Stockton, Missouri, was also charged for conspiring with Gaviola to send her son away. Sandoval is the founder of an agency that transports minors to boarding school campuses. Gaviola’s plans involved using the agency to drive her son to the Missouri boarding school.

Court documents reveal that Gaviola’s son left her home in 2020 to live with another family, perhaps sparking the conflict that led to the Missouri boarding school incident. The youth filed a restraining order against his mother in July 2021. He also petitioned the Fresno County Superior Court for his emancipation. The judge approved the protection order which prohibited Gaviola from contacting her son in any way, directly or indirectly. The order also specified that she was not allowed to monitor or block the movements of her son.

In defiance of the order, Gaviola monitored her son’s activities for the next few weeks. She contacted Sandoval and made arrangements for his agency to transport her son to the Missouri boarding school. On the morning of August 21, 2021, Sandoval ordered his agents to detain the youth at a Fresno business. They handcuffed the teen, forced him into their vehicle, and kept him handcuffed during the 27-hour drive to Stockton, Missouri. The teen remained at the school for eight days until his father arrived to take him home.

This isn’t the first time controversy has surrounded Missouri boarding schools. In recent years, at least a dozen students at Agape Boarding School and Circle of Hope Girls’ School have claimed enduring years of abuse while living on campus. In addition to sexual abuse, students alleged that they were forced to eat their own vomit, shovel manure for hours on end, and were locked in their rooms without lights or beds. To date, dozens of Missouri boarding school employees have been charged with assault and other crimes, including Agape’s doctor, David Smock. He was charged with 11 felony sex abuse crimes and has pleaded not guilty to three of the charges.

The United States has over 300 boarding schools, but only a fraction of America’s students attend them—about 35,000. Cost is perhaps the major reason boarding school remains inaccessible to most. The average annual tuition for seven-day boarding schools is $37,590 and seven of the 10 most expensive private schools in America are boarding institutions.

Missouri boarding school

Though the Missouri boarding school accusations are serious, most students and alumni report satisfaction with the boarding school experience. According to an article in Town and Country magazine, 95% report being satisfied or very satisfied with their academic experience. It’s unknown whether boarding schools designated for troubled youth were included in the survey. As for Gaviola and Sandoval, both could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted.