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Midwest Academy Laying Off Staff

Jason Parrott
The Midwest Therapy Center is one of two sites searched by law enforcement.

The prepared statement from the owner of Midwest Academy was -- for the most part -- upbeat and positive, focusing on how the therapeutic boarding school located north of Keokuk was an asset to the entire community. But Ben Trane's tone seemed to change as the statement went on.

"We are saddened to announce that we had to lay off our final 60 employees," said Trane. "These staff members worked late and long hours giving of their talents and service. They were dedicated, conscientious and caring individuals. Our Midwest students were very fortunate to have such a quality, hardworking and knowledgeable group of people involved in their school career and their lives."

The announcement of the layoffs is just the latest in a string of events involving Midwest Academy during the past few weeks. 

On Jan. 28, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) announced the execution of two search warrants: one at Midwest Academy's campus and another at Midwest Therapy Center, which is located along Highway 61. The DCI said it removed items from both locations in connection with an allegation of sexual abuse involving a staff member and a former student.

The FBI also helped execute the search warrants. It was already investigating "potential violations of federal law" at the school. The FBI is asking any former students, parents, or staff members to come forward if they have any information about the school.

Trane said it was a difficult day for the school and its students.

"Although the search was unexpected and frightening for our staff and students, the law enforcement agencies acted in a respectful, thorough manner. We appreciate the law enforcement looking into allegations in an effort to keep us all safe. We feel secure knowing so many competent people are working on this case," Trane said.

Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR
Midwest Academy laid off its employees after the Iowa Department of Human Services ordered the removal of all students.

Shortly after the search warrants were executed, the Iowa Department of Human Services ordered the removal of the students at the school. Since then, Midwest Academy has donated its food supply to a local pantry and announced the staff layoffs.

Trane said the school opened in 2003 and was serving 90 students from around the world. He said since 2003, Midwest Academy has led to the purchase of 60,000 meals in local restaurants, the use of 20,000 hotel rooms, the donation of 55,000 community service hours, and the influx of $50 million into the local economy.


One thing was not mentioned in Trane's statement: a lawsuit filed in South Lee County District Court in early January by a former employee of Midwest Academy.

The radio story - Lawsuit

Cheyenne Jerred is suing the school for "wrongful discharge from employment/retaliatory discharge" and "violation of whistle blower statue."

She said in her five-page lawsuit that while working at the school on or about Nov. 28, 2015, she learned that a resident "claimed that she had been sexually assaulted and harassed by an employee" of the school. Jerred said she first told the student to report the abuse, then reported the abuse herself on Dec. 4, though it's unclear to whom Jerred reported the information.

She said she was fired the next day. Jerred said school representatives informed her that they knew she reported the claim and that she told the student to report the claim of sexual abuse.

Jerred is seeking past, present, and future lost wages, attorney's fees, interest, and any other compensation deemed necessary. She wants her lawsuit to be heard by a jury.