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Midwest Academy Owner Added to Lawsuit

Jason Parrott
Midwest Academy laid off its workforce after the state ordered the removal of the students staying there.

A wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Midwest Academy now names owner Ben Trane as a defendant. Cheyenne Jerred is claiming that she was fired for coming forward about Trane sexually abusing a student at the now closed boarding school for troubled teens, which is located near Keokuk.

Jerred's attorney had already amended the lawsuit once, which is why District Court Judge Mary Ann Brown had to sign off on it being amended again.  The latest amendment names Trane as a defendant.

In her ruling, Brown said, "The court should freely grant leave for motions to amend when justice so requires. [Jerred], in her motion, seeks to add an additional party and additional claims of relief. This litigation is at its very earliest stages. No prejudice will result to any party if an additional party is added and additional claims are included in the litigation."

Jerred not only names Trane as a defendant, but she also identifies him as being "responsible for hiring and firing of staff at Midwest Academy."

Jerred said on Nov. 28, 2015, she learned that Trane had sexually assaulted and harassed a student.  Jerred said she encouraged the student to report the incident and she, herself, reported it to her superiors and to the Iowa Department of Human Services on Dec. 1, 2015.

Jerred said she was then fired on Dec. 5, 2015.

She is seeking past, present, and future lost wages, attorney fees, punitive damages, and all other compensation as permitted by law.

Jerred filed her initial lawsuit on Jan. 5, 2016. It was more vague and failed to identify specifically who committed the sexual assault and to whom she reported it. 

When Jerred amended her lawsuit the first time, on Feb. 5, 2016, she included the detail that she reported it to the Iowa Department of Human Services. This came just a few days after the Iowa Department of Human Services ordered the removal of all students at the school following the execution of search warrants at Midwest Academy and a nearby treatment center.

Her request to amend the lawsuit a second time came just a few days after previously sealed court records were made public. They identified Trane as a target of the search warrants and that law enforcement officers collected computers, cell phones, credit cards, and items with trace DNA as part of the claims of sexual abuse.

Despite two amendments, it appears the current version of the lawsuit will not be the final one. Shortly after Judge Brown allowed the lawsuit to be amended the second time, Jerred's attorney, Curtis Dial of Keokuk, applied for the opportunity to amend it a third time.

Dial said in his request that Jerred "has now become aware there are other business entities which are alter-egos of Midwest Academy. Midwest Twister is an entity which conducts business as Midwest Academy and owns the property in which Midwest Academy is located."

A judge has yet to rule on whether Midwest Twister will be added as a defendant.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.