Alaska State Troopers are investigating public allegations of physical and mental abuse against students of an Eastern Orthodox church school for troubled youths in Kodiak.
Former students of St. Innocent's Academy have submitted victims' statements to the website Academy Abuse, which went live in early January.
The website's authors decided to go public with the allegations after Metropolitan Joseph Bosakov -- the leader of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the U.S., Canada and Australia, who oversees the academy -- failed to take satisfactory action, they said through the site. There are currently 15 victims' statements posted to the website.
St. Innocent's is an alternative school for "at-risk" young men and women on Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Its website states many of the students are in need of "secure anchoring" as an antidote to a modern lack of values.
The allegations center on one academy official, who's accused of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of students, including claims that a young man's head was slammed against a wall and a girl was forced to drink from a dog dish off the floor. Those and other incidents allegedly happened between 1999 and 2011.
The older allegations likely will never make it before a trial judge. The statute of limitations in Alaska law prohibits prosecution of people for felony assault 10 years after the fact. For lesser offenses like misdemeanor assault, the limit is five years.
The academy's headmaster, the Rev. Paisius DeLucia, declined to comment about the allegations but responded with a statement though the academy's secretary, Anna Spencer.
"We take these allegations very seriously," she said in a phone interview. "Because of the potential far-reaching consequences, which may affect not only the future of the academy, but potential students as well, and our relationship to the community with which we have so long enjoyed a warm and welcoming relationship, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time."
Troopers Sgt. Eric T. Olsen in Kodiak said troopers there are aware of the allegations and the website, and there is an ongoing investigation. He declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation.
No one has been criminally charged. Olsen said. Kodiak's troopers are asking anyone with information about the alleged abuse to call their post or submit an anonymous tip through Kodiak Crime Stoppers.
John Koen, a priest serving at an Orthodox church in Indianapolis, said he learned his kids were abused during their time at the academy over the past four months. He said he sent a letter to Bosakov on Sept. 10 urging him to handle the allegations appropriately.
Koen said Bosakov's response has been lacking. On Jan. 10, Koen resigned from Christ the Savior Brotherhood, which helps fund the academy, in protest. "Spiritual oversight" rests with the diocese's bishops, but CSB finances the academy, Koen said.
"A week before the website came out, I found out more about what happened to my son, and I resigned," Koen said in a phone interview. "I wanted to draw attention to it so people took it seriously. … I'm not entirely happy with the response. It hasn't been as full of a response as is necessary."
Koens' son and daughter, who attended St. Innocent's separately in the mid-2000s and each claimed instances of abuse, declined requests for interviews. Their statements are available on Academy Abuse.
Bosakov did not return a call for comment.
Academy Abuse's authors, Sam Dank and Ray Richards, and other alleged victims are seeking the removal of the accused official from the academy, as well as other, broader potential punishments.
The nonprofit SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a news release that the victims' statements "paint a disturbing picture of physical, psychological and spiritual abuse" at the school.
SNAP supports victims who come forward with abuse allegations. Its members offer to accompany alleged victims when they report to law enforcement, said Melanie Sakoda, Orthodox director of the nonprofit.
She said she initially heard about the alleged abuse at St. Innocent's in 2008.
"I've known about the allegations for some time, but no one was coming forward to do what they're doing now, making complaints to the police and having their statements out there for the public," she said.
The site has been updated since its launch and includes a highlighted section on the homepage asking anyone abused as a minor at the academy, or if they witnessed the abuse of a minor, to contact the state's Office of Children's Services.
"We are reviewing the information and website and if contacted we'll take any reports and work with AST accordingly," said OCS director Christy Lawton.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing