Parents pay, on average, $30,000 a year to send their child to a premiere boarding school. These schools were founded to help students grow and mature, and to help them get an education far beyond those offered at public schools. So, sending your child to such an enriching place is a great idea, right?

Not for boarding school students in South Dakota and the UK.

The Holy Rosary Mission, a Catholic organization, started a boarding school called Tekakwitha in 1888. This boarding school was built to help convert Native Indian children and teach them the basic foundations, beliefs, and morals of Catholicism.

But, this boarding school did anything but teach these children morals. According to, students were punished in many ways for allegedly “misbehaving.” (To the nuns and priests who ran the boarding school, misbehaving involved being an Indian). Students were “beaten, whipped, shaken, burned, thrown down stairs, placed in stress positions and deprived of food. Their heads were smashed against walls, and they were made to stand naked before their classmates.”

After their punishment, most students were sexually abused behind the altar.

Howard Wanna, now 60 years old, is one of the almost 400 students who recently reached a $166 million settlement with the Jesuits’ Oregon Province for their abuse.


“When I first arrived at Tekakwitha at age four or five, the nuns and priests seemed welcoming, as though they wanted me to think of the place as my home. This friendliness went on for several weeks. Then one day, Father Pohlen came to the Papoose House, where I was living, and took me by the hand. He led me to the church, where we went behind the altar to a little room that had nothing in it but a chair. Father Pohlen sat me down, unzipped his pants, took his penis out, and began to wipe it on my face and lips. I was terrified. I didn’t know what was happening. In later sessions, sometimes behind the altar and sometimes at his house, suddenly I’d be choking…He’d also turn me around and rape me, hurting me badly as he used his hands to grip my hair, neck, or shoulders.” – Howard Wanna, Abuse Victim

On the other side of the globe, more than 20 British boarding schools are facing sexual abuse charges. These cases range from fondling to rape. At St. Bedes in Manchester, a Catholic boarding school, over 40 children suffered abuse, including rape. The abusers were either older students, but most often, professors. Whether the abuser was student or teacher, “in most of the cases, those in positions of authority knew of the abuse and failed to take adequate steps to protect these innocent children,” according to Jessica Standley, a lawyer representing multiple abused boarders.

Some of the 20 boarding schools who made this list include:

– St Bedes in Manchester
– Little Abbey in Hampshire, now closed
– St George’s in Suffolk, now Finborough School
– Denstone in Staffordshire

Due to charges, many of the British boarding schools and Tekakwitha boarding school in South Dakota have shut down. But, sadly, some continue to operate. 

What can you do to help? Visit to sign a petition to enhance laws to provide for more intrusive checks on boarding schools and to learn more about what you can do to help.


Featured image courtesy of: