Pennsylvania orders students removed from this school after shocking abuse claims surface

Glen Mills school in Pennsylvania. Screen capture by 3CBSPhilly video

Pennsylvania state officials have ordered the “emergency removal” of students at Glen Mills School after a newspaper investigation revealed shocking abuse and cover-ups.

The school, located about 25 miles from Philadelphia, is the oldest reform school in the U.S. and the Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Monday that the children still remaining at the school will be removed “as soon as this can be safely accomplished,” The Associated Press reports. There were a total of 64 students at the school, 23 from Pennsylvania and 41 from other states.

An investigation published by The Philadelphia Inquirer unearthed evidence of horrific abuse. Last September two former counselors were arrested and charged with allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old boy.

The resulting evidence uncovered by the DHS includes instances of “gross incompetence, negligence, misconduct in operating a facility, including mistreatment and abuse of clients, likely to constitute an immediate and serious danger to the life or health of the children in care,” Raw Story reports.

DHS Secretary Teresa Miller said the agency is taking measures to ensure the boys are safe.

“As the investigation into the allegations raised in recent reporting continues, we must do what is necessary to ensure that no more children are at risk of physical and emotional harm,” she said.

Glen Mills school, founded in 1826, currently holds 14 licenses in the state, and Miller said the emergency removal order is just one part of an ongoing investigation at the school.

“DHS is committed to seeing this investigation to ensure that any individual responsible for endangering the welfare of children and coercing silence can be held responsible,” she said.

In its report, the Inquirer noted violence was a daily occurrence at the school. Boys were routinely punched, kicked, and choked, even to the point of suffering broken bones and then threatened into silence. The Inquirer also found that executive director Randy Ireson and other top officials didn’t properly train or vet counselors at the school and also insulated themselves from abuse complaints.

But school officials are disputing the allegations, with a spokesperson for the school saying they were “just made aware” of the removal order Monday.

“We are assessing the situation and its impacts and will continue to work with all state and local officials,” the spokesperson said.

But the spokesperson didn’t specify any particular point of the Inquirer’s investigation and said school leadership “disputes virtually all the allegations and conclusions.”

In their own investigation, however, state officials corroborate the newspaper’s findings. Officials found instances in which staff routinely injured students, including one case where a boy suffered an injured eye during an assault. He was then forced to say the injury happened while he was playing basketball. In another instance, a student was punched for not listening, and in another instance staff took turns choking a boy, causing him neck injuries and migraines. In fact, a long list of injuries was reported.

The state also found instances where boys were encouraged to fight each other, while in other cases boys were forced to sit in uncomfortable positions for hours or given unwanted haircuts.

“Information gathered during interviews of former and current youth placed at Glen Mills verifies that a culture of intimidation and coercion is pervasive at Glen Mills and that youth were told to lie about the care they received and the physical mistreatment they endured while placed at Glen Mills,” the removal order states.

If these allegations are true, this will undoubtedly make life even harder for these already troubled boys — all because the people they should have been able to trust let them down.

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