School at centre of abuse claims to close
An American reform school where boys from Bermuda were sent for more than 35 years has been shut down for mistreatment and abuse of children.
Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania was told by state authorities there had been a string of violations of regulations as well as incompetence in its operation.
The violations recorded by the state’s Department of Human Services were given as the grounds to revoke the centre’s 14 licences.
The Royal Gazette reported last week that the Department of Child and Family Services requested boys from the island be sent to Glen Mills up to two years ago. Accusations of staff violence against students first emerged last summer, but the DCFS said it became aware of the claims only in February.
An article in The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper in August last year included allegations from a 17-year-old boy that he was choked and punched by a counsellor while other workers held him down in an incident said to be caught on a surveillance camera.
A special report that ran in the newspaper on February 20 featured interviews with 21 past and present students and counsellors, and detailed several cases of allegations of serious assaults by staff on children.
The report sparked several inquiries and the emergency removal of 383 boys at the school last month.
Cathy Utz, the deputy secretary for Children, Youth and Families at the DHS, wrote to the school on Monday: “Please be advised that after investigation and as a result of the Department of Human Services’ investigations between December 2018 and March 19, 2019, the department has made a decision to revoke all 14 certificates of compliance to operate child residential facilities at the Glen Mills Schools.”
She listed a string of violations committed at the institution.
Ms Utz added: “The violations specified above and attached to this revocation notice demonstrate a failure to comply with the human services code and department regulations, gross incompetence, neglect and misconduct in operating a facility, and mistreatment and abuse of children in care.
“Each of these is a sufficient basis for the department to revoke the 14 licences held by the Glen Mills Schools.”
The state said it had verified attacks by staff on children involving choking and punching, as well as a child being forced to lie about the cause of his injuries, when it issued the emergency removal order for inmates last month. It added a staff member had failed to intervene in a student-on-student assault which resulted in a broken jaw.
The school denied the allegations in a detailed appeal against the removal order filed last week.
Alfred Maybury, the director of the DCFS, told The Royal Gazette last week that the last child from Bermuda was admitted to the school in 2017 and none were there now.
He said in an e-mail: “Glen Mills was at one time a very highly respected institution and that is why, prior to 2017, DCFS used their services. Over the past few years, DCFS has used local resources and services for children in need.”
A spokeswoman added: “DCFS has not received any information related to any children sent to Glen Mills being abused or mistreated.”