What to Know
- Four former students of the largest reform school in America are suing the school and Pennsylvania officials for at least $10 million.
- The suit alleges that youth housed at the Glen Mills Schools' Pennsylvania campus were “subjected to extreme and sustained physical abuse.
- The abuse disproportionately affected black youth and students with special needs, according to the suit.
Citing “cruel and unusual punishment,” four former students from the country's oldest reform school are suing Glen Mills and Pennsylvania officials for at least $10 million.
The suit against Glen Mills Schools alleges that youth housed at its Delaware County campus were “subjected to extreme and sustained physical and psychological abuse” and were denied a proper education. It names several officials from the school, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services officials - including Secretary Teresa Miller - and members of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, as plaintiffs.
The abuse, which dates back to 2000, disproportionately affected black youth and students with special needs, according to the suit.
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“Children languished in a limited, self-directed, online credit recovery program without the support of teachers or instruction,” Maura McInerney, legal director for Education Law Center, said.
Juvenile Law Center, Education Law Center, and Dechert LLP are representing the four plaintiffs.
A spokesperson representing Glen Mills said in an emailed statement that the school was not aware of the lawsuit until media reports began to surface Thursday morning.
"That said, our attorneys are now evaluating the suit, which will take some time due to its length. The school will comment once it has had time to evaluate it. We look forward to our appeal process with the state and encourage anyone who wants to read our side of the story to review those documents, which are and will continue to be available to the public," the statement read.
The lawsuit comes three days after the Department of Human Services announced that all 14 licenses issued to Glen Mills Schools were revoked "following documented instances of abuse against former students of the residential school." The department also cited "gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in operating the facility."
"Institutions charged with caring for children have a responsibility to keep them safe. The Glen Mills Schools failed in this duty," DHS Secretary Teresa Miller said. "We now know that children living at Glen Mills were subjected to abuse and intimidation."
"My department is taking this action so no more children will be subjected to the culture of abuse, coercion, and silence that ran deep at the school, and so staff responsible may be held accountable," Miller said.
A school spokeswoman said the institution remains open and that it will appeal the state's decision to revoke the licenses.
"No credible evidence supports the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ actions and their recent inspections confirm this. The issues PA DHS inspectors discovered were trivial and they found no signs of long standing physical abuse, per their own documentation," a written statement read in part.
Glen Mills last week announced layoffs of about 250 staff members following the state's order that remaining students be removed from the Delaware County campus about 25 miles west of Philadelphia.
An investigation by The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year detailed decades of alleged abuse and cover-ups.