Glen Mills school to lay off about 250 amid abuse investigations

A sign stands outside the Glen Mills Schools in Glen Mills, Pa.

A sign stands outside the Glen Mills Schools in Glen Mills, Pa., Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

The oldest reform school in the country has announced plans to lay off about 250 staff members at the Pennsylvania campus amid multiple state probes into allegations of child abuse.

Glen Mills Schools spokeswoman Aimee Tysarczyk said the school and its board of managers made what she called “the difficult decision” to begin layoffs. She said 80 people from various departments were notified Tuesday and more layoffs are to continue this week.

The statement said many had “tirelessly served the school for decades” and lauded their commitment to Glen Mills’ mission and “helping to pave the way to a new path in life for countless young men.”

State officials last week ordered an “emergency removal” of all children after an investigation by The Philadelphia Inquirer detailed decades of alleged abuse and cover-ups at the Delaware County campus about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Philadelphia.

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Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a review of allegations of abuse last month. Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller urged any former students, families or staff with information to come forward so officials can “understand the full scope of incidents and mistreatment that occurred at this school.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer investigation published last month described a culture of physical abuse at the school and alleged that school leaders turned a blind eye to beatings and failed to vet or train counselors. In the last five years, at least 13 staffers at Glen Mills have been fired and dozens more have been retrained or reprimanded over assaults on 15 students at the school, the newspaper reported.

Glen Mills, established in 1826 as the Philadelphia House of Refuge, said it took the allegations very seriously and had “zero-tolerance for violent behaviors against students.” The school noted it is regulated and licensed each year, and staff deals with extremely challenging young people and are trained in handling potentially violent behaviors.

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