Pa. DHS orders ’emergency removal’ of children at Glen Mills

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

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

Updated 5:26 p.m.

State officials in Pennsylvania have ordered the “emergency removal” of all children remaining in the oldest reform school in the country in the wake of a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation detailing decades of alleged abuse and cover-ups.

The Department of Human Services said Monday that children residing at Glen Mills Schools in Delaware County will be relocated “as soon as this can be safely accomplished.”

In a press release, DHS wrote that its Office of Children, Youth, and Families delivered the order to the school on Monday. Counties, states and court systems associated with students at the school were notified earlier of the emergency removal.

At the time of the order, 64 students from 21 state counties and 43 from eight other states on the grounds of Glen Mills. DHS will work with the students’ state and county officials to ensure they find a proper relocation, whether at home or another facility.

The Office of Children, Youth and Families will remain on-site at Glen Mills as students are removed to monitor safety and conditions.

“This removal is one step of an on-going process, and DHS is committed to seeing this investigation through to ensure that any individual responsible for endangering the welfare of children and coercing silence can be held responsible,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “As this investigation continues, it is important that we understand the full scope of incidents and mistreatment that occurred at this school. I encourage any former students or their families, Glen Mills staff, or anyone else to share their story.”

There will be no new admissions to the school at this time.

Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this month ordered a review of allegations of abuse, a spokesman saying he was “deeply disturbed” by the reports.

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.

A school representative told the Inquirer Monday that officials were “assessing the situation and its impacts and will continue to work with all state and local officials.” Officials said earlier they took the allegations very seriously and had “zero-tolerance for violent behaviors against students.”

Glen Mills, established in 1826 as the Philadelphia House of Refuge, noted that it is regulated and licensed each year, and their earlier statement said the staff deals with extremely challenging young people and they are trained in handling potentially violent behaviors.

To report possible emotional or physical child abuse, contact Pennsylvania’s ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.

The department says there were 64 students there, 21 from Pennsylvania and 43 from eight other states.

The Philadelphia Inquirer investigation published last month described a culture of physical abuse at the school.

Glen Mills, established in 1826, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment; officials said earlier they took the allegations very seriously and were working with state and local leaders.

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