State revokes licenses of Glen Mills Schools amid abuse probes

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 6:00 p.m.

A spokeswoman for the nation’s oldest reform school says they’ll appeal the state’s decision to revoke licenses at the suburban Philadelphia campus amid an investigation into child abuse allegations.

The Department of Human Services announced Monday 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.”

Glen Mills spokeswoman Aimee Tysarczyk says the school isn’t closed and some operations will continue as they appeal. They have 10 days to appeal the license revocation.

“In the past 18 months alone, Glen Mills Schools has been formally visited, inspected and reviewed more than 150 times by different outside entities, including numerous states and counties,” she wrote. “The issues PA DHS inspectors discovered were trivial and they found no signs of long-standing physical abuse, per their own documentation. We are stunned that PA DHS is taking this action based on media reports as opposed to looking at the results of their own inspections.”

An investigation by The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year detailed decades of alleged abuse and cover-ups at the Glen Mills Schools.

The allegations included severe beatings for students who made minor infractions, a staffer breaking a boy’s jaw after the student made a joke about his sister, and other boys getting choked for running away. Broken bones, serious bruises and threats warning students not to talk were detailed.

In the past 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.

Last week, the school laid off 250 staff members following the state’s order that remaining students be removed from the campus.

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

Set amid the rolling hills of Delaware County, it looks more like a prestigious prep school than a facility for juvenile delinquents. Boys wind up in the facility in two ways: because they are in the criminal justice system in some capacity or are dependents like foster kids the state hasn’t been able to place.

Students have come from Pennsylvania and many other states. Some came from as far as Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Bermuda. Its top-tier athletic program has yielded NFL recruits.

After the Inquirer investigation was published in February, agencies in Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh and other jurisdictions started to pull their students from the school.

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