Four former students have filed a lawsuit against Glen Mills Schools, the oldest reform school in the United States, alleging they endured cruel and unusual punishment while they were there.
According to the lawsuit, the youth housed at Glen Mills Schools’ Delaware County campus endured extreme psychological and physical abuse and were denied proper education.
The lawsuit claims that the abuse disproportionately affected black youths and students with special needs.
“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.
“If we as a state are going to take children into our care and into our custody because they have done something wrong, we have an obligation to treat them, frankly, as if we were their parents,” added Marsha Levick, chief legal officer of Juvenile Law Center.
The lawsuit was filed just three days after the Department of Humans 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.”
“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,” she added.
A spokesperson for Glen Mills said in an emailed statement that the school didn’t know about the lawsuit until they saw media reports on Thursday.
“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 said.
The lawsuit seeks at least $10 million in damages.