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Glen Mills Accused of Coercing Students, Covering Up Abuse

Staff at Glen Mills have been accused of threatening students into signing pre-typed letters stating they wanted to remain at Glen Mills after abuse allegations surfaced. The students were told their sentences would restart if they left the program to go elsewhere.

According to Leola Hardy, chief of the juvenile unit at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, “I do think it’s very concerning that they would even approach a child to sign something like that. They’re not attorneys. They don’t know what’s happening in court. They were trying to scare the kids.”

The letters the boys were asked to sign were typed on school letterhead and read:

“I have been told that a hearing will be held this week to consider if I should stay at Glen Mills. I want you to know that if I can go home, I want to but, if I have to go somewhere else, I want to stay at Glen Mills.”

Some people familiar with the letters and the overall situation believe Glen Mills is “circling the wagons” in an effort to save face after staff members were accused of child abuse.

Following an investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer that revealed decades of abuse at the school, the city initiated placement hearings for the more than 50 boys removed from the program. The investigation had revealed not only abuse, but ongoing efforts to cover-up the abuse.

The Inquirer talked to several students and members of the Glen Mills staff and all told them that counselors at the school attempted to keep the boys from reporting the abuse by telling them they’d be transferred to a school with worse problems. They also told them they’d have to start their sentences from the beginning.

Glen Mills is the oldest reform school in the United States. It’s a privately operated non-profit, but does receive taxpayer money, including tuition costs for boys placed from Philadelphia.

Judges from across the country are removing boys that have been sent to the school.

School Denies Allegations of Abuse and Coercion

The school and its attorneys continue to deny that counselors did anything wrong and that nobody was asked to sign any letters.

According to one attorney representing the school, boys approached staff members and told them they wanted to remain at the school, so the school helped the boys by writing the letters. The school then sent a staff member to dorm rooms to explain the option of signing the letter to the boys. The school maintains there was “no pressure or coercion.”

Cynthia Figueroa, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, said the letter and the threats attached to it prove it’s time for a leadership and organizational change at Glen Mills.

Figueroa’s agency investigated a report of counselors attacking a boy at Glen Mills earlier this year and identified problems that were similar in nature to what the Inquirer had uncovered. The school assured DHS it would correct the problems.

Children enrolled in any educational program, at their own choosing or in response to a behavioral issue, deserve to be treated with respect and not exposed to abuse. Our goal is to assist any child who has experienced abuse or mistreatment at school or in any program.

If you or a loved one was hurt by someone at Glen Mills or encouraged to sign a letter asking that abuse not be reported, or had a similar situation occur elsewhere, we want to know about it. Contact Heavens Law at 888.897.5377 to schedule a free consultation.