This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Declaring that “institutions charged with caring for children have a responsibility to keep them safe,” the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) on Monday revoked all 14 licenses issued to Glen Mills Schools, the country’s oldest reform school for boys.
In a press statement, DHS announced the move after “documented instances of abuse against former students of the residential school.” It cited “gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in operating the facility, and mistreatment and abuse of children in Glen Mills’ care.”
The action came after an investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer that described widespread beating of students, which was subsequently covered up.
BREAKING: Pennsylvania is shutting down the Glen Mills Schools, revoking its 14 licenses, over abuse probe. This story will be updated https://t.co/gtSLSkr7Ma— Lisa Gartner (@lisagartner) April 8, 2019
City Council member Helen Gym issued a statement saying that the action is a “step toward dismantling an archaic and abusive system of mass institutionalization of young people.” She called this “an opportunity now to fundamentally change the way we treat young people in our juvenile justice and child welfare system.”
Gym held hearings on the conditions of students who are placed in residential care, like Glen Mills, and who go through the juvenile justice system.
“This work started here in our city, with the voices of young people who testified – often tearfully – about the abuses they experienced, the pain they felt being separated from their families, and their desire to reconnect with education, counseling, and their communities. I haven’t let go of their voices,” she said in a statement.
Gym helped establish a Youth Residential Placement Task Force that has been meeting since the fall to make recommendations for a “shift away from mass institutionalization toward meaningful rehabilitation and healthy outcomes.”
Students from Philadelphia made up a large portion of Glen Mills’ residents, who came from all over Pennsylvania and the country.
In her statement, 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.”
On March 25, the state issued an emergency removal order for all students remaining at the school, which was founded in 1826. The school subsequently laid off 250 employees.
The revocation of licenses was delivered by the DHS Office of Children, Youth, and Families.
According to press reports, a Glen Mills spokesperson said it would appeal the action. It has 10 days to do so.
PA DHS revokes all 14 licenses issued to Glen Mills Schools alleging abuse of students. Glen Mills says they will appeal, "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.” @KYWNewsradio pic.twitter.com/TQ2qQVCay2— Jim Melwert (@JMelwert) April 8, 2019
The Notebook’s coverage of juvenile justice and the foster care system is made possible by a grant from the Samuel S. Fels Fund.