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March 11, 2019

Pennsylvania launches audit of Glen Mills Schools for alleged history of abuse

Investigations Abuse
Glen Mills Schools Glen Mills Schools/YouTube

The Glen Mills Schools, located in Delaware County, was established in 1826.

The Glen Mills Schools in Delaware County will be subject to a state audit amid mounting allegations of physical abuse dating back decades, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Monday.

The all-male reform school, the oldest in the United States, accepts students from around the country who are placed there via court orders.

While allegations about multiple incidents surfaced in the early 2000's, the privately run, state-licensed school is facing renewed scrutiny in the wake of a damning investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer published in February.

“The alleged abuse of students and long-running culture of secrecy at Glen Mills shocks the conscience,” DePasquale said. “Because the institution receives public funds, I am demanding that the school answer what – if any – policies it has to prevent the abuse of students and ensure that reports of abuse are properly handled.”

Following the new reports of abuse — some involving students as young as 11 years old — numerous jurisdictions including Philadelphia began removing juvenile offenders from the school.

In Erie County, Judge John Trucilla ordered the removal of nine juvenile offenders from the school.

Rawchen Clarke, a graduate of Glen Mills Schools, told YourErie that he was abused from the first day of his attendance at the school in 1996. He spent two years there.

Clarke said the school's staff slammed him against a refrigerator, punched him and slapped him. The abuse was sanctioned by an internal "Touch for Attention" program that enabled staff to physically abuse disobedient students, Clarke claimed.

"The things the staff does there would make a student wanna come back and shoot it possibly," Clarke said.

Depasquale's audit will examine the following issues:

• Whether Glen Mills complied with all laws regarding child abuse
• Whether the institution has policies and effective procedures to prevent the abuse of students
• What ways students have to report incidents of abuse
• The extent to which Glen Mills complies with requirements regarding state and federal background clearances for employees and others who are in contact with students.

A separate investigation is also underway by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which will receive the results of the new audit.

“Protecting kids from abuse is job one,” DePasquale said. “No young person, no matter what circumstances led to their placement in a reform facility, deserves to be mistreated. This case may justify a broader examination of so-called reform schools operating in Pennsylvania."