The city of Philadelphia has announced plans to stop enrolling students at Glen Mills Schools and to pull current students out of the school following a Philadelphia Inquirer report on abuse by staff members.
Human Services Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa, members of the Philadelphia City council, and state lawmakers have joined together to demand an independent investigation of Glen Mills Schools. Philadelphia officials say that the city will not consider sending students to the school unless there are significant changes in the leadership and culture of the school.
In summer 2018, Philadelphia temporarily stopped sending students to Glen Mills following an incident involving counselors beating and choking a teenager. A Philadelphia Inquirer report found that this was not an isolated incident and that there has long been a pervasive culture of violence at Glen Mills. This report was based on internal documents, court records, incident reports, and 40+ interviews with students, staff, and others. It alleged that leadership ignored beatings and failed to properly screen and train counselors.
The Inquirer report found that when victims and parents attempted to report the attacks, the school would threaten to send the student to a state-run facility with sexual predators and mentally ill students. Counselors and supervisors would also allegedly threaten boys with longer sentences and hid students with bruises until they stopped showing physical signs of the abuse.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is a former prosecutor who now represents child abuse survivors and their families in civil lawsuits. We’ve asked him to share some thoughts on the legal options available to families affected by abuse in private and boarding schools:
The adults who work in our schools have a major responsibility to educate our children and ensure that their school environment is safe. While the majority of teachers, coaches, and other school employees are trustworthy people, there is also a high potential for abuse in private and boarding schools. When students are abused, it’s important to investigate the school and determine how the abuse was allowed to happen.
Some cases of abuse in schools are the result of widespread negligence and malice. For example, the school may have had a culture of abuse and leadership may have ignored reports of abuse or attempted to cover up the reports. In cases where the abuse was the result of institutional negligence or malice, the abused students and their families may have a strong case for a lawsuit.
If you or your child is a survivor of child abuse by school employees, it’s important to be aware of your legal rights during this difficult time. Taking legal action can help hold these schools accountable and provide financial compensation for the victims. To learn more about your legal options, consider contacting one of our experienced school sexual abuse lawyers for a free consultation.