According to allegations raised in a class action lawsuit filed against the recently shut-down Glen Mills School in Pennsylvania, the school’s administrators maintained a culture of student abuse and fear at the reform school, which endangered and injured children.
Sameena El-Khashab filed the complaint (PDF) against Glen Mills School and its former executive director, Randy Ireson, last month in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. El-Khashab is the parent of a former student, identified only by the initials M.E.
According to the lawsuit, El-Khashab’s son was assaulted by three staff members in June 2017, when he was taken into the bathroom and two staff members held him down while a third punched him repeatedly in the face. He received another beating in July 2017, when staff members threw him to the ground and punched and kicked him repeatedly for not making his bed properly.
The complaint indicates that during his five months at the reform school, the child was physically assaulted by staff 15 to 20 times. That does not include being forced into stress positions for over 14 hours; a sitting position known as “the Townhouse.”
Glen Mills School allegedly ordered the student to tell medical personnel who looked him over that the injuries were the result of football practice, the lawsuit claims. However, the lawsuit seeks class action status to represent all former students, indicating that M.E.’s treatment was fairly standard for the facility and part of the culture of abuse.
“Beyond violating society’s basic trust to safeguard its youth, Glen Mills’ and its Executive Director, Randy Ireson’s, actions violated each resident’s Constitutional right to body integrity, including safeguards against unjustified intrusions into personal security,” the lawsuit states. “Glen Mills and Ireson were aware of the danger each resident child was being placed in. The resulting harm to each resident child was foreseeable and direct and was willfully disregarded by Glen Mills and Ireson.”
In late March, Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare Deputy Secretary Cathy A. Utz announced an Emergency Removal Order for Glen Mills Schools, where at least 64 students remained, which was down from a peak of more than 1,000 students.
The announcement came following an investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer into cases of serious violence and abuse at the boys reform school, which were first reported in February.
The Glen Mills School was first founded in 1826, and housed boys from across the nation, many of whom were sent to the reform school through a court order due to behavioral problems. However, the investigation revealed rampant abuse and physical violence, and efforts to threaten children attending the school into silence.
After the first Philadelphia Inquirer article was published, states and cities began withdrawing juvenile delinquents from the Glen Mills reform school, and Executive Director Randy Ireson stepped down, claiming a leave of absence for health reasons.
State officials also investigated and corroborated the newspaper’s findings, and the state revoked all of the school’s licenses on April 8. The school is appealing that decision.