A federal judge has cleared the way for a class action lawsuit to proceed over years of abuse at the Glen Mills reform school in Pennsylvania, rejecting a motion by the school to have the case dismissed.
Glen Mills School faces at least two class action lawsuits, which claim school employees failed to protect vulnerable minors from physical and mental abuse at the now-defunct facility. Each complaint raises similar allegations, describing incidents involving children attending the reform school, which was founded in 1826 and received juveniles from throughout the United States.
In a memorandum (PDF) issued on December 17, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III refused to dismiss one of the complaints, brought by two former students of the school, indicating that such a rejection of class action status could only come after some discovery had been performed.
At this early stage of the litigation, Judge Bartle determined the motion to dismiss was premature. He also rejected a claim by the defendants that damages could not be computed on a class-wide basis.
“A class seeking monetary relief…is not precluded simply because individual class members suffered different injuries in a situation where liability flows from an official policy or widespread practice or custom of the defendant,” Judge Bartle wrote. “Plaintiffs have alleged that the class members’ injuries arise from common policies or practices promulgated by defendants’ management, including the school’s failure to train, supervise, and discipline its staff, its indifference to abuse and violence, and its efforts to cover up or otherwise impede investigation of abuse. Such allegations are sufficient at this stage of the action to move forward.”
He also refused to issue a declaratory judgment on behalf of the defendants.
Glen Mills Schools Abuse
In late March 2019, 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 investigated and corroborated the newspaper’s findings, and the state revoked all of the school’s licenses on April 8.