$3 Million Glen Mills School Settlement Proposed to Resolve Child Abuse Class Action Lawsuit

The settlement resolves a class action lawsuit claiming former students were deprived of their civil rights and a meaningful education.

Following decades of child abuse at the Glen Mills School in Pennsylvania, a $3 million settlement has been reached to resolve some class action claims brought on behalf of former students at the now defunct reform school.

On January 18, the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) in Pennsylvania issued a joint statement (PDF) announcing a Glen Mills settlement to resolve a lawsuit filed in 2019, the same year the school was shut down after decades of physical and sexual abuse by staff was uncovered.

More than a dozen individual and class action Glen Mills child abuse lawsuits have been filed against various defendants tied to the school, each raising similar allegations that described incidents involving abuse of children attending the reform school, which was founded in 1826 and received juveniles from throughout the United States. The lawsuits indicated the school’s leadership fostered a culture of fear and abuse and ignored both the medical and educational needs of its students.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits described being repeatedly raped by staff members, in some cases while other staff members served as lookouts. Some of the claims indicate students were raped two or three times per week while at the Pennsylvania reform school, where several state courts nationwide sent juveniles.

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 press release indicates the settlement involves one of the class action lawsuits filed on behalf of former students and their parents, alleging the students were victims of civil rights violations, depriving them of a meaningful education and subjecting them to discrimination.

“Although the plaintiffs and CCIU disagree over the obligations that CCIU had to oversee the education of students at the Glen Mills, CCIU and the plaintiffs do agree that protracted litigation will not benefit the young men who contend they received an inferior education while at Glen Mills Schools,” the press release states. “The intermediate unit has agreed to establish a compensation fund for former Glen Mills students, From this fund, qualifying former students may be eligible for compensation.”

According to media reports, the agreement was reached for about $3 million, and the press release indicates those funds could be distributed through cash payments, compensatory education, or a combination of both.

While the settlement resolves the class action against CCIU, it will continue against other defendants, including members of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Glen Mills Schools who reportedly conducted the abuse.

Glen Mills Child Abuse Uncovered by Investigative Report

The abuse was first uncovered as part of prior investigative reports by the Philadelphia Inquirer, which led Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to propose $5.1 million in new funding for oversite of the state’s residential juvenile programs, which would create more than 100 new staff positions.

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, 2019.

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