Gov. Tom Wolf has directed the state agency that oversees the Glen Mills Schools to put together a dossier of abuse complaints and other activity at the Delaware County campus in response to an Inquirer investigation and local leaders’ demands for a comprehensive state-level probe.
“Governor Wolf is deeply disturbed by the recent revelations about Glen Mills and he commends the brave individuals that came forward,” said J.J. Abbott, a spokesperson for the governor. “He has asked the Department of Human Services to execute a complete review of their oversight and interactions with the facility.”
This is the first step as the governor weighs whether additional state authorities have a role in investigating allegations of violence and threats at Glen Mills, Abbott said.
Local officials, state lawmakers, and children’s advocates on Wednesday called for Pennsylvania to launch an investigation into allegations of child abuse and cover-ups at the Glen Mills Schools.
Philadelphia Councilmembers Helen Gym and Kenyatta Johnson urged Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland to work with the state attorney general for a more comprehensive investigation.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Phila.) said he and his legislative colleagues were not satisfied with Glen Mills’ announced intention to have a school-created panel investigate allegations of abuse. And Kristina Moon, a staff attorney for the Education Law Center, called for the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to revoke Glen Mills’ license.
The demand for greater scrutiny was in response to a recent Inquirer investigation that chronicled decades of abuse at the Glen Mills Schools and attempts by school officials to keep boys and their families from reporting it.
Local leaders who gathered for a news conference Wednesday said these investigations were insufficient, and urged multiple state-level agencies to get involved.
“We’ve got hundreds, if not thousands, of children over decades who deserve answers about what went on at Glen Mills," Gym said. “Every single relevant and necessary law enforcement agency needs to get involved [because] the abuse is expansive, and the history is so long."
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has “concerns about the shocking reports involving the Glen Mills Schools” and “is exploring next steps” regarding a possible probe, spokesperson Gary Miller said Wednesday.
Philadelphia DHS Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa said she supports the call for further investigation. Hours after the Inquirer’s investigation published online Feb. 20, her department announced it would remove Philadelphia’s 51 boys from Glen Mills. As of Wednesday, only six remained at Glen Mills. They are scheduled to have new placement hearings this week.
Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh, and other jurisdictions throughout the country have joined Philadelphia in pulling their boys. The oldest U.S. reform school for court-ordered boys, Glen Mills stands to lose more than 100 students -- nearly half of its enrollment.
“Glen Mills takes these allegations very seriously," the school’s leaders said in a statement Wednesday. "We are working with both state and local officials to address their concerns.”
After the Inquirer alerted Glen Mills to its findings, the school formed a review panel of former students, staff, and child-protection experts to investigate the allegations of abuse and other misconduct.
Last week, the school announced that board of managements president Joe Hand Jr. was resigning for personal and business reasons, and that executive director Randy Ireson would take a leave of absence, citing his health. Ireson continues to receive compensation and live in school-affiliated housing.
Pennsylvania DHS is weighing the status of Glen Mills’ license while investigating the abuse allegations. “DHS will work to do whatever it must to stop this culture of silence, intimidation, and mistreatment of children,” said Ali Fogarty, the department’s communications director.
In Delaware County, Copeland’s office said the DA was “continuing to pursue this investigation.” Chelsey Price, a spokesperson for Copeland, said she would not turn over the case to the Pennsylvania attorney general “as this matter falls within our office’s jurisdiction.”
Abbott, Wolf’s spokesperson, said the governor was reviewing requests for a broader investigation: “We want to ensure we are exercising every available oversight tool to protect all Pennsylvania children, especially those in institutions."
Violence at Glen Mills -- founded in 1826 as the Philadelphia House of Refuge -- has been an open secret for decades, the Inquirer found. Local leaders emphasized this Wednesday with their own stories from the communities in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Monique Boykins, a board member for the William Penn School District in Delaware County, said she recently discussed the Inquirer investigation at her local barbershop. “If you ask people around, they say, ‘That’s nothing new,’ so we know this has been going on for a while,” Boykins said.