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United States

Settlement reached for oldest US reform school abuse claims

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A $3 million settlement will establish a fund for former students as part of a lawsuit alleging abuse and deprivation of education at a now-shuttered Pennsylvania juvenile justice facility.

Former Glen Mills Schools students could receive both cash payments for those who experienced or witnessed abuse, and funds to pay for or reimburse educational expenses after a settlement with Chester County Intermediate Unit Wednesday as part of an ongoing federal class action lawsuit.

Formerly the nation’s oldest reform school, Glen Mills Schools had its licenses revoked in 2019 after the state ordered the removal of all children following the Philadelphia Inquirer’s investigation detailing the alleged abuse.

The complaint — filed by Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center and Dechert LLP — asserts that CCIU failed in its oversight responsibilities and duties with students with disabilities.

In a statement, CCIU said it disagrees with the depiction of its role over Glen Mills, but “protracted litigation will not benefit the young adults who contend they received an inferior education while at the Glen Mills Schools.”

Lawyers said 1,600 students who meet certain age limitations are eligible to file for the fund. The distribution of awards is slated to begin next year.

“We do believe that this is an important starting point to support these students to remedy the deep harm that they have experienced,” said Maura McInerney, legal director at the Education Law Center. “And it’s important that it’s happening at this time when the students can use it to really change the trajectory of their futures.”

Other named defendants in the ongoing lawsuit are Glen Mills Schools and former Glen Mills Schools staff, plus officials at Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and Pennsylvania Department of Education. Court proceedings continue this month. A trial date is still to be determined.

The lawsuit is among other legal filings against Glen Mills School by former students.

The Associated Press