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Former Student Details Alleged Violence, Abuse By Staff Members At Glen Mills School In Delaware County

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GLEN MILLS, Pa. (CBS) -- Eyewitness News spoke exclusively with a former student of a reform school in Delaware County. He says he was abused, and he says other students were abused, as well.

The City of Philadelphia has suspended placements to the school and officials say they are analyzing their next move in regards to 51 juveniles who remain at the Glen Mills School.

"To this day, it really triggers my mind," the former student said.

The man asked not to be identified. He says he's afraid, and claims he still has nightmares from his days of living at The Glen Mills School a couple of years ago.

"I wasn't the only kid," he said, "I wasn't the only kid who went through this."

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The 21-year-old alleged staff members were violent, hitting him and throwing punches, he said.

At one point during the interview in a Reading park, he acted out a scene where he claimed a counselor picked up another kid and threw him around.

"[I saw violence] almost every day," the man said. "It wasn't even a week that would go by without six, seven incidents."

Letters written at the time to his defense attorney show his pleading to be removed from the facility, writing "HELP ME! And the other kids."

glen mills school letter
Credit: CBS3

"Do you understand, they threatened us so much, brainwashed us so much," he said.

The man was placed by a court at Glen Mils for probation stemming from a drug charge. He was eventually removed.

Last summer, Philadelphia suspended placements at the facility, human services officials say, because they demanded better treatment of the city's youth.

And days ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on more allegations of violence and abuse at the school.

That has triggered concern from Councilwoman Helen Gym, in what she called in an interview, "a horrifying dynamic."

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"We were promised by places like Glen Mills that they would take care of our children when they need it the most, and they broke that promise," Gym said.

A spokeswoman for the Delaware County District Attorney's Office confirms they are investigating allegations that "emanate from the Glen Mills School."

The school released a statement, reading:

"The Glen Mills School is committed to an independent and thorough analysis of our current operations. That is why prior to the release of the Inquirer article, we announced the formation of a panel composed of highly-regarded experts in their field to review our operations and identify areas where we can do even better.

The panel is led by experienced co-chairs Leslie M. Gomez, Esq. and Dr. Elfreda Massie. Ms. Gomez was the chief of the Juvenile Court Unit in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office for fourteen years and has prosecuted thousands of abuse cases. Currently, she is the Vice Chair of the Institutional Response Group at Cozen O'Connor. Dr. Massie formerly served as Superintendent of the District of Columbia public schools and has more than three decades of experience in school administration. Dr. Massie has worked with thousands of students from diverse backgrounds, many of whom come from difficult situations.

Glen Mills disputes virtually all the allegations and conclusions reported in the article, but we are willing to allow external reviewers to reach their own conclusions. It is imperative that we grant this highly respected, independent panel the time needed to do their work and provide their assessment. Since 1826, The Glen Mills School has been committed to providing the highest quality of services to at-risk youth, transforming lives by offering students a future filled with new opportunity, hope and resiliency."

Meanwhile, the city's Human Services Department is conducting a public hearing on juvenile placements.

This is expected to be an important topic, according to city council members.

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