Glen Mills DCFS Pati response
Questions remain over Glen Mills
Bermuda Government payments to Glen Mills
The Government has refused to disclose how many boys from Bermuda were sent to a controversial reform school in the United States over a period of more than 30 years or whether any complained of mistreatment.
But it has revealed that disgraced Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania received almost $1.6 million from Bermuda’s taxpayers between 2001 and 2019, including one year alone when it was paid close to $306,000.
Jasmin Smith, the Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, told The Royal Gazette it was “not in the public interest” to release information about complaints from children who had attended Glen Mills since the late 1980s.
Ms Smith also said the Department of Child and Family Services’ records management system meant it was not possible to give a figure for how many boys were sent to the school until 2017, when the last child from Bermuda was admitted.
She said she could not share details of visits to inspect the facility and check on students’ welfare by DCFS staff, partly because of records management and partly because the department was prevented by law from disclosing the information.
Glen Mills Schools, which is about 30 miles from Philadelphia, was shut down last year because of the abuse and mistreatment of children.
The closure came two months after the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper ran a special report featuring interviews with 21 past and present pupils and counsellors and containing allegations of serious assaults by staff on children.
A raft of lawsuits from former students have since been filed against the school, including five last week which alleged rape, sexual assault, beatings and death threats from staff members.
Two Bermudian men who suffered abuse as teenagers at Glen Mills went public with their stories last year, telling how they were beaten and humiliated by teachers, with one alleging he would lie in bed at night hearing students raping other children.
Alvone Maybury, 33, and Ezra Ararat, 34, initially told their stories anonymously and later agreed to be identified as part of The Royal Gazette’s Who Cares investigation into how the island’s at-risk and vulnerable children are treated.
The Royal Gazette asked the DCFS for records it held about Glen Mills in June last year.
The department did not respond within the 12 weeks allowed by the Public Access to Information Act.
We appealed the lack of a decision to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, which is responsible for the DCFS, but did not get a response within the legislated six-week time frame.
The matter was then appealed to Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez, who ordered the department to give a decision by January 16.
Ms Smith’s response was provided by the department’s information officer on January 24, along with an apology for the delay.
The disclosure shows the total paid to the school by the Bermuda Government over the course of 18 years was $1,578,255.
The highest amount paid in a year was $305,774 in 2014-15.
The final amount of $124,941 was paid for the financial year 2018-19.
Ms Smith said she was unable to access financial records before April 2001.
She explained the amounts paid to Glen Mills varied each year, depending on the number of children enrolled and the number of months in a year they spent at the facility.
The permanent secretary wrote that “after extensive search of records” it was not possible to give an accurate figure for the number of students sent to Glen Mills because DCFS’s records management system was not designed to historically capture where children were placed.
The Royal Gazette asked for records showing any incidents reported at Glen Mills involving students from Bermuda, including abuse and sexual assault allegations.
Ms Smith wrote: “After review of each of the records located, I find that the requested records are exempt from disclosure under the Public Access to Information Act 2010 — section 37 — because they reveal information which DCFS is statutorily prohibited from disclosing under section 11 of the Children Act 1998.”
She said they were also exempt because they contained personal and confidential information, adding: “It is not in the public interest to disclose this information.”
A DCFS spokeswoman previously told us in April last year: “DCFS has not received any information related to any children sent to Glen Mills being abused or mistreated.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer report revealed that Glen Mills overhauled its staff training and safety programmes in 2000 after eight children told inspectors they had suffered physical abuse.
We asked the DCFS for any communication it had with Glen Mills that year about the corrective plan.
Ms Smith responded that the department’s records showed no such correspondence.
She said she could not share any contract between the school and the department because none existed at present and previous contracts were individual ones for children who attended the school.
The permanent secretary added that those contracts contained information which the department was not allowed by law to disclose, making them exempt from Pati.
The DCFS spokeswoman said last year that DCFS staff had weekly conference calls with children at overseas schools and a social worker visited every child every six months from admission date.
She said Alfred Maybury, the director of the DCFS, had a face-to-face visit with all children at least once a year, in addition to the staff visits.
Ms Smith said she could not share information on staff visits because they were held in individual client files and contained information which could not be disclosed by law.
She added: “In addition, the department cannot provide accurate information ... due to DCFS’s records management system not being designed to historically capture where clients are placed.”
The Royal Gazette has appealed Ms Smith’s decision to the Information Commissioner.
Glen Mills denied the allegations against it in an appeal filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Bureau of Hearings and Appeals last year. It is now under new leadership but remains closed.
• To view the Pati response from the Department of Child and Family Services, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”
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