Glen Mills, just outside of Philly, is considered the “Harvard of reform schools,” all brick buildings and grassy quads. It has a stellar athletics program that sends players to the NFL, and has served as a model for reform schools across the country. And as Lisa Gartner uncovers for the Philadelphia Inquirer, it’s built on serious physical violence against students enabled by the barest training and standards for staff that are selected for brawn rather than skill.
According to sworn testimony from Glen Mills’ in-house trainer, Carmelo Mustaccio, the school had not devised, let alone demonstrated, specific techniques for properly restraining students.
Instead, Mustaccio recertified Glen Mills’ counselors each year by showing them a PowerPoint, demonstrating “gently” lowering others to the ground, and then giving out an open-book, multiple-choice quiz.
“Very rarely” did anyone fail the 15-question quiz, Mustaccio said. The third question asks: “Which of the following does Glen Mills NOT allow when addressing student behavior?” The options are “verbal ridicule,” “poking and slapping,” “kicking and choking,” or “all of the above.”
The counselors graded one another’s papers. They could miss three questions and still pass. If someone failed the quiz, they stayed after class while the trainer went over the right answers, Mustaccio said. Then they took the same quiz again.