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Philidelphia Reform School Lays off 250 Employees After Abuse Allegations

A reform school outside of Philidelphia is laying off 250 employees after several investigations revealed a history of abuse by staff. The investigations cite students being physically beaten, in some cases to the point where bones were broken or students were knocked unconscious. The DHS has also ordered that all students be removed from the […]

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  • A reform school outside of Philidelphia is laying off 250 employees after several investigations revealed a history of abuse by staff.
  • The investigations cite students being physically beaten, in some cases to the point where bones were broken or students were knocked unconscious.
  • The DHS has also ordered that all students be removed from the school’s campus.

Staff Laid Off

A reform school outside of Philidelphia is laying off 250 staff members after investigations uncovered years of abuse against its students.

Glen Mills Schools is the oldest operating reform school in the United States. The prestigious all-boys institution has been described as the “Harvard of reform schools,” and students from around the nation head to Pennsylvania to attend it.

But on Tuesday, the school sent out a statement saying that it has already notified 80 employees and that the rest of the lay-offs will be carried throughout the week. They also thanked the staff for “their commitment to the school’s mission and helping to pave the way to a new path in life for countless young men.”

This follows investigations from both The Philidelphia Inquirer and Pennsylvania Department of Human Services that claim the school has been abusing its students for decades.

On March 25, the DHS issued an Emergency Removal Order for students on campus. It states that the conditions on campus, “Constitute gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in operating a facility, including mistreatment and abuse of clients, likely to constitute immediate and serious danger to the life or health of the children in care.”

“Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that the residents be relocated from the child residential facility as promptly as can be safely accomplished,” the order mandates.

Investigations Uncover Physical Abuse

Both investigations uncovered disturbing allegations. The DHS cited several instances of violence perpetrated by staff members. Some of these actions include: A staff member choking a student and pushing them against a wall, causing them to hit their head; a staff member injuring a student’s eye and forcing them to say they hurt themselves playing basketball; three staff members choking one student and pushing him to the ground; and a student being punched by staff several times in the chest and forehead.

The Inquirer also listed instances of physical violence. According to their report, a counselor broke a student’s jaw after he made a comment about the counselor’s sister.

Investigations also showed that the school made an effort to cover their actions. One boy told the Inquirer that their phone calls were monitored to prevent them from telling anyone outside of the school about their abuse.

“They’ll give you a minute phone call and stand right next to you to make sure you don’t tell your mom anything,” he said.

A mother that The Inquirer spoke to also said the school worked to silence her after she learned her son was knocked unconscious by a staff member. Glen Mills said she could report the incident to DHS, but her son would likely get sent to a different school with a worse reputation.

“They basically gave me an ultimatum,” she said. “It was ‘Do you want to tell, or do you want to throw it under the rug?’ ”

Glen Mills Reacts to Investigations

The Inquirer said it reached out to the school’s Executive Director Randy Ireson during their investigation, but he always declined to interview via a spokesperson. However, In February, Glen Mills released a notice just days after The Inquirer told them about the details of their investigation. The school said it would be reviewing reports of misconduct with the help of students, staff, parents, and experts.

“The Glen Mills Schools (“Glen Mills”) announced today the formation of a special panel that will commence an in-depth review into reports of misconduct in order to provide the highest level of accountability and transparency and identify areas of opportunity for change,” the statement read.

“The review will gather information from current and former students and staff, as well as parents and other affiliates of Glen Mills. The panel will operate entirely free from the influence or supervision of Glen Mills leadership and staff. Glen Mills has asked for an informed and objective review by external subject matter experts.”

Once The Inquirer published their investigation, Ireson announced he would be taking a leave of absence, citing health reasons.

Where Glen Mills Stands Now

Investigations into the abuse at Glen Mills are still ongoing. Currently, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, the Pennsylvania auditor general, and the state inspector general, all have open investigations into the school.

And on March 27, two former students launched a lawsuit against Glen Mills. They are seeking unspecified compensation and damages, as well as demanding the school turn over all records related to abuse of students from the last two decades.

See What Others Are Saying: (Philly.com) (CBS 3) (Fox 29)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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