“Glen Mills was a house of horrors,” said attorney Nancy Winkler, from Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. “Inside the walls, there was a culture of abuse; a culture of concealment; a culture of ignoring the many pleas for help from students within the walls.”
Since 1976, Winkler said more than 300 men, now ages 17 to 58, claimed to have been abused physically or sexually during their time at the reform school. The five recently filed lawsuits join eight previously filed ones, with the intent, Winkler said, of filing suits on behalf of all 300-plus men.
The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed the school’s alleged history of abuse and cover-ups in February 2019. Since then, city and state officials pulled all of the young students from the school, revoked the institution’s state-issued licenses, and laid off staff.
“Every chance he got, he sexually assaulted me,” said 48-year-old Laboy Wiggins of Philadelphia, who claims when he was 15, he was routinely beaten and sexually assaulted. He said he was threatened not to say anything.
“I was at Glen Mills for about six or seven months, and every chance he got he would sexually assault me,” Wiggins recalled. “It became the norm for him to sexually assault me.
“Every day, I look in the mirror and I see the scars on the side of my head,” he continued. “It's very, very hard to be sexually abused, to be physically abused, to be verbally abused. I went there to become a better person. I went there to become rehabilitated, and I left Glen Mills a thousand times worse than when I came.”
More recently, 19-year-old Tawfeeq Abdul-Lateef said he was permanently scarred, both physically and mentally, by the abuses he suffered by school employees throughout 2016.
“They all had a type of anger built into them that they just had to let their rage out on us,” he asserted. “That's how it was up there.”
A spokesperson for the Glen Mills Schools said the allegations are heartbreaking and the lawsuits are being evaluated. In the meantime, Glen Mills will continue to cooperate with all governmental authorities.
Both Wiggins and Abdul-Lateef are demanding action against Glen Mills — in the amount of at least $50,000 in compensatory damages and related fees.
The school remains shuttered for now, though efforts are underway to potentially reopen one day.