By Elizabeth Behrman
Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 5:45 p.m.
The family of a boy who says he was sexually assaulted at a Zelienople youth treatment facility has sued, saying the center’s employees allowed it to happen and responded to his complaints with verbal abuse rather than reporting it to the police.
The 15-year-old, who was identified as John Doe in court documents, was among a group of patients at the Glade Run Lutheran Services facility in 2015 who reported being assaulted by other patients, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The state launched an investigation after a call to the state child abuse reporting hotline alleged a group of children were engaging in sexual contact among themselves. The Department of Human Services investigation found inadequate supervision and staff sleeping or watching television during the overnight shifts in one of the facility’s housing cottages “resulted in the children’s development of a sexual misconduct system that included forcible rape.” The incidents took place between March and July 2015 and involved eight children between the ages of 8 and 13.
No criminal charges have been filed, but the facility is operating with a provisional license from the state on the condition that the center increase the number of adults supervising the children and that they check on them more frequently, according to a DHS report.
The lawsuit states that Glade Run staff failed to stop or report the assaults and ridiculed the 15-year-old plaintiff, who was 13 at the time, when he told them about the attacks. As a result, the suit states, he “suffered serious physical and psychological abuse over an extended period of time.”
Michael J. Pisanchyn Jr., the attorney representing the teenager, said the center needs to be held accountable for its negligence.
“When the state failed to do it and entered into a settlement, we felt we had no choice but to file cause of action,” he said. “It’s not about the money, it’s about sending them a message.”
Following the state investigation, Sheila Talarico, executive director of the Glade Run Foundation, said the center added security cameras, motion sensors and more staff members in order to provide more supervision of the patients.
She did not comment on the lawsuit.
“The provision of human services to individuals with mental health issues is not without risks,” Talarico said in a statement. “These risks include physical harm to staff and potential litigation. The privacy rights of our clients preclude us from discussing any allegation that may arise. Glade Run has a longstanding track record of more than 160 years of successful care and treatment of traumatized youth, and is dedicated to protecting the best interests of those we serve.”
Glade Run began as an orphanage in 1854 and has locations in Beaver Falls, Butler, Cranberry, Pittsburgh and Zelienople, according to its website. The nonprofit provides autism, mental health, cultural and educational programs to children through both residential and community-based programs.