District officials have removed six teen-agers under city supervision from a special education school in Massachusetts after the youths alleged they were sexually and physically abused and that they received no schooling, according to the Department of Human Services.
Audrey Rowe, D.C. commissioner of human services, said the youths, all males, told a DHS staff person of the alleged abuse a week ago during routine interviews when the aide was taking a new child to the school. They also claimed there was marijuana smoking among students and staff, Rowe said. The youths were returned to the District Wednesday night, Rowe said.
An attorney for Avalon Center, which runs the Brookside, Mass., school and farm where the six had been placed, said the school is aware of a general allegation of abuse and will conduct its own investigation.
"We are not in a position to deny them or admit them at this time," said Roderick Macleish Jr., Avalon's attorney.
"We are anxious to cooperate in any way we can," Macleish said, adding that the school had not been able to get details of the allegations from the DHS.
Two of the youths are juvenile offenders, three are under DHS supervision as a result of neglect and one is handicapped and requires special education, Rowe said. The city plans to go to court today to present a new placement plan for the six -- all 13 to 16 years old -- some of whom were taken to St. Elizabeths Hospital when they returned, she said.
The District also has two autistic children at a separate facility run by Avalon, but the commissioner said there has been no problem with that program and the two are still there.
A team of city officials sent to look into the allegations earlier this week found no educational programming or psychotherapy for the youths at the farm, Rowe explained. "They were just working" at farm chores, she said.
"We are monitored by a number of Massachusetts agencies. It is inconceivable to me that there should be no program," Macleish said.
Rowe said city officials found handcuffs and dirty gauze with blood on it in a "time-out" room.
D.C. pays $41,000 a year per child for special education and psychotherapy at the school, according to the DHS.
"Everybody thought they the youths looked fine, but the general feeling was that they were scared to death," Rowe said when asked if there was physical evidence of abuse.
"This is one of the problems with placing kids out of state -- we can't get to them," she added.