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Hanna Boys Center cited for ‘failure to protect its clients’

Three more citations were handed down to Hanna Boys Center last month for failure to report incidents and failure to protect its clients.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) cited Hanna, a Catholic group home and school for at-risk boys, for failing to protect its “clients” from bullying, not properly reporting incidents, and for failing to clean up a trail of blood left during a student fight.

The Department of Social Services placed Hanna Boys Center on probation in early 2018, following a series of sexual abuse cases perpetrated by Hanna staff members against its clients.

Tom Coughlan, chief development officer at Hanna Boys Center, told the Index-Tribune that Hanna officials thought they had reported recent incidents of bullying correctly.

“Our practice is to always report – irrespective of being on probation,” said Coughlan.

During the probation period facilities are required to comply with specific terms in order to prevent revocation of its licensing.

“If licensing disagrees with us or wants more information, they give us a citation, and we then work with them to get them the information needed, or we appeal the citation,” Coughlan said. “In this case we are appealing the citations, which just means that we don’t agree with their assessment, and believe we followed due process.”

Coughlan added that, if DSS denies the appeal, “we will change our process and make sure they get what they want and need.”

“This is not a case of Hanna trying to hide information,” he said. “We work closely with licensing and are always completely transparent. Again, we are in this together.”

In an unannounced visit on Aug. 29, a DSS official followed up on a complaint the office received on July 8, met with Hanna CEO Brian Farragher and interviewed 11 students. Eight of the students confirmed “they have been or are being bullied in the facility and feel like staff do very little to address it,” according to the report written by Brittany Newton.

“In this case in particular, the analysts asked 11 kids, who were identified as being potential targets of bullying – out of 90 students. The question was whether those clients were being bullied,” Coughlan said.

In her investigation, Newton wrote that “the facility failed to report an incident of a client disclosing they had been smoking in their room” and in another incident a student – DSS refers to the boys at Hanna as clients – threw something at another student and was flipping beds. Neither incident was reported to DSS as is required.

In order to come into compliance Hanna was instructed to ensure there is protocol followed by all staff to address bullying on campus, and submit two incident reports for the bullying incidents.

Coughlan said they “are concerned about bullying, just like every school and organization that deals with youth.”

“We take incidents seriously and work tirelessly to make sure our staff are trained on how to deal with bullying,” said Coughlan. “The current research on bullying suggests that the most significant interventions are ones that address culture and school social climate. We are addressing these issues consistently.”

Newton made another unannounced visit to Hanna on Aug. 7 for a facility evaluation report based on a complaint and “observed a trail” of “blood that came from an assault that took place on” July 29 at Archbishop Hanna High School involving four students, Newton’s report stated.

The “blood trail was about 20 yards long,” wrote Newton, who took a video for documentation purposes.

Hanna officials were instructed to clean off the blood and provide photos or a video to Newton as proof.

“In this case it was our mistake, the blood should have been cleaned up immediately. The school was closed and there were not any students or teachers on campus, but it still should have been cleaned up,” Coughlan said.

Bullying at Hanna has been a point of contention for staff and board members, some of whom have charged that the staff is instructed to not get involved and that Farragher leans on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) at the expense of discipline. Farragher says that TIC is a research-based practice that requires a person to self-regulate before addressing behavior. Several staff members who spoke anonymously to the Index-Tribune earlier this year said that by not intervening when bullying is going on does more harm.

Richard Caselli, a longtime board member and regent, resigned recently citing the lack of intervention with the boys and bullying. In his resignation letter he said the “new” approach, which is TIC, means there is “no (or little) consequences for bad behavior.”

He continued, “I realize there is some new science behind this, but for 70 years rewards for good behavior and consequences for bad seemed to be fine.”

Caselli, a Sonoma dentist who provided dental care for 43 years to the boys at Hanna, said he was he was disturbed by staff who were fired during Hanna’s reorganization.

“Some of these wonderful teachers and staff had been at Hanna for many years and not only loved going to work, but it was a total commitment to the well-being of the young men in their care,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “It broke my heart to see so many fired or leave.”

The state agency placed Hanna, which opened in 1949, on probation following various allegations of sexual abuse and safety concerns that became known over about a two-year period. Some of the allegations were charged against Father John Crews, who ran Hanna from 1984 to 2013.

A trial involving sexual abuse by Kevin Thorpe, who was the clinical director at Hanna, resulted in Thorpe’s sentencing to 21 years in prison and a $6.8 million settlement for the abuse victims.

In a separate case, in 2017 a complaint was filed against Hanna alleging then 22-year-old Angelica Malinski, a staff counselor, was having sex with a 17-year-old boy who lived at Hanna. The complaint was settled out of court.

Farragher announced last month that Hanna hired a private investigator to talk to every client that has attended Hanna since 1984 – when Crews was in charge – to ask if they were abused or know of anyone who was abused while at Hanna.

The move is a response to a steady flow of men who have spoken publicly in recent months of being sexually abused by Crews.

Farragher said at the time that they hope to provide counseling or other assistance to anyone who was victimized.

Contact Anne at anne.ernst@sonomanews.com.

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