DCYF orders review of Harmony Hill

An investigation into the physical restraint that broke the arm of an eighth-grader at Harmony Hill School has turned up no wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, the director of Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youth and Families, Janice DeFrances, has ordered an assessment of practices at the school for boys with behavior problems.

"I have authorized a safety review by the department. We have safety reviews we do at different agencies. We've done about eight so far. I've asked that we do one at Harmony Hill School," DeFrances said.

The review comes about as a result of a May 31 physical restraint applied by two staff members.

The 13-year-old boy, a student at Harmony Hill for five months, refused to move away from a window in a room at the school. The deputy director of the DCYF, Kevin Aucoin, said when staff moved to grab the boy to move him away, "The youth punched one of the staff in the face. It was at that point the staff intervened and applied a restraint technique that brought the youth down to the floor."

The boy was later treated at Hasbro Children's Hospital for rug burns on his face and a broken arm. Aucoin said the arm break happened after the boy was pinned to the floor and the staff tried to pull his arm from underneath him.

"It was at that point that the staff and the youth heard a pop, and the restraint stopped," said Aucoin.

After a six-week investigation that involved interviewing 22 people, Aucoin said, it was determined that no procedures were violated.

DeFrances, formerly president of Harmony Hill School said, "I have total confidence in the way the investigation was conducted by DCYF staff. They did a very thorough job and were able to conclude that it was not indicated as any maltreatment."

When asked if she was at all uncomfortable investigating an institution that she had run for six years, she replied, "Not whatsoever."