Former student: Harmony Hill has 'most understanding' people

After several reports of abuses at Harmony Hill School in Glocester, all of which were denied by a spokesperson for the school and rejected by the state Department of Children, Youth and Families, a former student on Friday contradicted the critics.

"(The staff there are) the most understanding people I ever met in my life. If it wasn't for that school and those teachers, I'd be in jail right now," Scott Kopka told NBC 10.

Kopka, who is 22 years old, said he attended the school for two years beginning in 2003, and that he needed to be there.

"I was bad. I was ready to fight anyone and everyone," he said.

But Kopka said the counselors were attentive and the activities productive.

"One-on-one, the teachers deal with you. They help you. I learned how to be a better person there. They helped me a lot," he said.

Kopka said he wanted to talk about his experience at Harmony Hill because he didn't believe the stories from other former students. They claimed physical abuse is rampant at the school. Kopka said it didn't happen, though he saw physical restraints.

"Sometimes, yeah they have they just have to because some of these kids are violent, very violent. Some of them should not even be in that school. Some of them should be in jail," he said.

And the restraints Kopka witnessed were nothing like the slamming on the ground that resulted in a 13-year-old having his arm broken.

A woman claims her son's arm was broken by staff during a restraint on May 31.

Kopka said he saw one person restraining one student, and that they wouldn't be that forceful. He said it was like a bear hug.

As far as prescribed drugs being given to students, he said it happens but that it is not mandatory.

"They don't force drugs on anybody, that's a lie. I can say that," Kopka said.

Kopka said he was recommended for drug treatment but didn't take them.

"I declined. That's my right," he said.

DCYF cleared the school in the incident regarding the 13-year-old, while the state's child advocate continues to review the case.