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Woods Services files complaint with Langhorne after students shooed from park swings


Four girls, aged 11 to 17, with disabilities were recently told by a Langhorne Borough councilwoman to get off a swing set in the Mayor’s Playground.

Woods Services Inc., where the young people live and attend The Woods Schools, has filed a complaint with the borough’s fledgling Human Relations Commission.

“We feel our clients’ rights were violated,” said Woods Services spokeswoman Cheryl Kauffman. “It’s a public park and they should be allowed to play in a public park.”

Councilwoman Kathy Horwatt initially said the girls were using swings meant for younger children and misbehaving. But later she acknowledged that was not the case, claiming it was only the behavior that “appalled” her.

“They were not appropriately supervised,” she said. “They were intimidating other children.”

“They were playing chase and running into tiny little kids. There were two on one swing. Another was totally dragging the earth and ruining it after it has just been regraded.”

Horwatt said she told the group they could use the soccer field, basketball court and walking area.

Kauffman said the girls had gone to dinner in the borough with three staff members on May 13. They have cognitive disabilities and behavioral challenges, she said, but had been well-behaved.

“That is why they were allowed to go to the playground. It was kind of a treat,” she said.

Kauffman said the staff supervisors relayed that the girls continued to be well-behaved at the playground.

She said when Horwatt told them the swings were meant for younger, smaller children, a staff member asked if there were any posted signs stating that. Horwatt reportedly said they had recently been taken down.

Kauffman described the swings as full-sized and not for younger kids.

The playground has two sets of swings: one for toddlers and another full-sized. Youth between 11 and 17 can not fit into the toddler swings.

Horwatt eventually acknowledged the girls were using the full-sized swings.

Kauffman said the school filed the complaint May 16 with the commission, which was established in October. Horwatt said the commission is expected to set up a hearing on the matter.

According to its website, the nonprofit Woods Services offers health, education, housing, workforce, behavioral health and case management services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It has operated on land straddling the Middletown Township / Langhorne Borough line since 1921.

Horwatt suggested that the complaint could be retribution for Langhorne Borough recently rejecting a development plan for 56 townhouses on Woods Services property.

“No,” responded Kauffman. “We’re not happy about how the borough handled that, but this is about us sticking up for the rights of the individuals we serve.”

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