Abuse, neglect appear widespread in Texas schools for retarded
By Emily Ramshaw and Amy Rosen, Dallas Morning News, July 23, 2007

AUSTIN -- Hundreds of residents at Texas' state schools for the mentally retarded have suffered serious abuse and neglect at the hands of those paid to watch over them, according to a Dallas Morning News review of five years worth of employee disciplinary records.

The documents outline everything from horrific physical violence to frightening verbal threats, derogatory slurs and pranks. And they appear to confirm critics' worst suspicion: Problems exist throughout facilities for Texas' most fragile residents, not just at the Lubbock State School, the subject of a critical U.S. Justice Department report in December.

In one 2006 case at the Brenham State School, a nurse assistant kicked and punched a mentally retarded resident on the bathroom floor, fracturing three ribs and puncturing the resident's liver. In a 2000 incident at the Abilene State School, an aide ignored a resident, who was found hours later, naked in a Dumpster. Other employees have left residents covered in feces and urine for hours, made them eat off of plates where they'd vomited, and fallen asleep on the job, waking only after residents engaged in sexual acts.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the state agency that operates the 13 Texas facilities providing around-the-clock care for the mentally retarded, said she was looking into the records.

Other cases reported in the last several years include:

  • A resident at the Mexia State School died in January after three staff members used inappropriate and excessive force to restrain him.

  • In 2004, a resident at the El Paso State Center was found outside, covered in feces with his pants below his buttocks, wearing only one shoe.

  • A resident of the Corpus Christi State School was left crying and sweating in a hot van in the summer of 2005 for at least a half-hour.

  • An employee at the Abilene State School last year burned the nose and cheek of a resident with the end of a blow dryer.

  • At the Lufkin State School, an employee left a plastic thermometer cover in a resident's rectum in 2000.

  • At the Corpus Christi school in 2005, an employee wrapped a towel tightly around a resident's head, eyes and nose, then pinched and shoved the resident.
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights division, which sent investigators to the Lubbock State School in 2005, found a severely understaffed facility, where residents were improperly restrained and sedated, and given insufficient medical care. Since June 2005, more than 17 residents of the Lubbock school have died.

In one cited case, employees found a woman unresponsive but failed to perform CPR or call for help for a half-hour. Paramedics determined she had been dead for hours because rigor mortis already had set in. Employees had falsified reports to indicate someone had checked on the woman.

Agency officials have repeatedly called the Lubbock State School cases isolated, and said they have installed across-the-board changes and hired new medical directors and incident managers.

And they've cautioned against comparing the state school system's problems to those inside the Texas Youth Commission -- still reeling from a months-long sexual and physical abuse scandal early this year.

SEE RELATED: Letter of December 11, 2006 to Texas Governor Rick Perry from Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General re: CRIPA Investigation of the Lubbock State School Lubbock, Texas



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