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Court Holds Texas in Contempt Over Care of Mentally Retarded

August 14, 1987|United Press International

DALLAS — Citing a litany of abuse and neglect at the Fort Worth State School, U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders on Thursday found the state of Texas in contempt of court for violating a 1983 order to upgrade conditions at facilities for the mentally retarded.

In a 93-page ruling, Sanders accused the state of violating the students' constitutional rights by denying them adequate services, medical care, dignity and protection from abuse.

"Fort Worth State School's superintendent admits not having enough money to repair air conditioning or to replace burned-out street lights; parents donate educational supplies because their children have none," Sanders wrote.

The ruling was issued a month after Sanders concluded seven days of hearings into conditions at the school, the smallest and most modern school operated by the state.

As a result of the contempt finding, Sanders could fine the state, send state officials to prison, place the school under court control or appoint a special master to monitor conditions. He gave attorneys in the case 60 days to comment on his ruling.

Sanders found that the school did not adequately investigate allegations of abuse and neglect or make adequate efforts to correct or prevent abuse, and he accused the school's staff of needlessly restraining students by strapping them to a table.

The judge found medical care at the school unacceptable. He said its medical staff is too small and lacks proper training and in one instance used dangerous methods to force food down the throats of students who needed assistance to eat.

Sanders' ruling cited the death of a client called Manuel M. in case records:

"Fort Worth State School carried out its decision to allow Manuel M. to expire without ever becoming medically certain that Manuel M.'s time had, in fact, come."

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