International Disability Rights News Service
Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Year V, Edition 937

Today's front section features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 28 more news items.

"I chose Chris Burke. He was born with Down syndrome, just like me."

--Twelve-year-old Bryan Barry, on his choice for a biography writing assignment, the star of the 1989-93 television series "Life Goes On" (Fifth story)

"It's an embarrassing thing to have in your record. I'm no moron, and I shouldn't have been at Fernald."
--Joseph Almeida, who this week submitted a petition asking Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to apologize for him being "improperly" labeled and institutionalized at Fernald Developmental Center in the middle part of the last century (Fourth story)



Reactions Vary To Supreme Court Decision

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 19, 2004

UNITED STATES--There has been a mix of reactions in the media to Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tennessee v. Lane.

Most opinion pieces have been supportive of the high court's decision which found that individuals can sue states for not providing access to state and local courts.

From an editorial in Wednesday's Northwest Arkansas News: "Don't tell anyone, especially anyone who makes a living in politics or punditry, but the system appears to be working."

From the Christian Science Monitor: "For the first time since the New Deal, a majority of justices were taking a consistent, restrictive view of congressional legislation whenever it infringed on state's rights."

"But a funny thing happened on the way to the high court's federalism revolution - it appears to have hit a speed bump named Sandra Day O'Connor. For the second time in two years, Justice O'Connor has cast a critical swing vote in a major case involving the balance of power between the national and state governments."

The West Virginia Gazette noted that George Lane, the plaintiff for whom the case was named, is not your typical disability rights hero.

"With a string of driving and drug arrests, not to mention a stretch in prison for assault, George Lane has emerged as an unlikely standard-bearer for disabled Americans," the Gazette read.

Mary Johnson, editor of the Ragged Edge Magazine, noted that the high court's decision is not a "slam-dunk".

"Until this nation -- and its judges -- truly understand the nature of disability discrimination, things will continue to be very dicey," she wrote.

Finally, a Denver Post column slammed the court for its decision.

"This week's Supreme Court decision is damaging regardless of what happens," concluded columnist Al Knight. "It has badly tarnished the reputation of the nation's highest court because it shows a quality of decision-making that isn't really much better than what might be achieved by a random drawing."

"Sometimes The System Actually Works" (Northwest Arkansas News)
"States' rights momentum on court may be waning" (Christian Science Monitor)
"Unlikely hero emerges as Supreme Court rules on disability case" (West Virginia Gazette)
"Yes, but... The TN v Lane decision" (Ragged Edge Magazine)
"Court loses way again" (Denver Post),1413,36%257E148%257E2156555,00.html



Governor Perry Ignores Pardons Board, Allows Patterson Execution

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 19, 2004

HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS--In 1981, Kelsey Patterson was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Eleven years later, he shot to death Louis Oates and Dorothy Harris. After the shooting, Patterson took off all of his clothes, except his socks, and walked away, shouting what was described as "gibberish".

Several times during his murder trial, Patterson was removed from the courtroom because he shouted that remote-control devices and implants were controlling him.

Tuesday at 6:20 p.m., Patterson, 50, died by lethal injection at an execution facility in Huntsville.

"It's a sad day for Texas," said Genevieve Tarlton Hearon, executive director of Capacity for Justice, a nonprofit group that supports people who have mental illness.

"I'm sick, I'm just crushed," she said. "Because if clemency cannot occur for this individual, then the possibility for it for any Texan is dim."

Governor Rick Perry had turned down a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that Patterson's sentence be commuted to life in prison, or that his execution be postponed for 120 days while his case is studied.

Earlier in the day, Perry had received word that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear Patterson's challenge of a lower court's ruling which rejected his claim that he was too mentally ill to be executed.

"He could have used this opportunity to educate the public about the issue of mental illness. Instead, he succumbed to the culture of fear and benign indifference," David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said of Perry's decision.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing people with mental retardation is "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In 1986, however, the high court allowed the death penalty for inmates that have mental illness, as long as they understand why they are being executed.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty reports that at least 31 convicted murderers with mental illness have been executed since capital punishment was reinstituted in 1976.

Since 1999, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has received 122 requests for clemency. The Board has recommended clemency for only three, including Patterson's.

"Perry rejects board opinion; killer executed" (Dallas Morning News)



Racial Differences Show Up In Special Education Report

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 19, 2004

ALBANY, NEW YORK--A report released Tuesday by the state Board of Regents revealed that black and Hispanic students were more likely to be placed in special education programs than white students, and that they were more likely to be segregated in separate classrooms, the New York Times reported.

The report, which covered the 2002-2003 school year, found that the percentage of white children with disabilities who spent most of their day in regular classrooms was above the national average. The percentage of black and Hispanic students with disabilities in regular classes was below the national average.

Education experts and fiscal watchdogs have charged that separate special education classes have proved to be expensive and ineffective in many areas.

"Placement in an education program with nondisabled peers, or placement in a program that allows the child to engage in the general curriculum most of the time, really has payoff in terms of performance," said Richard P. Mills, the state's education commissioner.

Robert M. Bennett, the chancellor of the Board of Regents, said, "These children, under the right circumstances, can achieve."

The report was released the day after the 50th anniversary of the famous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that segregating students on the basis of race violated the U.S. Constitution.



Former Fernald Residents Want Apology And Clean Records

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 19, 2004

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--Six former residents of the Fernald Developmental Center want an apology for being labeled "morons" and placed at the institution during the middle of the last century.

They want their state records changed to correct what they feel are inaccuracies. They are also asking for unspecified compensation.

The men went to the office of Governor Mitt Romney and presented a petition to Commissioner of Mental Retardation Gerald J. Morrissey Jr., saying they represent thousands of people who were "wrongly" committed to the former Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded and other institutions around the state.

"Maybe this will give them some relief and help them realize there's nothing to be ashamed about," said Fred Boyce, 63, who was institutionalized at Fernald from the time he was eight years old until he was released in 1961 at age 19.

The men are blaming an intelligence test that they say led to them being incorrectly labeled "feeble-minded" and confined at state facilities between the 1940s and 1960s. Some of those sent to state institutions designed to house people with mental retardation were sent there because they were runaways or had trouble in their own homes.

"It's an embarrassing thing to have in your record. I'm no moron, and I shouldn't have been at Fernald," said Joseph Almeida, whose father left him and his older brother at Fernald in 1951, primarily because they could not get along with their stepmother.

In recent years it has come to light that many of those housed at the institution were forced to work with little or no pay. Some were made to eat radioactive oatmeal in government-sponsored Cold War experiments.

Many details about the mistreatment of former Fernald residents have been revealed in the recently-released book "The State Boys Rebellion" by Michael D'Antonio.

Founded a dozen years before the American Civil War, Fernald Developmental Center is the oldest institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere. Governor Romney's recent attempts to close the aging facility have met with resistance from institution employees, and family members of those housed there.

While the men claim that they "should not have been" placed at the institutions because of incorrect IQ scores, many disability rights advocates and community living supporters have argued that nobody should have been placed at the institutions -- regardless of their IQ scores or labels.

"Men inaccurately classified as 'morons' want Romney apology" (Boston Herald)
"Six assigned to state school seek apology" (Boston Globe)
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express)



"Writing Assignment Draws Actor"

May 19, 2004

WESTMINSTER, MARYLAND--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Wednesday's Baltimore Sun:

While his classmates at Friendship Valley Elementary School in Westminster researched historical figures and modern heroes for their biography writing assignment, Bryan Barry chose a 1990s television star.

"I chose Chris Burke," said Bryan. "He was born with Down syndrome, just like me."

Bryan, 12, conducted a phone interview that led to a report and a video, copies of which he will give to Burke today when he introduces the actor to his school.

"He had to try out for a lot of parts," said Bryan, a fourth-grader. "Chris is a good actor and they wrote a part in Life Goes On for him."

Entire article:
"Writing assignment draws actor" (Baltimore Sun)




e-Buddies is one of the six programs offered by Best Buddies. e-Buddies fulfills the mission of Best Buddies by facilitating e-mail friendships between children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their peers who do not have intellectual disabilities. Individuals are matched in e-mail friendships based on age, gender, geography, and similar interests. e-Buddies never matches individuals that reside in the same state. We ask members to e-mail each other at least once a week.

e-Buddies provides individuals with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to develop new friendships while acquiring much needed computer skills. The benefits of that are immeasurable.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives (One year ago)

Special Olympics Athletes Banned From World Games Over SARS Scare
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 19, 2003

DUBLIN, IRELAND--The Special Olympics World Summer Games has become the latest victim of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic.

The Irish government last week asked Special Olympics athletes from nations that have been hit hard by SARS not to travel to the international games which start in Dublin on June 21.

Teams from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines were asked to stay home because of the high risk of infection by the virus that has infected thousands and killed hundreds world-wide, most in Asia.

Hong Kong's government is urging Ireland to reconsider, as is the Special Olympics World Summer Games organizing committee, which considers Ireland's action a form of discrimination against people with disabilities.

"We question any decision that discriminates against Special Olympics athletes over and above any person or group of persons traveling to Ireland from these countries," said Mary Davis, chief executive of the World Summer Games' organizing committee.

Towns across Ireland have been getting ready to host about 7,000 athletes and coaches from 160 different countries.

Related article:
"Ireland in Olympic Sars ban" (BBC News)


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