39, No. 9
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 39, No. 9 October 1996
THOUGHTS ON RESIDENTIAL
SCHOOLS FOR THE BLIND
by Kenneth Jernigan
THE CONTINUING EVOLUTION
OF THE TEXAS SCHOOL
FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED
by Phil Hatlen, Ph.D.
THE KENTUCKY SCHOOL FOR
by Ralph Bartley, Ph.D.
THE INDIANA SCHOOL FOR THE
BLIND AS SEEN BY ONE OF ITS GRADUATES: A COLD DINNER, A WARM FUZZY,AND GOOD
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
by Michael J. Bina, Ed.D.
WASHINGTON STATE SCHOOL
FOR THE BLIND
A RICH HISTORY AND A BRIGHT FUTURE
by Dean O. Stenehjem, Ed.D.
OF OSTRICHES AND THE TEMPTATIONS
OF POWER THE STORY
OF THE NEW MEXICO SCHOOL FOR THE VISUALLY HANDICAPPED
by Barbara Pierce
ARKANSAS SCHOOL CASE BACK IN THE NEWS
NAC AND WATERSPOUTS
by Peggy Elliott
IN MEMORIAM--RON JOHNSON
by Kenneth Jernigan
IN MEMORIAM--NELL BONNELL
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Peggy Elliott
Copyright 1996 National Federation of the Blind
by Kenneth Jernigan
Now and again, as long-time readers of the Monitor know, all (or almost all) of an issue of the magazine is devoted to a single topic; but this is not our usual pattern. In fact, we do it rarely. The subject has to be important and complex enough to merit a great deal of space and a diversity of presentation. That is the case in the present instance. Not all but most of this issue of the Monitor is concerned with residential schools for the blind.
During the past several years we have published quite a number of articles dealing with conditions at one or another of the residential schools throughout the nation, and most of the articles have spotlighted problems, some of a very serious nature. We have reported scandals, sexual abuse of students, uncontrolled use of drugs on campuses, poor administration, and more. Journalists are often accused of emphasizing the negative. This is understandable since (regardless of how it seems) scandal and abuse are the exception instead of the norm, and exceptions make news. It is easy to forget that most of the people who work in government; most of those who run businesses; and, yes, most of those who run schools for the blind do a good job on a daily basis, mostly without fanfare or recognition. This is not to say that we have not featured positive stories about residential schools during past issues of the Monitor, for we have; but the sensational and the negative regrettably get headlines and capture attention.
Somebody recently asked me whether the National Federation of the Blind is opposed to residential schools as a setting for the education of blind children, and I said, "Of course not." In many instances the residential school is the most appropriate placement. The question of where a blind child should be educated (public school or residential school) cannot be answered with a rigid formula. It depends on the home environment of the child, the quality of the available residential school, the nature of the public school program, and the needs of the individual.
In this issue of the Monitor you will find stories about five residential schools for the blind. We think that four of them are doing an excellent job, and we have asked their superintendents to give us details. We think the fifth school has serious problems and needs improvement. I want to tell you how we chose these five schools. In doing so I hope to give balance and perspective to what is happening in today's residential schools.
I have long heard that Phil Hatlen is running a good school for the blind in Texas. The blind of the state say so; my contacts with him would indicate it; and I have heard nothing credible to the contrary. So I started with him. I called him and told him that I would like to have an article about the Texas School for the Blind. What was the school trying to accomplish? How was it setting about it? He could make the article as long or as short as he liked. I wanted the story of the school from his point of view and with his emphasis. He said that he would be glad to do it, so article number one was underway.
At the conclusion of my conversation with Dr. Hatlen, I asked him to suggest a few other schools that he thought might be doing an outstanding job. He said that there were quite a number, but he gave emphasis to three--Kentucky, Indiana, and Washington.
Since I am quite well acquainted with Ralph Bartley, I picked him as the next to call. In view of the fact that he has been superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind for only a short time, and in further view of the fact that the Kentucky School has a long history of providing good educational opportunities to blind children, it seemed a good second stop on my survey. A few years ago the Kentucky School refused to lower its educational standards and went so far as to engage in a lawsuit about the matter--a lawsuit, incidentally, which I am glad to say it won. Will Evans, the superintendent at the time, was from all accounts a good educator and a credit to the school.
When I called Dr. Bartley, he said he would be pleased to write an article for the Monitor, and he did. As I had done with Dr. Hatlen, I told Dr. Bartley that he had complete leeway in what he said and how he said it. What we wanted was a picture of the Kentucky School for the Blind as it functions on a daily basis. Dr. Bartley could tell it in the way that he thought best.
As to my question about other residential schools for the blind that were doing a good job, Dr. Bartley joined Phil Hatlen in mentioning Indiana and Washington. He talked about others as well, but these were high on his list.
So I called Michael Bina at the Indiana School for the Blind. He requires special comment. Dr. Bina and I have known each other for quite some time, having served together in affairs of the World Blind Union and on various committees. We have discussed educational philosophy and our general notions about blindness, and we have not always agreed--a fact not relevant in the context of what I was now doing.
Last year I received an anonymous letter purporting to be from staff members at the Indiana School for the Blind. It made serious charges about Dr. Bina and his operation of the school. Anonymous letters are usually worth about as much as their signatures, but this one contained such specific and detailed accusations that it seemed necessary to investigate.
Without giving Dr. Bina advanced warning, we sent a reporter to Indianapolis to talk with state officials, staff and students at the school, and Dr. Bina himself. Upon arrival in Indianapolis our reporter visited Dr. Bina's superiors. Then he went unannounced to the school. He simply walked in and began looking around, waiting to be challenged.
News of such visits is quick to circulate, and Dr. Bina soon showed up. He was probably a little apprehensive (who wouldn't be), but he didn't try to stop our reporter from investigating. In fact, he let him pick students and staff at random and gave him a room for interviewing. He permitted our reporter to go anywhere he liked and willingly answered questions. Despite the tenseness of the situation, Dr. Bina was in every way cooperative.
Our reporter came away from the school believing that Dr. Bina is doing an excellent job and running a good program. He was convinced that the students are receiving a good educational opportunity, that they overwhelmingly like Dr. Bina and the staff, and that they feel they are treated well. This view is shared by the blind of the state with whom we talked.
In the circumstances I will not repeat the charges that were made against Dr. Bina and the school. If I do, it will simply give them currency even if I say that we found no grounds for them. If we had found the charges to have substance, we would have printed them and done so in detail. Let anyone who doubts it read past issues of the Monitor, particularly those dealing with schools for the blind. We print the truth as we find it regardless of the consequences.
And here we come to the nub of what I think our responsibility is. Educational systems for the blind (residential or otherwise) have tremendous power over the lives of the children in their care. They train and educate, manage and mold. This is not necessarily bad. But whether bad or good, it is inevitable.
Children are inventive. They are highly suggestible. They fantasize, hold petty grudges, and sometimes misassess. Usually the teachers, custodial staff, dorm workers, and administrators who are charged with their care and teaching are conscientious and sensitive. They have standing in the community, and the presumption is that they are doing the right thing and telling the truth when a dispute arises.
Yet sometimes, as we know, trust is abused, and teachers, administrators, and other staff go bad. When this occurs, the violation is worse than an ordinary abuse of trust since the victims are particularly vulnerable and unable to fend for themselves. They may not (especially when they are quite young) have the judgment and the perspective to know that what is happening is wrong. Everything I have said is doubled and tripled when the victims are not only blind but also possessed of other disabilities.
When things do go bad in an educational program for the blind (especially when physical or sexual abuse is involved), all of us in a position to know have a responsibility to take action. This is particularly true of the organized blind movement and its publication. Except in unusual cases, these are not our biological children--but at the deeper levels (the moral and the spiritual) they are our children with all that the term implies. We must love them, nurture them, protect them, and defend them. We must also see that they get the best education that is possible and that they have the chance to be and achieve all that their potential allows.
This means fearlessly exposing bad programs and the abuse of trust. But it also means protecting and publicizing good programs. It means going to legislatures and getting money. It means taking time to tell each other and the community at large about the excellence that exists. Finally, it means not becoming so caught up in exposing the bad that we forget to talk about the good, even if the good is undramatic and demands no headlines.
That is what the Monitor tries to do, and that is why we are glad to publicize Mike Bina's work in Indiana regardless of whether at times we disagree with him. It is why we will not detail the charges that were made against him, because as I have said, we found no basis for them. Enumerating them would do nothing but cause problems.
Dr. Bina's article appears in this issue along with the others I have mentioned. He joined with Dr. Bartley and Dr. Hatlen in commending the work of Dean Stenehjem at the Washington School for the Blind, so I called Dr. Stenehjem. He was glad to write about the Washington School, and his article appears in this issue along with the others. Besides the superintendents, I have another source for verifying that Dr. Stenehjem is doing good work. Denise Mackenstadt, one of our leaders in the State of Washington, is a member of his board, and she says that he is competent and caring. I have heard nothing to the contrary from any of the blind of the state.
So there you have the four articles from schools for the blind that we feature as examples of excellence--Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, and Washington. They are not the only ones. We could have mentioned others. Regrettably in this issue we must also feature a fifth residential school, New Mexico. Read the story, and judge for yourself. We think the New Mexico School has serious problems and that the students are not receiving the education or the treatment they deserve and are entitled to receive. We think we are as obligated to report what we have found in New Mexico as in the other states.
At the personal level I have every reason to respect and support residential schools for the blind. I attended one, and I think it played a principal part in helping me achieve whatever success I have attained. It was January of 1933 when my mother and father took me to Nashville to enroll me in the Tennessee School for the Blind. I didn't leave the campus (not once) until Easter. There were good days and bad, fights with other boys, periods of homesickness, and painful adjustments; but the totality of the experience was wonderfully positive--even more so because of the time it took me to learn just how positive it was.
In those days spanking and paddling were much in vogue, and I got my share. I also got scoldings and tongue- lashings. But there was never abuse, not the slightest bit of it. In fact, even when I complained most bitterly about the treatment I received from the teachers, it never even occurred to me to question their motives or purpose. Deep inside I knew that they were doing what they thought was in my best interests. I respected them, and they deserved the respect. I still respect them, even more now than I did then.
And it wasn't just personal care and good physical treatment that I got. I got a first-rate academic education, one that has stood me in good stead through the years, helping me survive in the rough and tumble of a sometimes turbulent life. My teachers wanted me to learn, but they didn't stop at that. They insisted that I learn. If there was any controversy about it, they had the means and the will to help me see it their way--and I usually did.
In the Tennessee of that day it would have been a tragedy for me if I had not gone to the residential school for the blind. Yes, I hated to be away from home and Mother and Dad. And yes, my mother shed tears. But a lot of the sentimental twaddle about how a child must be in his or her home environment during the early years or be ruined for life is just that, sentimental twaddle. In fact, a lot that I hear about education in general these days is sentimental twaddle, but that is another story, one that will wait for a future telling.
Let me leave it at this: I believe that a residential school for the blind can give the same excellent education today that it did when I was a boy, and I believe that a public school can do the same. What are needed are conscientious, competent teachers and the right kind of philosophy. Given these things, a good education will follow. Without them it won't. Through the Braille Monitor and otherwise, the National Federation of the Blind will do everything that it can to see that blind children have the opportunity for a first-class education. We will do it with as little controversy as possible, but we will do it--and we will not be much concerned about whether we receive criticism in the process.
by Phil Hatlen, Ph.D.
In my professional lifetime schools for the blind have traveled through three distinct periods. In the beginning they were highly regarded academic institutions, and they carefully chose students who had the most potential to succeed in an academic environment. Then schools for the blind became the place where local school districts sent blind and visually impaired children with additional disabilities. Finally, many of these schools are now guiding their own transition and are becoming viable, exciting schools that offer vital learning experiences for blind and visually impaired children.
My own professional life began as a resource teacher for blind students in a local public elementary school. In my training I had become convinced that schools for the blind were antiquated systems and should be shut down. Beginning in 1956, I worked with students in an inclusion model, in which children spent the majority of every school day in regular classrooms. I deeply believed that this educational system would work successfully for all blind children. However, after a few years as a resource teacher I began to have serious misgivings about regular day school placement for all blind children. I had students who I believed for a variety of reasons were not being well-served by spending most of every day in a regular classroom. They needed a bit more developmental time. They needed more time from a teacher who could adapt learning experiences. Or they needed the opportunity to attend a residential school.
My misgivings mounted until I decided that I wouldn't know the assets and liabilities of schools for the blind unless I worked at one. In 1962 Berthold Lowenfeld asked me to become the principal of the California School for the Blind (CSB) in Berkeley, California. I accepted the position, and I began to learn how critical it is that we have schools for the blind as an educational option for students. When I left CSB in 1966 to join the faculty at San Francisco State University, I told the CSB staff that some day I would return to a school for the blind. I was convinced then, and I remain so today, that we are capable of doing a better job in defining and marketing the services that schools for the blind can offer.
In 1990 I became the superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). I did not take over a school in desperate need of help. Rather, TSBVI had experienced good leadership, had a solid reputation as a high-quality school, and employed an outstanding staff. My desire to be superintendent was to continue to move the school toward a vision I had of the modern, state-of-the-art school for the blind that was in charge of its own destiny.
Many of my early efforts were directed at curriculum development and working toward a program in which curriculum fit the child rather than fitting the child to existing curriculum. One result is that TSBVI now has five distinct curricular areas, giving us the capability to provide individualized instruction effectively. The five areas are:
(2) Applied Academics;
(3) Functional Academics;
(4) Early Concepts; and
(5) Basic Skills.
The first three areas require further explanation. We made these distinctions because, like the sighted population, blind and visually impaired students have various levels of academic ability. In the past some students have struggled in a pure academic program, but they have had the capability to learn to read, write, perform mathematic computations, etc., at a level that would be satisfying and productive for them. Therefore we have designed levels of academic learning that attempt to meet individual needs. The first listed, "Academics," is a comprehensive program that meets the state's requirements for all typical academic subjects. Students take at least some of these courses at local middle and senior high schools.
"Applied Academics" is designed for students who are more than two grade levels below their chronological age. The knowledge and skills taught are those deemed essential for adult living and working in the community. The focus of "Functional Academics" is teaching students how to use their academic skills in a variety of functional tasks and, whenever possible, to develop and improve those skills. Students may be taught in the classroom, residence, or community, depending upon their individual needs and abilities.
This program replaces a two-area organization that simply divided students between those with additional disabilities and those with no disabilities other than visual impairment or blindness. Let me emphasize that use of these five curricular areas does not constitute tracking, an approach occasionally used in general education that has not been very successful. The fact that students move in and out of one or more of the five areas, according to current needs, and that they often take courses in more than one area at a time illustrates how different from tracking our approach is.
As our effort to develop curriculum evolved, it became obvious that we would miss many important opportunities for teaching and learning if we confined our attention to the hours of the school day. At a school for the blind every waking moment is an opportunity for learning. Therefore residential staff must be capable and ready to instruct students when those learning moments occur. Of the five areas of instruction previously mentioned, independent living skills and social interaction skills are a shared responsibility of teachers and the residential staff. We have dropped the term "houseparent" and adopted the title of "residential instructor" (RI) for these important teachers. Prerequisites for these positions were raised, and staff development was intensified so that residential instructors are now more qualified for these increased responsibilities.
As is true of all schools for the blind, TSBVI can provide an instructional day from the time the students arise in the morning until they go to bed at night. This extended instructional day is never all work and no play. Learning to play and develop recreational and leisure time interests is an important part of learning for our students.
Fundamental to the role that TSBVI plays in Texas is the philosophical position it fosters as it relates to local day school programs. Because I have long advocated a continuum of educational services for blind and visually impaired students, I have often been called a "segregationist" by extremists in the inclusion movement. It is tragic that so many of my colleagues have become polarized on the issue of educational placement. For the past several years it has been politically correct among special educators--and among an alarming number of parents-- to support the position that full inclusion in the regular classroom is the only acceptable placement for all children with disabilities. Every time I have written or spoken on this topic, I have adamantly pointed out that I support an educational system that assesses the needs of blind and visually impaired children on an individual basis and that makes decisions about educational placement based on needs. This is the philosophy that governs TSBVI.
As we all know, placement of blind children in local day school classes began in Chicago in 1900, but it didn't reach the level of a solid movement until the retrolental fibroplasia children began entering school in the mid- 1950's. At this point a massive proliferation of local day school programs for blind children began. Education of blind students would never, ever, be the same. Schools for the blind would never, ever, be the same.
Because the movement was new, still learning from its many mistakes, the local day school programs of the 1950's and 1960's were not always successful in providing the quality of education blind children deserved. But many of these programs have become better and better, have learned from their mistakes, and have discovered that it is possible to adapt almost every learning experience so that it can be meaningful for blind students.
This is not to suggest that in Texas all local school districts have the resources necessary to provide appropriate educational services for blind and visually impaired students. Sometimes we find that they do not know what blind students need; sometimes they believe that what they offer is adequate when it isn't; and in a few cases the local districts do not wish to provide appropriate services. In these few cases we find it our responsibility to assist school district personnel and parents by helping them understand the meaning of a quality education for blind children.
TSBVI acknowledges and respects the rich history of education for blind and visually impaired students in local day schools. We do not want to compete with high-quality local programs. Rather we view our role as that of providing services for students when local school districts recognize that more resources than they have available are needed for a particular student. Placement at TSBVI is a decision made by three parties--representatives from the local district, the parents, and TSBVI staff--meeting together and determining how best to meet an individual student's current needs. A promising goal, in progress if not yet achieved, is that these parties can discuss the needs of a child and make decisions about educational placement without any hint of turf-protection, recruitment, or suspicion. What a far cry this will be from the days when schools for the blind were thought to be recruiting students away from local schools and when parents believed that the normalization of their children could occur only if they were placed in a classroom with their sighted peers.
Of major importance in establishing this atmosphere of mutual responsibility and cooperation is the acknowledgment by me and my colleagues at TSBVI that for many children services in their local school district are more desirable than those which we have to offer. TSBVI is not a better placement for most blind and visually impaired students in Texas. It is an option for all and a better placement for some--at least for a certain period of time in their lives. This is reminiscent of a philosophy that I heard stated first by Josephine Taylor:
There is no best educational placement for a blind child. There is a best placement for a particular child at a particular time in his or her life.
When parents and local school district personnel both agree that placement at TSBVI should be considered, a referral is made to us. Teamwork among all three parties (parents, local district, and TSBVI) is essential if the best interests of the child are to be the basis for a placement decision. In this process of referral, evaluation, and admission to TSBVI, we stress the importance of the local district's maintaining educational responsibility for the child, regardless of placement. Decisions regarding curriculum, priorities in learning, and length of stay at TSBVI are made cooperatively by district personnel, parents, and us. Fundamental to this process is a level of trust between the local district, parents, and TSBVI.
The Texas Legislature has mandated through law that TSBVI has some responsibility for all blind and visually impaired students in the state. In order to meet this mandate, we offer three distinct programs. One is our on- campus school year program. For the past few years our enrollment in this program on any given day has averaged around 145. These are the students who have been referred by the local districts and parents and who have been accepted by our referral committee. Most of these students come to TSBVI with very specific needs. They may need a more concentrated instructional program in Braille reading and writing, in orientation and mobility, in career education, etc. Our teachers concentrate their efforts on those specific needs, although the student will receive a full, comprehensive education while he or she is here. During this tenure TSBVI pays close attention to the original reasons for referral, as well as the student's evolving educational needs. An ongoing dialogue with the local district and the parents assists us in mutually determining when it is time for a student to return home.
During the time between admission of a child and a referral back to the local district, we offer the district whatever assistance it requests in order to serve the student best when she or he comes home.
The on-campus school year program provides many opportunities for individualized instruction, community- based learning experiences, and classroom teaching. If a student comes to TSBVI needing an intensive instructional program in technology, we are capable of meeting that need. If a student is seriously lacking Braille literacy skills, we can provide intensive instruction in this area. Most of our students who have additional disabilities learn in community-based settings. They learn how to access services, and they have opportunities to work at real job sites. Their education is often focused on learning the basic skills of a productive, enjoyable life in the community.
TSBVI considers short-term placement as from one to four years. Sometimes these years may be consecutive, and at other times they may be interspersed by time spent in a local school. This length of time provides us with a realistic opportunity to have a significant impact on a child's learning. It means that the child will not be removed from the home community for so long that re-entry is difficult. Some students will need the services of TSBVI for a longer period. For a variety of reasons, there will continue to be students who will be best served by a long- term placement. But unlike former eras in the history of schools for the blind, by far the majority of students who attend TSBVI are there for short-term placements.
Throughout the history of schools for the blind, the concern most often expressed by parents and professionals has been the possible negative impact of removing a child from his or her home and placing that child in an institutional setting. It has been gratifying for me to observe many schools for the blind finding ways to remove the institutional aura from their campuses and to provide a climate that promotes self-esteem and dignity among students. TSBVI has been sensitive to this problem, and we have recently instituted several programs that attempt to retain the sanctity of the home while maintaining a respect for the school. One effort is our "Weekends Home" program, in which one-third of our students return to their families and communities every weekend. There are schools for the blind that actually close on weekends, sending all students home. The geography of Texas does not permit that.
Dormitories are continually becoming more home-like and student-friendly. Many students have their own rooms. There are common rooms and fully-equipped kitchens in every dorm. One building has been converted to studio apartments, the final on-campus step toward independent living for students. Doing laundry, keeping bank accounts, planning menus, and going shopping are only a few of the expectations we have for older students. TSBVI continually searches for ways to make campus life satisfying, fulfilling, and challenging. Through these efforts we believe we are building dignity and self-esteem in our students.
The second way in which we meet our statewide mandate is by providing students with a variety of enrichment summer programs. During the summer of 1996 TSBVI offered fourteen different programs, varying in length over a nine-week period. TSBVI served almost 300 students during the summer of 1996, only a few of whom were students during the school year program. These summer programs provide students who attend local schools, and who are often the only visually impaired students in their schools, with an opportunity to learn specific skills and enjoy leisure and recreation activities and to mingle and become friends with their blind and visually impaired peers.
This Fall (as we do every year) we will be sending out surveys to summer program students, their parents, and their school-year teachers. In this way we learn whether our programs have been successful and whether there is follow-up on skills learned when the student returns home.
The third way in which we meet our statewide mandate is through our Outreach Department. Outreach provides technical assistance to local district teachers and administrators and to parents on an on-call basis. Sometimes our Outreach teachers confer with a parent or a teacher on the needs of a specific student. At other times Outreach sponsors staff development for all professionals and parents in a large region. TSBVI believes that if a student can be well-served at the local level with some professional assistance from our Outreach staff, we have accomplished our goal.
The efforts of TSBVI to improve its services and continually grow are resulting in new and exciting programs. Ideas and concepts for change do not come from a single source. We need direction from many sources, including parents, students, teachers, and rehabilitation professionals. But above all, we need advice and assistance from blind adults in the community. When we form advisory committees and task forces, we make certain that representatives of the organized blind are members of these groups. As we try to improve and work hard to provide the best possible educational services for individual children, we need assistance from blind persons in the community.
There are many areas in which TSBVI needs to improve. Examples are:
1. Career Education: While the number of graduates of TSBVI who are employed is growing, we have a long way to go before we will be satisfied with the knowledge and skills our students have in career education when they leave our school. Our goal is to infuse career-education curriculum into our educational services, beginning in early childhood. Eventually, through a gradual and sequential process, we will graduate young people who have a thorough understanding of work and of their strengths and skills--young people with work experience that will enhance their opportunities for employment.
2. Curriculum Development: Every student deserves an education that is appropriate to his or her needs, strengths, and interests. This requires multiple educational approaches using many different curriculum materials and methodological techniques. The result should be a truly individualized curriculum that is both realistic and challenging. We have devoted considerable resources to curriculum development, and the results have been truly gratifying. This work is, first and foremost, for students whom we teach in the on-campus school year program. Because some of what we have developed has received praise from our colleagues, we have made curriculum guides and resource guides available world-wide. While we are very proud of our efforts in this area, we still have a long way to go. Appropriate curriculum for all students is a work in progress.
3. Marketing: The TSBVI Board of Trustees has asked that the superintendent develop a marketing plan for the school. We have made a clear distinction between marketing and recruitment. Marketing consists of presenting a quality product to your potential customers. Acceptance of this product remains with the customers, who in our case are almost always parents and local teachers. The marketing of TSBVI has been defined as:
a. Helping parents and teachers toward a thorough understanding of the potential educational strengths and needs of a blind child;
b. Asking them to determine whether the local district can adequately address the strengths and meet the needs;
c. Describing what TSBVI does well; and
d. Letting the potential customer decide whether the services of TSBVI are needed.
Our marketing plan is also a work in progress.
4. Effective Use of Volunteers: Another request by the Board of TSBVI is that a plan be developed so that volunteers can be used productively. We have not yet been successful in using volunteers in meaningful ways that enhance the education of children. We are currently actively working on such a plan.
5. Continual, Effective Use of Blind Texans: While we have benefited significantly from the counsel of members of the organized blind, we believe that there are many additional ways in which these persons, most of whom have a deep commitment to TSBVI, can be of even greater help. We will continue to discuss with representatives of the blind community of Texas ways in which we can learn from them and they can help us.
TSBVI has the greatest concentration of expertise in the education of blind and visually impaired children in the state. We must make that expertise available to every child, school district, and parent in Texas. We have chosen to do this through a combination of
(a) school-year on-campus services;
(b) summer programs; and
(c) outreach services.
Each of these three programs is continually evolving. An ongoing process of needs assessment, program implementation and monitoring, and evaluation results in a dynamic school that is ever-changing and which always considers the educational needs of students first: this is the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
by Ralph Bartley, Ph.D.
The question has been asked why do the blind of Kentucky support the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB). The following article lists many of the reasons for this support.
1. The KSB Tradition . . . A Future with Promise
The Kentucky School for the Blind has a long history of making a difference in the lives of blind and visually impaired students throughout Kentucky.
Students at KSB do what all students do, all day, every day. Students attend classes, make friends, play sports, and take part in a full range of student activities. They learn, they achieve, they excel.
The School began with five students in 1842 and has been at its present campus in east Louisville since 1855. KSB continues to help blind students develop their talents, skills, and attitudes to become confident, competent, and independent adults.
After graduation many students go on to college or technical training schools; others go immediately into full- time jobs. KSB graduates are radio broadcasters, lawyers, and teachers. They are working in florist shops, hospitals, restaurants, auto body shops, schools--everywhere.
2. A Commitment to Education of the Total Child
At the core of every educational program is academics. The difference in KSB academic courses is not in course content but in the teaching methods, technology, and adapted materials and equipment used with each student.
Along with the basic academic subjects, students take courses to develop the alternative skills they need to be independent. Reading and writing Braille begins in kindergarten, and students with adequate residual vision are provided with enlarged print materials.
Students may choose to attend local schools for part of the school day. This strengthens their academic and vocational skills and gives them opportunities to interact with students who are not blind.
KSB vocational courses use computer-adapted equipment to teach skills needed in business and industry and at advanced vocational technical schools.
The KSB library offers Braille, large-print, and recorded books and magazines for academic assignments and leisure reading.
3. Families Are Involved
Parents are faced with many difficult decisions in choosing an educational program for their children. The Kentucky School for the Blind is an option and strives to make these decisions easier. School staff and parents work closely together on students' individual educational needs and cooperate in developing independence, life skills, and self-esteem.
KSB has a Parent-Staff Organization; and the school newsletter, The School Bell, is mailed to families. Students make frequent trips home to remain an integral part of their families. Parents are encouraged to visit the campus.
4. Pursuing Independence
Success in all life activities depends on mastering everyday skills. KSB's Orientation and Mobility Program teaches students to travel independently and safely to everyday destinations. In the Independent/Adult Living Program, selected juniors and seniors live in apartment- style dormitories and learn budgeting, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and home management.
The KSB Career Development/Work Transition Program helps college-bound and vocational program students develop skills in preparing resumes, interviewing, and career planning. On-campus and off-campus paid-work programs give students practical experience in the areas they plan to enter or study after graduation.
5. Developing Talents: Music
Comprehensive music education, offered to students at all levels, includes vocal, string, keyboard, band, and classroom music. A variety of musical productions and performances gives students many opportunities to showcase their achievements.
At KSB technology is blended into the arts as well as academic areas. A computer-integrated recording studio allows students to compose music and expand their creativity and confidence.
6. Campus Life
Students who are not able to commute to KSB daily enjoy well-rounded residential living. Dormitories have comfortable rooms, plus homelike living rooms and kitchen areas for relaxing, preparing meals, and socializing. Students can do homework in attractive, well-equipped study areas. Living on campus provides more opportunity for developing life skills and enhances independence. Students are served three nourishing meals each day and are encouraged to participate in making sound nutritional decisions.
Treatment for minor health problems and routine medications are handled by the KSB Health Center. Parents are notified when a child is ill. Students return home when a health problem will keep them out of class for a period of time.
7. Recreation Is Learning
After-school hours are time for students to try out a variety of activities for individual, group, and family leisure time. Those who participate in the school radio station, horticulture/greenhouse projects, and concession stand operation are also exploring career-related skills.
Students go to movies and concerts; play both active and table games; and go shopping, ice-skating, snow skiing, roller skating, and swimming. These activities enrich the students' environment and broaden their participation in family life and in their communities.
- KSB's success is a combination of tradition, innovation, and widespread involvement in various constituencies (especially families and the blind community).
- KSB has changed, when needed, and this change has been supported by the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and their elected officials.
- KSB has high expectations for all blind children of the Commonwealth.
- KSB has been perceived as helping school districts solve problems, and KSB is perceived as an educationally happening place.
- KSB has been innovative; e.g., fifty years ago shared instruction between KSB and local high schools was available to KSB students.
The aforementioned examples of KSB successes represent the views of the many people who care about and support KSB, which has truly been the leader and model for education of blind children in Kentucky. The challenge will be to ensure that the citizens of Kentucky, the Governor, other elected officials, the Kentucky Board of Education, and the blind community continue to support KSB.
by Michael J. Bina, Ed.D.
At the end of a very long day, I was going out the front door of the school and exchanged "Good-night and see- you-tomorrow" greetings with Shawn, a twenty-one-year-old graduate of ISB (the Indiana School for the Blind), who was waiting for transportation for his trip home. Shawn, blind since birth, was finishing the last week of an internship in social work at ISB, which was the last requirement for his bachelor's degree from the University of Evansville, a well- respected and rigorous Indiana college.
After Shawn answered my inquiry on how his internship was going and what prospects he had for employment after graduation from college, he asked if he could give me a little feedback on ISB. I tried to anticipate what he might say. Surely he wouldn't still be focusing on the school food while my own meal was waiting for me at home and getting colder. No, it couldn't be the food. Shawn was always quite mature, and four years after graduation cafeteria food couldn't be the issue on his mind. Shawn had not been the typical teenager, who wanted hamburgers and French fries for every meal or who complained about certain perfectly good meals or that the portions were always too small. It must be something else, and something much more substantial, given his serious manner and the lateness of the hour.
Shawn's request created some anxiety. Goodness, I thought to myself, what am I going to hear? I knew that Shawn was not bashful or reluctant to tell it like it was, and from my establishment-well-over-thirty-adult perspective, sometimes in typical teenage fashion he challenged authority and could be seriously tenacious. His tenacity was a trait which served him well in academics and particularly in wrestling, where I often felt sympathy for his opponents. Whatever feedback he had for me, I was prepared to hear and respond to it, but I was honestly not overly excited about a late afternoon verbal wrestling match with Shawn. Add to that my knowledge that my dinner was getting colder and colder. Nonetheless, having already committed to hearing him out, I took a deep breath and braced myself.
What I heard surprised me--particularly coming from such a young alumnus. What Shawn told me typically came from older, more mature graduates, who, unlike their younger counterparts, had had more time for experience and perspective, time to evaluate the worth of their education and to test it against real-world situations--time, in short, to place life's bigger picture alongside the small snapshots of teenage experience and arrive at valid conclusions.
Shawn explained that, while he was enrolled at ISB, he knew that he had developed solid confidence in himself-- primarily because of two factors which he showed me were interrelated. His confidence, he explained, was the result of success he had achieved, and his success was a result of the skills he had acquired--particularly the solid Braille, mobility, living, and social skills that the school staff and his family had helped him develop. He explained that without these skills the door would never have been opened for him to be as effective and go as far as his lifelong reference--his highly successful twin sister.
Hearing that Shawn had confidence in himself was not the biggest revelation for me that day, for I already knew that about Shawn. I had many times observed what I could characterize as just the right amount of healthy, never boastful, quiet confidence. What grabbed me that day and was particularly good news to my ears was his linking his self- confidence to something else. He explained that in college he had grown even more confident in himself because he discovered how confident he could be in his alma mater. Shawn went on, "Dr. Bina, I knew when I was in high school that I was getting a good education because I could compare it to what my sister was getting from our public school, but until I got to college I really didn't recognize how very well I was being prepared."
In detail Shawn described how the pre-med students in his fraternity house frequently sought him out to assist them with themes, research papers, and math assignments. He knew that his ability to match subjects with verbs, organize his thoughts on paper, and manipulate and calculate numbers was superior in many cases to that of some of his fraternity brothers who someday might prescribe him medicines or even stitch his incision after surgery. Shawn didn't seem worried by this possibility, for he said they were sharp but just needed some assistance. He said, however, (without boasting) that he felt more mature than the rest of his fraternity brothers because of his early dormitory experience dealing with and adapting to others.
Next Shawn expressed appreciation and gratitude for individual teachers and houseparents, which I looked forward to passing on to the many deserving staff Shawn pinpointed. He admitted that at times he had thought the teachers and houseparents expected too much of him. In retrospect, he said he now realized that they had expected only what he was capable of doing, and in Shawn's case that was substantial. Eating some humble pie, he even admitted that now he always uses his cane. This had been an ongoing topic of debate between the two of us. I was glad for him.
My concern about my dinner's getting colder was diminished by Shawn's articulate connection among three words: skills, success, and confidence. Shawn summarized in three words what my teacher preparation classes, heavily laden with educationese, did not teach as succinctly or clearly. At what was supposed to be my supper time, Shawn gave me lots of solid food for thought and something which could be savored for many days to come. This was a nice ending to a much less than perfect day. I couldn't wait to share his report with the staff the next day.
About a month later I realized that the pride Shawn had verbalized in his alma mater was something that I had heard before. I heard it also from other Indiana graduates, and, when I considered the matter, also from alumni in Texas, Wisconsin, and South Dakota (states in which I had worked previously). I also realized that I had heard the same message from alumni who spanned three generations. Without a doubt, at least from my experience, irrespective of geography or generation, alumni clearly shared a recognition of the positive impact the special school had had on them.
What do the specialized schools have or do that makes their graduates express such appreciation and gratitude? I can't imagine that Shawn's twin sister, who was equally skilled, successful, and confident, made it a point to share her appreciation with her high school teachers, principal, or district superintendent--but then again, perhaps she did.
What do ISB and its counterparts around the country have or do which resulted in Bob's (a 1965 ISB graduate) saying matter-of-factly that he had breezed through the mechanical engineering curriculum at Purdue University , a large, prestigious, and challenging member of the Big Ten. What did ISB have or do which, according to Bob, gave him a distinctive edge over his academically competitive and highly motivated Boilermaker classmates, in spite of Bob's significant visual disability? Likewise, why does seventy- year-old Elizabeth use the same words as her younger counterparts to describe their pride in their school and the positive impact it had on them? What strikes me is that they continue to do so year after year whenever they return to our campus for their alumni conference.
And then there are ISB students like Megan, who will never share the experience of receiving a college diploma with Shawn, Bob, and Elizabeth but does share those same three words: skills, confidence, and success. Megan comes to mind singing the National Anthem at the Opening Ceremonies at Indiana State Special Olympics. Megan was so wrapped up singing that I don't think she could see the pride in her accomplishment on her parents' faces and on those of the ISB staff. What then does ISB have or do which allows such high achievement by its students?
This question is a good one to ponder, and the answer to it could be used to respond to the Braille Monitor's request of me to describe, not so much ISB's programs, as the impact of its programs on its students. Dissecting what Shawn said, I am confident, would result in a more authentic and accurate description of ISB and what is special about a specialized school than a strict factual description by its superintendent.
As a superintendent I probably would describe ISB using brick-and-mortar or factual descriptors (perhaps with heavy doses of educationese) such as "ISB, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 1997, is located on a wooded sixty- four-acre campus dissected by Williams Creek and is housed in architecturally unique and well-maintained buildings." I probably would describe ISB using statistics such as its 9 million dollar budget and staff of 220. I could cite enrollment data showing that in 1996 ISB served 25 percent or 205 of the 775 blind children in Indiana in its on-campus program and that the school is very likely to serve 215 students in 1997. Or I could point out that ISB Outreach programs (which are designed to assist blind children enrolled in their public schools) served 24 percent or 138 of the 575 identified blind students enrolled in Indiana public schools. But these facts do not explain and are not responsible for Shawn's or Megan's success.
Moreover, statistics like the following--all ISB students go home every week end; approximately 45 percent of the student body (those living in the Indianapolis area) go home every evening; the school is governed and supported by the Indiana Department of Health; and 7 percent of students return and are reintegrated into their local public schools every year--still do not answer the question. To be sure, breaking down the ISB student body by race (white, 81 percent; black, 17 percent; Hispanic, Native American, and Asian, 2 percent) or by gender (males, 59 percent, and females, 41 percent) adds interesting information but doesn't answer the question.
Perhaps what our parents and our graduates say may shed some light and help to explain Shawn's success. In surveys done in 1988, 1989, and 1995, the number of parents who were "extremely pleased" rose from 46 percent to 73 percent to 78 percent with a vast majority of the remaining parents in the "pleased" category, only a few parents in the "neither pleased nor displeased" group, and no parents in 1989 or 1995 indicating overall displeasure. I'm not sure if Shawn responded to the graduate survey, but 21 percent of the graduates in the past ten years indicated that they were highly satisfied, 59 percent were satisfied, 6 percent were neutral, 7 percent were somewhat dissatisfied, and only one individual indicated displeasure in the overall program. In these surveys the parents and the graduates were clear about what was responsible for their satisfaction and their children's success. It was not the school's brick and mortar, the curriculum, or the superintendent. It was what goes on day in and day out in the direct, face-to-face contact and connections between the students and the staff. And, according to the parents and the alumni, it was the staff's hardworking, ongoing effort, coupled with high expectations, that was responsible for their child's achievement and, as a result, their high satisfaction.
In a similar vein the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation report gives an assessment which points out again that the ISB staff is the key factor and is largely responsible for Shawn and Megan's being confident, skilled, and successful. The NCA reported, "To say ISB is unique is easy. To describe all of its unique characteristics is challenging but fascinating. There is a strong desire to continue to improve the level of cooperation with the state's schools system. Outstanding features are public relations, progressive attitude, staff development, outreach, strong commitment to Individual Education Plans, a well-organized residential program, and a strong commitment to student welfare (diet, exercise, cleanliness, and security)."
The NCA report continues, "The school climate at ISB is child-centered and focused on individual success through positive school experiences both educationally and socially. The climate in many public schools is threatening. Here at ISB it is warm and inviting. One cannot spend the better part of a week in this school without being aware of staff, parents, and students' being conscious of improvements which have taken place and continue. They are impressed with the openness they find in the staff. The staff obviously like working here and have stayed a long time while others expect to do that. The administration has not just talked about empowerment, it has designed mechanisms to bring it about. The staff have not missed that; they see it clearly in their daily work. Parents and alumni indicated that the school is open to change and the staff listen to parents and students."
In our conversation Shawn also mentioned high expectations. This is reflected in ISB's philosophy, which states, "In preparing students for responsible and successful roles in school, careers, and society, the school is strongly committed to respecting each student as a unique individual; designing programs and expectations tailored to the individual student's needs; providing appropriate, challenging, and realistic learning experiences in a safe and positive atmosphere for maximum student achievement; and supporting and working cooperatively with parents, families, and all agencies."
Perhaps the best judges of ISB's Philosophy and Guiding Principles and Standards, which the staff adopted in 1993, are its current students like Megan and graduates like Shawn and their parents, for words are easily generated and are without meaning unless put into daily action. ISB's Guiding Principles and Standards are intended to serve as a compass for the staff in their dealings with students. Indications, based on parent and alumni surveys and on the unsolicited feedback I received from Shawn, appear to be that the staff truly live the words. The Guiding Principles and Standards encourage the staff to strive to insure that students exit from the school with healthy self-esteem, the maximum skills possible in all areas, and realistic expectations and knowledge of their abilities; that parents can entrust the education, care, and safety of their children with full and absolute confidence; that staff are child-centered, positive, and well-trained and work to make the school meet the highest standards; that administrators will manage and hold themselves and others accountable by the highest standards of ethics, fairness, and professionalism in a positive, cooperative climate in which staff are empowered and receive support and recognition; that alumni continue to exhibit pride in their alma mater; that citizens throughout the state view the school as a helpful and cooperative resource; that facilities are clean, safe, pleasant, and comfortable; that programs blend innovations with traditional hallmarks; that instruction is relevant to current and future needs; and that the school will continue to improve its relationship by seeking input from and being sensitive and responsive to students and their parents.
I am glad that Shawn and I were both in the right place at the right time for me to get his feedback. Superintendents nowadays with increased paperwork and other hurdles to jump probably don't get the time our counterparts did in times past to connect with students--and that indeed is most unfortunate. Perhaps my next encounter with one of our alumni will provide feedback much different from and less positive than that Shawn shared with me. That too will be good, for we need to hear all types of feedback.
While our staff, students, parents, and alumni have much pride in our school, we are realistic enough to know that it is not perfect, but for each and every student who comes to Indianapolis and for their parents we are sincere in our attempt to give them the most that we are capable of giving and which they are most deserving of receiving. The degree to which the parents and the students come to ISB with high expectations for safe care and an opportunity to be all that the student can be, I trust is matched, and even exceeded, by the expectations and dedication of ISB's staff.
ISB is similar to other schools for the blind in which I have worked in South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Texas, and countless others which I have visited. The graduates of Indiana are not any different or better prepared than ones from Iowa, Tennessee, or Georgia. And ISB's staff is not any more caring or competent than their counterparts in other states. Our specialized schools dating back to Perkins' establishment in 1829 have provided quality, caring instruction to thousands of graduates for whom no one can question or deny their achievements and success. Some claim that schools for blind children are things of the past. I fully agree. Our specialized schools are a thing of the past, for sure, considering the impact they have had on many thousands of graduates. But also I firmly know that our specialized schools are very much needed now--and most definitely are very much a needed provision for the future. Blind children need neither public school nor residential school programs--they need both to provide high expectation, quality instruction, caring secure supervision, and realistic opportunities to learn skills, develop confidence, and be successful--like Shawn and Megan. To me, carefully observing and listening to them perhaps is the best, most accurate, and valid description of the school they attend.
by Dean O. Stenehjem, Ed.D.
The Washington State School for the Blind had its beginning in 1886, three years before Washington gained statehood. Under the direction of Territorial Governor Watson C. Squire, a residential school for blind, deaf, and mentally disabled was established in Vancouver, Washington. The School was located in Vancouver, across the mighty Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, because a group of Citizens in Vancouver contributed the funds for the purchase of the School site. In 1913 the School for the Deaf and Blind became two separate schools to provide better programs for both disability groups. The School for the Blind has been under a number of state organizational structures during its 110-year history. In 1986, with the help of blind consumer organizations, the School for the Blind became a separate state agency. This was one of the more significant developments for the school, allowing for creative expansion of programs, freedom to implement change, and the ability to have greater control over its own destiny.
As the head of a state agency, the superintendent of the School for the Blind is on the governor's small agency cabinet and is directly responsible to the governor. The school also has a Board of Trustees made up of nine trustees, each representing the constituents in the nine congressional districts of the state. Each of the nine trustees is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. In addition to the nine trustees, there are five ex- officio trustees--representatives from the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, the Washington Council of the Blind, parents of blind children, the teachers' association, and the classified employees' union. The purpose of the Board of Trustees is to provide advice to the superintendent and school. This organizational structure has worked very effectively in helping to improve services to blind and visually impaired children in our state. It is also a very flat organizational structure, which means change can occur without a lot of bureaucratic road blocks, and accountability is easy to determine and measure.
School for the Blind Overview:
The primary purpose of the Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB) is to educate blind and visually-impaired children (Revised Code of Washington 72.40.010). It is from this premise that the School's mission statement, purpose, and goals statements have been developed. The single most important word to describe WSSB's mission is "Independence."
In the spring of 1993 the Board of Trustees adopted a future-directions
document, consisting of seven global goals. These goals have been instrumental
in helping to shape the direction of services for blind children within our
state and in improving the quality of services. This document states that the
Washington State School for the Blind will:
1. Work in partnership with the educational and human services community to assist in improving services and support to blind and visually impaired infants, young children, and their families.
2. Place more emphasis on ways of actively including parents in their children's educational programs.
3. Work on becoming a model demonstration and resource center for best practices for the education of blind and visually impaired youth.
4. Develop a program which assists students in developing positive self-images about blindness and visual impairment.
5. Strengthen educational programs emphasizing intensive short-term placement and high expectations; and have major focuses on experiential education, strong academics, compensatory (blind) skills, vocational preparation, recreation/leisure, and other skills that lead toward opportunities for successful inclusion.
6. Strengthen its mission by making sure that each student
accepted for enrollment has a visual disability as a primary handicapping condition.
It is important to note this is not an acuity-dependent issue, but dependent
upon each child's independent evaluation and functional/ performance-based vision
7. Work with students, parents, staff, and the community to promote school pride and sensitivity and education about blindness/visual impairment throughout the state.
The mission of the Washington State School for the Blind is to provide specialized twenty-four-hour quality educational services to visually impaired youths ages zero to twenty-one within the State of Washington.
The School is nationally accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges and serves as a statewide demonstration and resource center providing direct and indirect services to students both on campus and in the children's local communities. Services are provided to families, educators, blind consumers, and others interested in assisting visually-impaired youths to become independent and contributing citizens.
WSSB believes all students have the right to learn and the right to an appropriate education. We also believe that all students can benefit from intensive short-term placement options and a menu of services provided through partnerships with local school districts and educational service districts. Conceptually, we believe the School for the Blind is like a revolving door that allows students to enter, learn skills, and exit back into their local districts, then re-enter for additional intensive learning and exit again. It is this ease of movement among local school districts and education service districts and WSSB which has helped improve the over-all programs for blind and visually-impaired children throughout the entire state. WSSB's yearly student population changes by as much as 42 percent during any one year, with an average turnover rate of approximately 30 percent. The mean time spent in on-campus programs is approximately two years. No one school or agency can accomplish what blind children need without a spirit of cooperation and sharing.
On Campus Programs:
In order to be a solid statewide resource, we believe our on-campus
programs must be the best they can be and serve as models of best practices.
This is only possible by making sure that staff are highly capable, well trained,
and have a strong belief in the goal of independence for each child.
Children who enter the School for the Blind on-campus program do so through an evaluation process to determine appropriate placement and program. The parents, local school district, and students all become active participants in helping to make this determination. If the child attends WSSB, a twenty-four-hour Individual Education Program (IEP) is developed to help facilitate efficient and effective use of staff time in helping the child gain the needed skills in a consistent manner. At this same time a transition plan is developed to provide the parent, student, and local district an estimate of how long the child will be attending WSSB and when to expect the child back in the local district. This has worked quite well. The total education program at WSSB is designed to facilitate the particular learning characteristics of the students enrolled. Likewise, all staff have been trained in specific subject areas and in the area of visual impairment and blindness to ensure quality programs on campus and to visually impaired and blind students throughout the state.
We believe the residential school has a wealth of expertise and experience that needs to be tapped by all who serve visually impaired and blind students throughout the state. Consequently the residential school becomes a hub of quality service delivery for these students.
Students attending WSSB range in ability from severe and profoundly disabled to gifted. With an emphasis on short-term intensive programs, WSSB's on-campus population, which used to be made up of about 80 percent multihandicapped, has dropped to about 40 percent. We believe this has occurred because of the School's good working relationship with the local districts and because more parents, teachers, and administrators are beginning to realize that the residential school can provide a rich, intensive environment that facilitates rapid development of specialized skills.
An example of one of the many unique programs at WSSB is the week-long accelerated learning programs (ALPS) for gifted blind students. This program has included opportunities for high school-age students to experience marine biology, archeology, and computer technology. Kids not only develop new skills but gain confidence about many career options open to them. It has been said, "We really don't know what jobs blind people can do. Every time someone says that a blind person can't do something, a blind person disproves that idea." This is an important fact we want all staff to realize. Don't limit kids' dreams. Help them discover new ways to make things possible.
All programs at WSSB involve the community, and the community is actively involved with the school. The experiential learning that occurs as a result is tremendous, not only for the kids and staff, but also for the community. This is a great way to break down old stereotypes, which sometimes stand in the way of students' realizing their dreams. We strongly believe that our students must gain all the skills necessary to live and be successful in our society.
The residential component at WSSB consists of four cottages, which are designed with an emphasis on teaching independent-living skills. Students prepare their own morning meals and do their own laundry, and many are on self-medication programs designed to assist them in taking care of their medical needs. Students are encouraged to become actively involved in a wide range of recreational opportunities from downhill skiing to community theater to trips to local stores, etc. Cottage staff are important members of the twenty-four-hour IEP team and, together with teachers, serve as advocates for the students.
WSSB has wonderful facilities, which we strongly believe need to be used efficiently by us and by the community. Whenever possible, WSSB's facilities are open to the public for its use. Over 40,000 people a year use the facilities of the school. This not only promotes interest in the school but helps educate the public about blind and visually impaired children. This open-door policy has also been an effective way for us to work with the legislature to secure funding to upgrade facilities and has helped the school establish an excellent reputation with the governor's office and local legislators as an agency which makes wise use of its resources. The rent received from outside organizations goes back into programs for kids.
As part of our mission the school has worked with
other agencies and blind consumer organizations to become the Braille Access
Center for state government. This program has been highly successful and has
provided blind consumers in our state with over one and one-half million pages
of Braille in a little over two years. The State of Washington is one of a few
states where blind citizens have Brailling of public documents on demand in
a timely manner. This has been instrumental in opening doors for blind consumers
to a wealth of information, which helps lead toward independence and future
employment. It has also been very important as a public relations tool by helping
our state government realize the importance of Braille in its quest to improve
An additional role for the school is providing in-service and pre-service to public school educators of blind and visually impaired students through specialized training. As the population of our state has grown, this role has expanded to meet the demands of local school districts throughout our state. There is no training program for teachers of the blind and visually impaired in our state. The School for the Blind helps fill this void.
As services continue to expand, WSSB needs to examine its future-directions statements constantly. These statements were developed with input from blind consumers within our state and from staff, parents, students, and others interested in improving services for blind children. The school's strategic planning has been based upon the future-directions statements. The School continues to work to become a one-stop center for services for blind children within our state. As this work progresses, improvements in services to blind and visually impaired children will continue to occur and display the efficiency with which these services are provided. During the 1995-96 school year, WSSB's outreach mission was expanded with the addition of the statewide Technology Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This program has proven to be extremely valuable to local school districts, parents, and children and has also assisted districts in making wise purchases of technology for their visually impaired students.
Beginning with the 1996-97 school year, WSSB will again expand services through consolidation of statewide vision programs with the acquisition of the Washington Instructional Resource Center (WIRC) for Blind and Visually Impaired Children. This Center provides materials and supplies to 1,400 blind and visually impaired children throughout the state. Consolidation of this program will result in improved services for blind children and the development of more cost-effective ways of providing appropriate services.
WSSB will continue to diversify its services during the 1995-97 biennium through collaboration with other agencies, thereby increasing efficiency and reaching a greater number of children without the need for additional direct funding. WSSB has tripled the number of students receiving direct on-campus and itinerant/consultative services off-campus since the 1991 school year. Currently the school is providing services to approximately 233 children per month; 72 of these are on-campus students. With the addition of the state's Instructional Resource Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IRC) in the fall of 1996, the number of blind children receiving services through WSSB will increase significantly.
Through diversification WSSB has improved on-campus services and has developed an excellent partnership with local school districts, state agencies, blind consumer organizations, and the private sector. It has helped improve the quality of services to many children in local school districts. We are not at the end of our quest for better services for blind children. Rather we are in an ever- evolving process of program improvement.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation
of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $__________ (or "______ percent of my net estate" or "the following stocks and bonds: ________") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
by Barbara Pierce
One enters or leaves Alamogordo, New Mexico, on Route 54. Not far from the city limits is a sign for an ostrich farm. For those who know nothing about the recent revelations at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped (NMSVH), this may be nothing more than an unexpected and unusual landmark; but for many in the blindness community, it looms as a powerful and ironic symbol of a way of life and a dream gone sour. Whether or not ostriches really hide their heads in the sand at the approach of danger, such behavior seems to be the kindest construction that can be placed on the actions of administrators and staff at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped. For more than two decades there has been an increasing crescendo of allegations of misconduct and criminal behavior--pregnancy, alcohol, and drugs ever more common among students, and corresponding improprieties on the part of the staff.When one begins reading the affidavits, the letters, and the newspaper articles and when one listens to the parents, alumni, and students talk about what has happened, one is tempted to begin a report like this with a detailed recital of the stories we have been told of rapes, drugs- for-sex deals by staff, alcohol smuggling, and violent attacks on students. But in the end there is so much of it, and the alleged victims have been so powerless to seek redress, that one is overwhelmed by the impossibility of accurately conveying the magnitude of the agony that the students through the years have apparently endured. Those in positions of authority have wielded the power that arises from wealth and the conviction of moral and social superiority. One is finally stunned and incredulous, horrified at how much evil can occur, even when officials do not set out to do anything other than good. For good people are associated with the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped--people who care about the students, some through the years who have even tried to stop what was happening. They usually didn't last long, according to alumni, but even today students report that the occasional staff member puts his or her job on the line to try to do what is right and to protect students from the consequences of telling their parents and the school administration what has happened to them on campus.
AG Inquiry Targets New Mexico School for the Blind Unreported Assault, Nepotism Alleged
by Rene Romo
Alamogordo--The state Attorney General's Office has begun an
inquiry into charges that administrators at the state's school for the blind
engaged in misconduct, including nepotism in hiring and failure to report an
alleged sexual assault at the school in 1976.
The wide-ranging list of accusations and questions focuses on the twenty-three-year administration of Jerry R. Watkins, the outgoing superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped.
They were forwarded to the Attorney General's Office by a former school regent and the president of the National Federation of the Blind's state chapter in late September and early October.
Watkins is accused of misusing school funds, holding private functions on school grounds, placing family members on the school payroll, and failing to hire more blind people.
Watkins, who is scheduled to retire from his $82,000 superintendent's job after a successor is found, said last Thursday the charges of misconduct are untrue.
He said an inquiry would clear his name and preserve the school's
"We welcome any type of investigation," Watkins, sixty-seven, said in an interview in his office.
The complaints have been lodged by Albuquerque resident Joe Cordova, president of the state chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, and Adelmo Vigil, a former regent and an administrator for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind in Alamogordo.
Cordova and Vigil said they sought an investigation by the attorney general because they have been flooded with complaints and reports of misconduct from parents, students, and staff at the school in recent months, particularly since the announcement of Watkins's retirement in July.
"It's time now to really just clean this up," Cordova, who graduated from the school in 1969, said in a telephone interview from Albuquerque. "Our organization doesn't do investigations. We want to know the truth, but we don't have the resources to do this."
In August, Cordova mailed an open letter to 2,000 people in the Federation of the Blind in which he mentioned "reports" of "possible criminal misconduct, fraud, physical and sexual abuse of blind students" and fiscal impropriety at the school.
Kay Roybal, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said the preliminary inquiry will determine whether there are grounds to begin a full-fledged investigation. The complaint, however, contains a number of broad questions about whether there has been misconduct, and Roybal said investigators have requested more details from Cordova and Vigil.
Watkins, who was hailed as a "legend" in the local newspaper, said the suggestions of misconduct are a painful way to end his career.
The school, which opened in 1906, has about seventy students who live there and provides services to about 300 students mainstreamed into public schools around the state. The 35-acre campus is dotted by red brick buildings, and pathways meander between classrooms, a gymnasium, and dormitories.
The school has 182 employees, and its $7 million operating budget is supported by a roughly $100 million endowment fund, Watkins said.
Watkins, a former principal of Alamogordo High School, was
appointed superintendent in 1972.
A central accusation leveled against Watkins comes from NMSVH graduate Jennifer Switzer Hensley, who has said she was raped in the school gymnasium by four male students in 1976. Hensley said Watkins learned of the incident and urged her to keep quiet about it afterward.
Watkins said he has "no recollection of this incident" and says he never had a conversation about it with Hensley, a seventeen-year-old junior at the time.
Under state law, school officials are required to report suspected physical or sexual abuse to police and what is now the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
"Who can know what happened nineteen years ago? I can tell you that, had I known, there would not have been a hush-hush. There would have been a direct confrontation of the issue," Watkins said.
Hensley, who was a top student at the school and class officer, said she has had to cope with the trauma of the sexual assault and the alleged unresponsiveness of the school administration for the last nineteen years. A licensed social worker who is unemployed, Hensley said she decided to go public with her story because she is "morally and ethically bound to prevent anyone else from being victimized."
The statute of limitations on rape is fifteen years, the Attorney General's Office said.
Cordova said he has received correspondence from twelve others who claim they were victims of sexual assault, physical abuse or improper sexual contact by school staff or students, or had firsthand knowledge of such conduct spanning the last twenty years. In some cases Cordova said school administrators ignored misconduct. Cordova said he is preparing to submit the signed statements by the end of the month.
The letters to the attorney general also point out that since 1974 six members of Watkins's family--a brother, a son, three daughters, and a grandson--have been hired by the school.
During the same period Cordova and Vigil say Watkin's record of hiring blind teachers has been abysmal.
Watkins acknowledges that he's hired relatives but said he never violated the school's policy prohibiting an employee from working under the direct supervision of a relative.
In the letter submitted to the Attorney General's Office, Vigil asked: "Is it appropriate for a chief executive, who has the power to influence all other staff hiring, to have so many immediate family members employed within the same organization?"
Watkins said he never believed having family members on the school's payroll might foster a perception among employees that his relatives received preferential treatment.
"It's a little awkward to look at some of your family members working on campus, but they volunteered far more than they worked, and they lived on campus. So they mixed and mingled," Watkins said. "They've all gone through the same screening process as everyone else, and I have never signed off on their time cards or supervised their work."
Cordova and Vigil also accused Watkins of engaging in a "continuous pattern of deliberate discrimination against blind persons" in hiring. They claim the school has not reached out to blind job applicants.
Watkins said he has hired three blind teachers in the last two decades.
The School for the Visually Handicapped issues notices every six months that it is accepting applications for job categories. As specific jobs open up, positions are filled by the resumes on hand, said Susan Wride, the school's education services coordinator.
"We consider the students to be the priority constituency, and we try to hire the best teachers available to us at the time, and that's been how we proceeded to this time," Watkins said.
The complaints about Watkins have reached parents around the state and institutions for the blind around the country, school officials said.
"We welcome the opportunity to (defend ourselves) because we can substantiate our record," said Larry Clark, the school's director of support services. "It's real frustrating to have that cloud hanging over your head."
Watkins said he believes that the swirling accusations are part of an organized attempt by accusers to influence the selection of the new superintendent. The superintendent search committee, which doesn't include any members of the Federation of the Blind, is scheduled to advertise the job this month and fill the position by the spring. The eleven- member committee includes representatives of the school, staff, alumni, and parents.
"All we care about is that both sides of the investigation be put forth to the public," Cordova said. "Let the investigation take its course, and let's move on to what we are really all about, which is to educate blind children in the state."
The following story appeared in a box on the same page as the
Woman Tells of Alleged Night of Rape
by Rene Romo
Las Cruces--Jennifer Switzer Hensley says four male students at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped raped her at knifepoint in 1976--the night before her seventeenth birthday.
Someone had called Hensley in her school dorm room minutes
before and told her she was needed at practice for an annual Gym Circus gymnastics
"They came out of the bushes; they grabbed me by the arms and covered my mouth and put a switchblade to my throat," Hensley said of her attackers the night of April 4, 1976.
"They took me into the gym through the girls' ballet room door, and there were mats there on the floor because we stretched. They took turns holding me down, and they took turns raping me," she said in an interview recently in her Las Cruces home.
The horror didn't end there, Hensley said.
After a few days, when she overcame fears of reprisals by the boys, she said she informed then-dean of students Paul Tapia. But Hensley said Superintendent Jerry Watkins later contacted her and urged her "`not to make a big deal out of it'" and not to inform her parents.
Tapia, reached at his home in Alamogordo, declined comment. "I'm going to reserve comment on all that until things develop, if they do," he said.
Advocates for the blind have shown the Attorney General's Office a copy of a two-page account Hensley wrote in August about the rape.
Watkins says he never talked about the assault with Hensley, then a school cheerleader and class officer, and knew nothing about the incident. Hensley never reported the incident to police, saying she had been discouraged from complaining by school administrators.
"I suspect that something happened in her life that was very distressing," Watkins said this week from the school's red brick offices in Alamogordo. "I wish she had come forward at the time to tell me."
Hensley said she decided to go public now because, as a licensed social worker, she is "morally and ethically bound to prevent anyone else from being victimized." She said she wants parents to know how the incident was, as she claims, ignored by school administrators.
Hensley said she has only returned to the School for the Visually Handicapped, sixty-five miles from her home, two or three times since graduating in 1977.
Hensley said her attackers tormented her, calling her on the phone, cornering her in school hallways. She said the boys told school administrators that they had consensual sex with her.
"I still have nightmares about being at that school and trying to get away," Hensley wrote in an account of the incident. "In the dreams, no matter what I do, I cannot get away. The phones don't work, or I'm trying to hide from faceless men with knives."
The incidents mentioned in this article were only the beginning. As newspapers in New Mexico and Texas began reporting the NMSVH situation, more alumni contacted the NFB of New Mexico to tell their own histories. The people who identified themselves as victims expressed deep rage at what they said they had been through. Many said they had spent years feeling shame and emotional isolation because of what they alleged had happened to them and because of the response they said they received from School staff members.
Disturbing examples of this alleged treatment and its effect on the victims are reported by at least three women who attended NMSVH in three different decades. In each case Jerry Watkins is reported by the alleged victim to have persuaded her not to press charges. Jennifer Switzer- Hensley, who says she was gang raped by students in 1976, told the Braille Monitor that Watkins told her that, if she told her parents what had happened, they would think she was a bad girl; that the four boys said she had consented to the activity; and that no one would believe her version of what had happened.
In 1983, after a male student married to another student already pregnant with his baby allegedly raped Brenda Platero, Jerry Watkins reportedly told her parents that Brenda should remain on campus, where medication could be administered to her reliably. The Plateros, who according to their daughter are not well educated, thought they were doing their best for her by following Watkins's advice. According to Brenda, Mr. Platero later told her that, when he did raise a question with the superintendent about the School's handling of the rape, Watkins had made a comment to the effect that people were much more likely to believe the superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Blind than they were to believe a poor, uneducated Indian. Mr. Platero did eventually explore the possibility of suing the School, but Brenda says that his attorney was told that the School had no record of any such incident.
In 1994, when then student Ann Widman reported having been raped by a member of the dorm staff, Watkins told Widman, according to her, that he simply did not believe that the man would have done such a thing. According to Widman, the detectives who investigated the case were convinced by School officials that she was not emotionally stable enough to testify against Jerry Valenzuela, the man she had accused. Watkins, however, according to Widman and several other people, did fire Valenzuela following this event and then, after Widman graduated in the spring of 1995, rehired Valenzuela so that he was once again on staff by the fall of that year.
Students and alumni in a number of student generations report laxness in staff supervision of the School. People told us of multiple instances of male and female staff members' providing alcohol and drugs in return for sexual favors. Brenda Platero Ludi explained that in her day confiscated liquor was stored in a file cabinet. When the boys learned of this, they simply raided the cabinet and reclaimed their alcohol with no one's doing anything about it. Mrs. Ludi expressed dismay at staff unwillingness even to intervene when a staff member was the butt of inappropriate behavior. She reported that a male acquaintance invited her to move to the front of the bus during a field trip and sit behind the seat in which he and a female chaperon--a member of the staff--were sitting. The woman in question was, according to Ludi, a recognized alcoholic, who usually carried a fitted case with her containing a selection of liquors. Brenda says that she was rather drunk, and that while Brenda watched, the young man put his arm around the woman and fondled her both above and below the waist--activity which she seemed to enjoy since she greeted each bit of groping with what Brenda characterized as both giggles and howls. The other adults on the bus merely told the student to leave the woman alone.
One parent who has come forward described to the NFB what she believes to be the experience that ruined her son's life. The NMSVH student, whom we will call Glenn A, uses a wheelchair and appears to have some emotional and mental difficulties in addition to blindness, although it is hard to know what he was like before his experience at the New Mexico School. Glenn was a day student at NMSVH for two years before his mother says the administration insisted that he become a residential student. She says they told her that he would benefit from the experience of dorm life, and she says they insisted on enrolling him in the residential program. Mrs. A was aware that something was happening to Glenn as the year progressed, but she says she could not get him to tell her what it was. Before beginning to live at the School, Glenn had been outgoing and trusting, his mother says; but he now became increasingly withdrawn and antisocial. Years after leaving the School and settling into a reclusive, silent way of life in his parents' home, Glenn finally told his mother, she says, that his roommate during that last year at the School had repeatedly raped him at knifepoint during the evening hours. Mrs. A says that a staff member made rounds at 4 p.m. every day, but according to Glenn no staff member ever ventured into the student rooms after that hour. His roommate told him, the mother says, that if he ever told anyone about what happened to him during the evenings, Glenn could count on being killed before the roommate was arrested.
Mrs. A says that she has never been able to get a hearing for her allegations. The roommate left the state, and School personnel were not told of the abuse while it was going on. But Mrs. A believes unswervingly that, if staff members had bothered to check on her son during the evenings, they would have discovered what was happening to him and very well might have prevented the profound psychological damage which she believes he has sustained as a result of his prolonged suffering and fear.
From time to time through the years individual staff members have apparently tried to call public attention to what was occurring at the School. A grand jury was impaneled in 1982 after the murder of Ralph Garner, NMSVH School principal. There seems, according to all we were told, little question that Garner was gay and solicited sexual favors from male NMSVH students. No one was ever arrested for his murder, but an anonymous letter, believed to have been written by a staff member at the School, was handed to the grand jury. Many of the same allegations that have recently been made by students and parents were also made in the letter. This letter was eventually attributed to a School employee, Marilyn Redman, who soon after lost her job and, according to a reporter who looked into court records of the period, was sued by the School. She counter-sued the following year and won some kind of monetary settlement, according to this source.
Several other times through the years staff members with personal grudges against the NMSVH administration have leaked stories about staff and student improprieties at the School. But because of their personal circumstances, it has been easy for School officials to brush off their revelations as the inventions of embittered employees or ex- employees. The problem is that the incidents these staff people recounted are now echoed by alumni and parent revelations.
When it became clear that the allegations being made were too numerous and too disturbing to be ignored but that the Attorney General might well dismiss most or all of the cases because of technical difficulties, the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico arranged for many of those who had come forward to prepare affidavits so that we could at least publish sworn statements about what had happened to students through the years at the School. Dr. Harold Snider went to New Mexico twice to interview parents, alumni, and School officials. Jerry Watkins refused on the advice of his attorney to speak to us, though several other staff members did consent to talk on the understanding that their identities would be withheld.
Armed with affidavits prepared by a number of alumni, Joe Cordova (president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico) went to attorney Bruce Pasternack, whose law firm has won some notable civil suits in New Mexico against large institutions. Pasternack read the material Joe brought him and agreed to take the case. On May 14, 1996, he filed a suit on behalf of nine former NMSVH students against the Board of Trustees of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped, Jerry Watkins, and eight NMSVH staff and former staff members. (On June 25 the suit was amended to include a total of seventeen plaintiffs and, as defendants, thirteen current or former staff members in addition to Jerry Watkins and the board.) The evening of May 14 and the next, the NBC Evening News carried a two-part story on the lawsuit and the allegations made by the plaintiffs. President Maurer made a statement as part of that story, and it became clear that the matter would not go away.
Meanwhile a search committee had been appointed by the School's board of trustees to find Jerry Watkins's successor. The eleven-member search committee did not include a single representative from consumer organizations, and blind adults across the state were angry at the way the search was being conducted. On May 16, 1996, over fifty blind people, almost entirely members of the NFB and parents of blind students at the School, but also including the president of the ACB affiliate in the state, gathered at the Statehouse in Santa Fe and asked for a meeting with Governor Gary Johnson. The governor listened to the group's concerns and urged them to communicate their views to the School's board of trustees.
The next meeting of the board was May 24, and blind people
began making plans to converge on Alamogordo to express their worries. President
Maurer led the delegation of about a hundred into the meeting, where the group
was first told that they could not be heard because, though they had notified
the governor of their intention to raise their concerns with the board, they
had not given to the board itself twenty-four hours' written notice of their
wish to place an item on the agenda.
Chairwoman Townsend then offered President Maurer first five and then ten minutes in which to present the group's numerous concerns. He turned down the offer as totally inadequate, and the board then attempted to conduct its ongoing business with angry blind people and parents periodically expressing their dissatisfaction with what they characterized as "business as usual while the children suffer." One of the actions that the board took during this meeting was final approval of a plan to name a new building on campus for Jerry Watkins. The decision had been made earlier, but Joe Salazar, the sole blind member of the board, moved that the action be held up in the face of growing criticism of Watkins. Salazar and Carl Harms, the newest member of the board, voted in favor of Salazar's motion, but the three women, all of whom are long-time board members, voted to carry out the original plan.
The board did postpone for a week its final vote to choose the new superintendent in an apparent concession to the governor's request that the board respond to consumer pleas to investigate the underlying problems surrounding the appointment before making its decision. When this announcement was made, the blind consumers responded that they would be back the next week. Many consumers assumed that the board was merely hoping to avoid publicity by putting off the announcement of their decision for a week. But if anything there were more blind people on hand the following Friday, May 31, 1996. They had come, not only from across New Mexico, but from California, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas as well. President Maurer was back, and this time he had given ample notice to the board that parents and blind citizens wanted time on the agenda to talk about the pattern of abuse and misconduct at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped.
Chairwoman Linnie Townsend was scrupulous about holding each speaker to his or her time and about parcelling out unused time to other speakers. A few people rose to speak in support of the School, including two members of the search committee, who talked at length about the fairness of the process they had used. They had missed entirely the point made by the NFB that, without consumer representation on the committee, there was no way for the committee to benefit from that perspective or body of knowledge about the pool of candidates--and, therefore, no way that the process could have been fair.
The other interesting School supporter was the mother of a young boy who had been a student at the School for one year. She is herself a special education teacher with expertise in blindness, who has established collegial relationships with her son's teachers. She and her son are Anglo, and it seems clear from what she said that her son's experience during the past year has been a happy one, for which we can all be grateful. But no one has ever said that every child has been abused at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped, only that a disturbing number of children have been and that there has been a continuing pattern of abuse. Also, almost all of these have been Hispanic or Native American, and most have come from families without the benefit of post-secondary education.
President Maurer laid out the concerns of the organized blind,
and virtually all of the remaining speakers were parents and alumni who talked
about their personal experiences and about their insistence that the abuse they
had experienced come to an end. When they finished speaking, the board went
into executive session and voted four to one--Salazar cast the dissenting vote--to
hire J. Kirk Walter, the Director of External Relations at the Maryland School
for the Blind.
When the opponents of business as usual at the School gathered in a park across the street following the board meeting, President Maurer told them that they could go home and continue to write letters protesting what the School was doing, or the entire group could climb aboard the vans and the bus they had brought to Alamogordo and drive back across the state to Santa Fe to tell the governor what had happened. The crowd cheered its approval of the plan, grabbed sandwiches and cold drinks, and headed north to the state capital.
By 6:00 p.m. the group was in conference with Lou Gallegos, the governor's chief of staff. Governor Johnson was chairing a conference of state chief executives on both sides of the Mexican border and was unable to meet with the group in person. But Mr. Gallegos assured the group that the governor was aware of the meeting of the board of trustees and that he was determined to bring about change in the way the School was being run. According to Gallegos, the governor's plan was to replace long-time members of the board with new blood as soon as possible, and Gallegos pledged that the governor would consult blind consumers in the process.
Here, is the text of the story that appeared in the June 1,
1996, edition of the Albuquerque Journal:
Maryland Man to Run School Activists for Blind Pack Meeting Hall
by Fritz Thompson
A Maryland man was chosen superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped on Friday, saying he is willing to take over the troubled state school, where a number of students have alleged they were physically and sexually abused.
New superintendent J. Kirk Walter of Baltimore said in a telephone interview Friday that one of his priorities will be to provide a safe environment for the students.
"I'm not responsible for what happened in the past," he said. "I want to provide a safe environment, and I want to establish a positive attitude for the students, their parents, and the staff. . . . I'm very willing to communicate."
Walter will receive an annual salary of $70,000. His one-year contract begins July 1.
About 200 people attended the meeting, filling all available chairs in an auditorium at the school. Some of the people arrived in a chartered bus. Most of them have voiced displeasure with the board and the operation of the school.
Walter, fifty-five, is director of external relations for the Maryland School for the Blind. He was one of two finalists for the New Mexico position; the other was William S. Koehler, forty-five, superintendent at the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped.
Walter takes over a beleaguered school, where nine former students have sued the Board of Regents, long-time superintendent Jerry R. Watkins, and eight former or current staff members. The former students allege that they were abused and that school administrators did nothing to help them.
The alleged incidents extend from 1973 through last February.
Meanwhile, spokesmen for advocacy groups for the blind have demanded the resignation of three of the five board members, saying they have been on the board too long and have failed to protect students during their tenure.
The board voted 4-1 to hire Walter. The action came swiftly
after a noontime executive session.
Voting for Walter were chairwoman Linnie Townsend and members Sonja Lujan, Carl Harms, and Jean Lee. Voting against Walter was Joe Salazar.
In contrast with a tumultuous, angry meeting last week, the vote Friday met with little objection from what has previously been a critical audience more than willing to express its views in either words or applause.
As they have before, activists accused the board of pre-selecting the superintendent in a secret meeting.
Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, predicted before the vote that the board would select "an individual from Maryland, 4-1."
Phil Davis, chairman of the search committee, said later that he was closely involved with the board. "I know there was no official vote before the meeting," he said.
"We understand the individual has been asked if he dislikes the National Federation of the Blind," Maurer said. "We hear that he replied that `dislike' was not the right word, that a better word would be `detest.'"
Walter said he "can't imagine I would ever say that" and that "I would be glad to talk to Mr. Maurer or whoever said that I said it."
Walter said he has sometimes disagreed with the approach of the Federation, "but they have done a lot of good things."
Salazar said he voted against Walter because of his "cavalier attitude" during his job interview. "I think his concerns are superficial," Salazar said. "He lacks the energy, the enthusiasm, and the courage to run this school."
Salazar is the only legally blind person on the board. Advocates for the blind have demanded the resignations of board members Townsend, Lujan, and Lee.
The school has seventy resident students ranging up to age twenty-one at its Alamogordo campus and provides services to about 300 others around the state.
This is what the Albuquerque Journal said, and as the article states, Mr. Walter assumed his duties July 1, and he wasted no time contacting Joe Cordova and indicating interest in meeting to discuss Federation concerns. As a matter of fact, he called Joe during the NFB's National Convention in Anaheim, so it is clear that important communication has begun.
Can J. Kirk Walter change business as usual at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped? Will he exert the energy and stimulate the necessary commitment to protect the students and improve the quality of their academic and personal lives that must occur if future generations are to be safe and healthy? Will Governor Johnson make the changes in the board of trustees that his chief of staff indicated he would? Will informed and concerned blind adults, representatives of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, be allowed to play their necessary role in ensuring that NMSVH moves into the twenty-first century as an effective part of the educational program serving blind students in New Mexico?
No one today has the answers to any of these questions. Much remains to be resolved. Many on both sides remain deeply angry, and it is frankly hard to imagine who might stand up and exert the leadership and engender the degree of trust necessary to permit the healing everyone yearns for.
Many have sacrificed and have been sacrificed in the past twenty years and in the terrible struggle of the last twelve months. Sadly in too many instances the suffering continues with no end in sight. Some have shown great courage and determination to see, whatever the cost to themselves, that future students at the School they love will not have to face what happened to them. One of these is Brenda Platero Ludi, who at the close of an interview with a Monitor reporter summed up her motives in the following words:
"Because I wrote a long letter and I did mention other students [by name] and things that had happened to them, I know that I have made some people angry with me. But I didn't do it to hurt anybody; I didn't do it to make anybody angry; I didn't do it to embarrass anybody. I did it because I care. I don't want it to happen anymore! To this day it [abuse of students] still happens at that school, and it needs to stop! Somebody needs to stand up and say, `This is wrong.' If I make a few enemies by standing up and saying, `This is wrong, and these things should never happen to any of us,' then I'll accept that."
Monitor reporter: "You have also made a lot of blind and sighted people very proud of you."
Ludi: "I hope so, because I know that I will probably lose friends that I have known for almost all my life."
Like Brenda Platero Ludi everyone who cares about the children
at NMSVH must depend on hope and must trust that integrity, where it still exists,
and simple self-interest will henceforward work together in the light of public
scrutiny in favor of the safety and protection of the students at the New Mexico
School for the Visually Handicapped and, for that matter, at every other educational
institution in the country (whether residential or mainstream) working with
blind students. We have recently learned that the New Mexico Attorney General's
Office is going forward with its investigation, and the civil suit will eventually
reach the court. Justice may be slow, but for the children's sake, we hope that
it will be sure.
From the Editor: One pauses before devoting more than ten pages of this magazine to the actual text of a complaint filed in a lawsuit in Federal Court. The reader may reasonably ask, "Couldn't you have summarized it?" But supporters of the Watkins administration at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped consistently dismiss the allegations made against school staff members as the inventions of disturbed and unbalanced people. Attorney Bruce Pasternack and his staff have sorted through the statements of a number of angry students, parents, and NMSVH alumni to identify the incidents they believe they can most clearly and successfully take to court and prove in a lawsuit that will force the New Mexico School to reform its policies and practices. The experiences of seventeen people have been put together in one document and placed in the context of the laws that these attorneys believe have been violated. The depth of the suffering endured and the scope of the abuse experienced by students through the years that are alleged here are powerful and unsettling. We decided that Braille Monitor readers deserved the right to read the entire complaint, or as much of it as they could stomach. To provide greater ease of reading, a very few editorial liberties have been taken with the original text, but the sense of the document is unimpaired. Here is the complaint first filed on May 14, 1996, and amended June 25, 1996:
Second Judicial District Court
County of Bernalillo
State of New Mexico
Plaintiffs: Jennifer Switzer-Hensley, George Mendoza, Clorinda
Brenda Platero, Ann Widman, Daniel Sanchez, as parent and next friend of Joshua
Sanchez, a minor, Desiree Kontur, as parent and next friend of Michael Kontur,
a minor, Angie Pena Christensen, Martin Samora and Gloria Lopez Werstein, Lawrence
Otero, Johnna Dorsett Watts, Tim Martin, Pete Nalda, Virginia Lantis, as parent
and next friend of Christella Garcia, a minor, and Bernadette Montoya,
Defendants: The Board of Trustees of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped, a body corporate; Jeriel R. Watkins, in his individual and official capacities; Michael McKinney, in his individual and official capacities; Kenny Lindsey, in his individual and official capacities; Jerry Valenzuela, in his individual and official capacities; Jack Harmon, in his individual and official capacities; Diane Stegemeir, in her individual and official capacities; Ed Malone, in his individual and official capacities; Juan Cardiel, in his individual and official capacities; Theresa Russell, in her individual and official capacities; Carol Kasai-Love, in her individual and official capacities; Juanna Jones, in her individual and official capacities; Claudia Lopez, in her individual and official capacities; Jake Luevano, in his individual and official capacities; and Linda Towne, in her individual and official capacities.
Complaint for Negligence Under New Mexico Tort Claims Act and Related Claims
1. This case involves the alleged negligence of the Board of Trustees of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped (hereafter "Board"); the school's superintendent, Jeriel R. Watkins (hereafter "Watkins"); several teachers, administrators, and dorm parents, and the resulting sexual and physical abuse of school children at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped (hereafter "NMSVH") in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The aforesaid negligence caused dangerous conditions on the premises at NMSVH which created dangers to NMSVH students and to the general public.
Jurisdiction and Venue
2. The case is filed pursuant to New Mexico Tort Claims Act, 41-1-1, M.M.S.A. 1978, et seq. (1995 Supp.), and the federal laws discussed at Count III, infra. Venue is proper in this district in accordance with 41-4-18, N.M.S.A. 1978 (1995 Supp.). Plaintiffs timely provided notice of their claims pursuant to 41-4-16, N.M.S.A. 1978 and 41-4-4, et. seq. (1995 Supp.), by submitting written notices to NMSVH and the State of New Mexico Risk Management Division within ninety days of the time that their injuries manifested themselves and became ascertainable, thereby giving rise to claims. Removal is improper as discussed more fully at Paragraph 93, infra. Based on the cases cited therein, removal would be sanctionable.
3. Jennifer Switzer-Hensley (hereafter "Jennifer") is a resident of Las Cruces, Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
4. George Mendoza (hereafter "George") is a resident of Las Cruces, Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
5. Clorinda Brenda Platero (hereafter "Brenda") is a resident of San Diego, San Diego County, California.
6. Ann Widman (hereafter "Ann") is a resident of Hobbs, Lea County, New Mexico.
7. Daniel Sanchez, as parent and next friend of Joshua Sanchez (hereafter "Joshua"), is a resident of Grants, Cibola County, New Mexico.
8. Desiree Kontur, as parent and next friend of Michael Kontur (hereafter "Michael") is a resident of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico.
9. Angie Pena Christensen (hereafter "Angie") is a resident of Fort Hood, Bell County, Texas.
10. Martin Samora (hereafter "Martin") is a resident of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico.
11. Gloria Lopez Werstein (hereinafter "Gloria") is a resident of Olympia, Thurston County, Washington.
12. Lawrence Otero (hereinafter "Lawrence") is a resident of Washington, D.C.
13. Johnna Dorsett Watts (hereinafter "Johnna") is a resident of Scottville, Mason County, Michigan.
14. Tim Martin (hereafter "Tim") is a resident of Grants, Cibola County, New Mexico.
15. Pete Nalda (hereafter "Pete") is a resident of Austin, Travis County, Texas.
16. Virginia Lantis, as parent and next friend of Christella Garcia (hereafter "Christella") is a resident of Rio Rancho, Sandoval County, New Mexico.
17. Bernadette Montoya (hereafter "Bernadette") is a resident of Las Vegas, San Miguel County, New Mexico.
18. Defendant Board is a New Mexico body corporate created in accordance with 21-5-1 et seq., N.M.S.A. (Repl. Pamp.). The Board sets the policies for, supervises, and controls NMSVH and all property belonging to NMSVH, and possesses all those powers and duties enumerated in 21-5-2 N.M.S.A. (Repl. Pamp. 1992). NMSVH is a state educational institution as specified in Article VII, 11 of the Constitution of the State of New Mexico. The Board is entitled to adopt regulations pertaining to the administration of all of its powers or duties, to approve or disapprove employment of school personnel, to hire and to terminate school personnel, to sue and be sued. Plaintiffs are all legally blind and at all times material hereto were students at NMSVH. Plaintiffs were compelled to attend NMSVH by virtue of 21-5-5 and 8, N.M.S.A. (Repl. Pamp. 1992). The Board and the remaining Defendants owed an affirmative duty to protect Plaintiffs and not to create and subject the Plaintiffs to dangers which were egregious, outrageous, and fraught with unreasonable risk.
19. Defendant Jeriel R. Watkins (hereafter "Watkins") was, at all times material hereto, the Superintendent of NMSVH. Watkins is a resident of Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico.
20. Defendant Michael McKinney (hereafter "McKinney") was, at all times material hereto, a teacher and administrator at NMSVH. Upon information and belief, McKinney is a resident of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico.
21. Defendant Kenny Lindsey (hereafter "Lindsey") was, at all times material hereto, a teacher and administrator at NMSVH. Upon information and belief, Lindsey is a resident of Woodland Park, Teller County, Colorado.
22. Defendant Jerry Valenzuela (hereafter "Valenzuela") was, at all times material hereto, a dorm parent at NMSVH. Valenzuela is a resident of Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico.
23. Defendant Jack Harmon (hereafter "Harmon") was, at all times material hereto, a coach and teacher at NMSVH. Harmon is a resident of Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico.
24. Defendant Diane Stegemeier (hereafter "Stegemeier") was, at all times material hereto, a multi-handicapped teacher at NMSVH. Stegemeier is a resident of Durango, La Plata County, Colorado.
25. Defendant Ed Malone (hereafter "Malone") was, at all times material hereto, a dorm parent at NMSVH. Malone is a resident of Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico.
26. Defendant Juan Cardiel (hereafter "Cardiel") was, at all times material hereto, a teacher at NMSVH. Cardiel is a resident of Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico.
27. Defendant Theresa Russell (hereafter "Russell") was, at all times material hereto, a dorm parent at NMSVH. Russell is a resident of Lander, Fremont County, Wyoming.
28. Defendant Carol Kasai-Love (hereafter "Love") is a resident of Greeley, Weld County, Colorado.
29. Defendant Luana Jones (hereafter "Jones") was, at all times material hereto, a dorm parent at NMSVH. Jones is a resident of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana.
30. Defendant Claudia Lopez (hereafter "Lopez") was, at all times material hereto, a dorm parent at NMSVH. Lopez is a resident of Tularosa, Otero County, New Mexico.
31. Defendant Jake Luevano (hereafter "Luevano") was, at all times material hereto, a central receiving clerk at NMSVH. Luevano is a resident of Tularosa, Otero County, New Mexico.
32. Defendant Linda Towne (hereafter "Towne") was, at all times material hereto, a recreation worker at NMSVH. Towne is a resident of Temple, Bell County, Texas.
33. McKinney, Lindsey, Valenzuela, Harmon, Stegemeier, Malone,
Cardiel, Russell, Love, Jones, Lopez, Luevano and Towne will be referred to
hereafter, in the aggregate, as the "Individual Perpetrators."
Creation of Dangerous Conditions
34. The Board and Watkins established and enforced policies in the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's, through and including 1996, which created conditions on the premises at NMSVH which posed a danger to Plaintiffs and to the general public. Among those policies was the hiring of individuals who were psychologically unfit for the positions they held including, without limitation, the following:
A. Dennis "Speedy" Burns. Watkins and the Board hired Burns as a maintenance man at NMSVH. Burns engaged in sexual contact with a female child who was a student at NMSVH.
B. Juan Cardiel. Watkins and the Board hired Cardiel as a media teacher at NMSVH. Cardiel engaged in sexual contact with numerous female children who were students at NMSVH, some as young as fourteen years of age. Watkins and the Board knew for many years that Cardiel was sexually abusing female children at NMSVH.
C. Ralph Garner. Watkins and the Board hired Garner as the
Principal at NMSVH. Garner was a long-time friend of Watkins. Garner was an
ephebophile who engaged in sexual contact with numerous male children who were
students at NMSVH. Garner continued to serve as principal at NMSVH and to sexually
abuse male children who were students at NMSVH from 1973 until 1982 when he
was shot to death in Albuquerque after picking up a young man for sex at a gay
bar. While principal at NMSVH, Garner lived openly with a male child who was
a student at NMSVH and carried on a relationship with that child in the presence
D. Jack Harmon. Watkins and the Board hired Harmon as a coach at NMSVH. Harmon has a history of physically abusing NMSVH students who were children.
E. Scott Kyle. Watkins and the board hired Kyle as a teacher's aide at NMSVH. Kyle has sexually abused at least one female child who was a student at NMSVH. In 1990 Kyle was indicted for child abuse of another child and received probation and a deferred sentence.
F. Kenny Lindsey. Watkins and the Board hired Lindsey as a teacher of multi-handicapped children at NMSVH. Lindsey sexually abused numerous female children who were students at NMSVH and provided them with liquor and drugs in exchange for sex.
G. Michael McKinney. Watkins and the Board hired McKinney as a recreation center employee at NMSVH. McKinney sexually abused numerous female children who were students at NMSVH, and provided them with liquor and drugs in exchange for sex. McKinney was criminally prosecuted for possession of drugs with intent to distribute and was sentenced on those charges in 1990.
H. Jake Luevano. Watkins and the Board hired Luevano as a Central Receiving clerk at NMSVH. Luevano provided marijuana to children who were students at NMSVH.
I. Theresa Russell. Watkins and the Board hired Russell as a dorm parent at NMSVH. Russell sexually abused at least one male child who was a student at NMSVH.
J. Diane Stegemeier. Watkins and the Board hired Stegemeier to work with multi-handicapped students at NMSVH. Stegemeier physically abused at least one child who was a multi-handicapped student at NMSVH.
K. Jerry Valenzuela. Watkins and the Board hired Valenzuela as a dorm parent at NMSVH. Valenzuela sexually abused at least one female child who was a student at NMSVH.
35. The Board and Watkins failed to establish and enforce policies and regulations in the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's, through and including 1996, which failure created additional conditions on the premises at NMSVH which posed a danger to Plaintiffs and to the general public. Among those failures were the following:
A. Failing to provide sex education to NMSVH students despite exposing them to the above-referenced individuals. As a result, when certain of the above-referenced individuals behaved in an abusive manner toward NMSVH students, the students were unable to take necessary protective action or even know the abuse was wrong. In other cases NMSVH students reacted to their own victimization by forming roaming gangs who sexually acted out their abuse on other NMSVH students.
B. Failing to provide adequate security personnel and physical
plant security in the buildings on the NMSVH campus such that NMSVH staff and
faculty were allowed to have secluded environs, without supervision or intervention
of security personnel, in which to sexually abuse NMSVH students.
C. Failing to provide adequate security personnel and physical plant security in the buildings on the NMSVH campus such that NMSVH students were allowed to have secluded environs, without supervision or intervention of security personnel, in which to sexually abuse other NMSVH students.
D. Failing to adopt and enforce comprehensive policies, regulations, and procedures for ascertaining the fitness of individuals who sought employment at NMSVH and failing to adopt and enforce comprehensive policies, regulations, and procedures for maintaining that fitness in faculty and staff once hired.
E. Failing to adopt and enforce comprehensive policies, regulations, and procedures regarding the protection of students at NMSVH from physical and/or sexual abuse, and mandating the reporting of such abuse to law enforcement and social services agencies.
F. Discouraging NMSVH students who were victimized physically and/or sexually from reporting that abuse and instead taking punitive action against students who reported abusive individuals.
G. Failing to appreciate that visually handicapped children who are removed from their parents' homes and taken to live many miles from their parents' homes are both physically and emotionally challenged and rendered vulnerable by those circumstances and are entitled to the highest levels of protection given their vulnerabilities.
H. Requiring young boys and older boys to live together in the same dorm rooms, thereby subjecting the young boys to physical and sexual abuse by the older boys.
Conduct of the Parties
36. Jennifer was a student at NMSVH from 1970 through the spring of 1977. Jennifer is completely blind. On April 4, 1976, during her junior year, Jennifer was told to report to the gymnasium at NMSVH. She was a cheerleader, and this was not an unusual request. While on her way to the gymnasium, she was accosted by a roaming gang of four NMSVH students who gang-raped Jennifer at knife point. She was threatened by these students not to tell anyone.
37. Jennifer was then called in to speak with Watkins, who said that he had taken care of the problem and that Jennifer was not to tell anyone, particularly her parents. Watkins said that, if her parents knew, they would think that she was not a good girl. Watkins required Jennifer to continue to attend class with the perpetrators, and Watkins placed Jennifer on restricted status within the campus, meaning that she was not allowed to engage in extracurricular activities and was only allowed to leave her dorm room for classes and meals.
38. Jennifer was sixteen years old when the rape occurred. Pursuant to the Mandatory Reporting Law 32A-4-3, N.M.S.A. 1978 (Repl. Pamp. 1993), Watkins was required to report the rape to law enforcement and social services agencies in Alamogordo, which he failed to do. This failure constitutes a violation of the criminal laws of the State of New Mexico, and in particular 32A-4-3. In all of the following circumstances, Watkins also violated the Mandatory Reporting Law.
39. George was born on April 1, 1955. George is an author, an internationally renowned athlete, and a member of the New Mexico Governor's Commission on the Concerns of the Handicapped. He is the subject of a PBS documentary and a book about his life titled Running Toward the Light. Originally sighted, George lost almost all of his vision at the age of fifteen. He retains only limited peripheral vision. Shortly after he lost his sight, George's family moved to New Mexico, and he attended his senior year of high school, the 1972-1973 school year, at NMSVH. During this time in which George was coping with the depression of losing his sight and losing a promising athletic career, George was befriended by Garner, who had been brought to NMSVH by Watkins as a consultant. Garner took advantage of George's handicap and emotional vulnerability by performing non-consensual sex acts on George.
40. Brenda is a Navajo Indian. She is originally from Thoreau, New Mexico. Brenda attended NMSVH from 1978 through 1988. She is completely blind.
41. In February of 1983 another student at NMSVH asked Brenda
to go outside to talk to him about his wife and her pregnancy. The student had
impregnated another child at NMSVH. While both were students at NMSVH, they
had married, and the student said he wanted to discuss his wife with Brenda.
As soon as they were outside of the dorm room, the student grabbed Brenda by
her wrist and pushed her arm behind her back. He then took her near the home
of Watkins where there was a picnic bench. He pushed her down on the ground,
forcibly removed her clothing, and raped her.
42. Brenda went back to her room after the rape, took a shower, wrapped herself in a blanket, and sat on her bed. After a few hours she reported the rape to a dorm parent, and the next morning she was taken to the hospital, where several tests were performed. She was later called into Watkins' office, who told her that he had heard about what had happened and that the student had said that Brenda consented to the sex. Watkins told Brenda that her parents had been contacted and told not to come to the school because she was fine.
43. Subsequent to this episode, Brenda was sexually assaulted by NMSVH staff member Michael McKinney, who took her into the basement of a house, grabbed her, tried to kiss her, groped her, and fondled her.
44. In 1988 another NMSVH staff member, Kenny Lindsey, took Brenda for a walk with other students. He sat her on a bench and began to kiss and fondle her. He insisted that she have sex with him, but there was no sexual contact beyond the foregoing.
45. Ann is from Hobbs, New Mexico. She attended NMSVH from 1991 until May of 1995. Ann is completely blind.
46. In 1994, when Ann was seventeen years old, she was sexually assaulted by an NMSVH dorm parent named Jerry Valenzuela.
47. Ann attempted to discuss the events with Watkins, but he told her that he did not believe Valenzuela had sexually assaulted her and instructed her to take no action regarding the events.
48. Joshua was born on September 27, 1987. He is completely blind and multi-handicapped. He also suffers from a seizure disorder. Because of Joshua's fragile medical condition, when Joshua's parents, Daniel and Veronica, were informed that Joshua would have to attend NMSVH, they visited the NMSVH campus in Alamogordo and spoke with Principal Diane Baker, specifically asking her about hiring practices, if background checks were conducted on employees, and if appropriate security measures were in place to protect against the abuse of children at NMSVH. Diane Baker told Daniel and Veronica that all employees were screened prior to being hired and that NMSVH provided a safe environment suitable to the enhanced needs of blind and multi-handicapped children.
49. On February 29, 1996, Joshua was physically abused by Harmon, a coach at NMSVH. Specifically, Harmon locked Joshua in a closet. Joshua was only nine years old at this time and was multi-handicapped, and this experience severely frightened and traumatized him.
50. Subsequent to these events, Joshua's parents, Daniel and Veronica, were told by Diane Baker that this was the first time Harmon had ever physically abused a child. Daniel was also told by Fred Baker, the Student Services Director at NMSVH, that this was the first time Harmon had ever physically abused a child. These representations were false, for in reality Harmon had a history of physically abusing children who were students at NMSVH and had physically abused children who were students at NMSVH in the past, something which was known to Diane Baker and Fred Baker when they assured Daniel and Veronica to the contrary. Subsequently, Daniel has learned that Joshua was also physically abused by Diane Stegemeier, that this abuse was repeatedly reported to NMSVH administration including Fred Baker by another teacher, and that this abuse was withheld from Daniel and Veronica as well as from law enforcement and social services personnel.
51. Michael was born on December 15, 1985. He attended NMSVH from the fall of 1994 until October of 1995. Michael is completely blind.
52. During the winter of 1994-1995, while Michael was home for a weekend, his mother, Desiree, noticed red marks on Michael's neck. Michael told her that he had been choked by Ed Malone, his dorm parent. Desiree notified NMSVH of this physical abuse and was told that it would be taken care of. However, Malone remained in his position.
53. Shortly after the choking incident, Michael was sexually attacked by another NMSVH student. The student removed Michael's pants and put his penis in Michael's mouth. Michael felt that he could not report this incident because he would have had to report it to Malone. He feared Malone because of Malone's previous physical abuse. Michael's mother removed him from NMSVH in October of 1995.
54. Angie was born on January 5, 1975, and lost her vision at the age of two in an automobile accident in which her father and sister were killed. Angie and her mother lived in Alamogordo, and Angie attended NMSVH as a day student. She attended NMSVH from 1979 until 1989.
55. When Angie was approximately thirteen years old, she took a walk with a fellow student. The student pulled Angie to the ground, removed her clothing, and raped Angie.
56. Even before this rape, Angie had been sexually abused by two other fellow students. When she was nine or ten years old, one of the students took her to his dorm room with his dorm parent's approval and forced her to lie on top of him. the other student took her pants off and attempted to sodomize her.
57. Gloria was born on February 1, 1967, and attended NMSVH
from 1974 until 1981. Gloria is completely blind.
58. At age fourteen, Juan Cardiel, manager of the school's multi-media department, began forcing Gloria to have sex with him in the darkroom of the media center. When administrators at NMSVH found out that Cardiel was engaging in sexual contact with Gloria, they did not report the situation to law enforcement personnel, but rather they provided Gloria with birth control pills from the NMSVH infirmary. Cardiel was not terminated until several years later, and only after he had sexually abused several other female NMSVH students.
59. Gloria was also sexually abused by Mike McKinney in 1983, and raped by another NMSVH student in 1984.
60. Martin was born on November 30, 1972, and attended NMSVH until he graduated in 1991. Martin is completely blind. In 1987, when Martin was fifteen years old, he was repeatedly sexually molested by Theresa Russell, a dorm parent in the adjoining girls' dormitory. Russell would enter Martin's dorm room after hours and sexually abuse him either there or after leading him to the television room in the girls' dormitory. Watkins found out about the sexual abuse of Martin by Russell but took no action to keep it from continuing.
61.Lawrence was born on October 11, 1970. He attended NMSVH from 1984 until 1989. Lawrence is completely blind.
62. In 1988 and 1989, when Lawrence was eighteen years old, he was sexually molested by Love, Jones, and Lopez, dorm parents in the adjoining girls' dormitory. Love, Jones and Lopez would enter Lawrence's dorm room after hours and sexually abuse him there or in other locations.
63. Johnna was born on February 26, 1967 and attended NMSVH from 1982 until 1985. Johnna is completely blind.
64. In 1983, when Johnna was sixteen years old, she was raped by a visitor to the campus. Johnna reported the rape to Fred Baker, but no action was taken.
65. Johnna was also physically abused by a fellow student outside the boys' gym at NMSVH. She reported this beating to NMSVH administrators, but no action was taken.
66. Subsequent to these attacks, two NMSVH students attempted to rape Johnna. She reported this to Mike Julian, the dorm supervisor, but no action was taken.
67. Luevano then provided liquor to Johnna and subsequently raped her.
68. Tim was born on September 1, 1959. He is completely blind.
69. In 1973, when Tim was fourteen years old, he was sexually abused by two senior boys at NMSVH, one of whom is now on the NMSVH faculty. A housemother walked in on one of the episodes of abuse, but she turned around and did not do anything or take any action to report the abuse or protect Tim.
70. In 1976 and 1977, when Tim was eighteen years old, NMSVH faculty member Red Soistman purchased liquor for him and consumed it with him.
71. Also in 1976 and 1977, Towne served as the van driver at NMSVH and would drive Tim to classes at Alamogordo High School. On the way to the classes, Towne would provide Tim with marijuana and use it with him.
72. Pete was born on November 11, 1960, and attended NMSVH from 1975 until 1978. Pete is completely blind.
73. In 1975, when Pete was fourteen years old, he was sexually assaulted by an older boy at the school with whom he had been required to live.
74. Christella was born on November 11, 1978. She has attended NMSVH since 1985.
75. When Christella was twelve years old, she was repeatedly raped by a fellow NMSVH student.
76. In 1995 Christella was sexually abused by Malone. The abuse was reported to NMSVH administration, but nothing was done.
77. Bernadette was born on September 6, 1961. She attended NMSVH from 1968 to 1980.
78. In 1975, when Bernadette was in the eighth grade and only fourteen years old, Cardiel began to sexually abuse her. This abuse continued through Bernadette's ninth grade year in 1977 and occurred many times.
79. In approximately 1975 or 1976, when Bernadette was fourteen years old, Harmon sexually abused her during an NMSVH fishing trip.
80. As a result of the foregoing conduct by the Board, the individual perpetrators, and Watkins, Plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer serious emotional injuries.
Causes of Action
(Negligent Operation of School Buildings and Facilities/Board, Watkins, and Individual Perpetrators)
81. Plaintiffs re-allege paragraphs 1 through 80 hereinabove in full.
82. The Board, Watkins, and the Individual Perpetrators were under a duty to ensure that the buildings and premises of and surrounding NMSVH were operated in a safe and proper manner and to refrain from permitting conditions which created a potential risk to the general public. In that regard the Board, Watkins, and the Individual Perpetrators were under a duty to ensure that school children and the general public were not exposed to conditions which created a potential risk of injury.
83. The aforesaid conduct by the Board, Watkins, and the Individual Perpetrators constitutes a breach of the aforesaid duty.
84. As a direct result of the aforesaid conduct by the Board, Watkins, and the Individual Perpetrators, Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, the injuries stated above.
WHEREFORE, on Count I, Plaintiffs pray for actual damages of
the Board, Watkins, and the Individual Perpetrators in an appropriate amount
and such further relief as the Court deems proper.
(Assault and Battery/Individual Perpetrators)
85. Plaintiffs re-allege paragraphs 1 through 84 hereinabove in full.
86. In performing their duties as teachers, dorm parents, coaches, and staff at NMSVH, the Individual Perpetrators were under a duty to touch Plaintiffs only in those ways that a reasonable person would believe, under all circumstances, had been consented to and was legally appropriate. The conduct of the Individual Perpetrators constituted breaches of the aforesaid duties and batteries by the Individual Perpetrators upon Plaintiffs Brenda, Ann, Joshua, Michael, Gloria and Martin.
87. As a direct result of the aforesaid conduct by the Individual Perpetrators, Plaintiffs Brenda, Ann, Joshua, Michael, Gloria, and Martin have suffered, and will continue to suffer, the injuries stated above.
WHEREFORE, on Count II, Plaintiffs Brenda, Ann, Joshua, Michael, Gloria, Martin, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Christella, and Bernadette pray for actual damages of the Individual Perpetrators in an appropriate amount and such further relief as the Court deems proper.
(Sex Discrimination Pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 codified at 20 U.S.C. 1681, et seq. (1982))
88. Plaintiffs re-allege paragraphs 1 through 87 hereinabove in full.
89. NMSVH, at all times relevant to this action, has been and remains a local education agency (LEA) as defined by 1000(f) of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (codified at 20 U.S.C. 3381), and the regulations contained at 34 C.F.R. 106.2(j) (1988).
90. NMSVH is the recipient of federal financial assistance as the terms "recipient" and "federal financial assistance" have been defined in the regulations contained at 34 C.F.R. 106.2(g) and (h) (1988).
91. NMSVH is subject to the prohibitions of the Education Amendments of 1972, as codified at 20 U.S.C. 1681 and has, upon information and belief, provided satisfactory assurance of compliance with the anti-discrimination provisions of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education.
92. NMSVH and its programs are part of the education program and activity contemplated within the meaning of 20 U.S.C. 1681 by virtue of 3(a) of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (codified at 20 U.S.C. 1687).
93. For all acts complained of herein which occurred subsequent to October 21, 1986, NMSVH is not immune under the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States from a suit in federal court for violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Chapter 39, 886 Stat. 235 (1972), (codified at 20 U.S.C. 1681, et seq. (1982)). However, NMSVH is immune from suit in federal court under Title IX for all acts complained of herein which occurred prior to October 21, 1986, but may be sued in state court for those claims. Consequently, this case cannot properly be removed to federal court. See Atwa v. State of N.M. Highway Dep't., et al, Civ. No. 95-948 (Mem. Op. & Order, D.N.M. December 11, 1995; See Fay v. Davis, Civ. No. 95-949 JP/WWD (Mem. Op. & Order of Remand, D.N.M. December 5, 1995); Flores v. Long, Civ 94-731 LH/LFG (Mem. Op. & Order, D.N.M. Aug. 17, 1995); McKay v. Boyd Const. Co., 769 F.2d 1084 (5th Cir. 1985). Additionally, removal as to all claims has been waived in accordance with Jennies v. Arctic Sales, Inc., et al, Civ. No. 95-1117 LH/WWD (Mem. Op. & Order, D.N.M. February 28, 1996).
94. Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella are members of a protected group. They were subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment as specified hereinabove. The harassment was based on sex. The persistent sexual assaults and harassment on Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella were sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of their education and create an abusive environment which interfered with their ability to attend school and perform their studies and activities. Had Watkins intervened as was necessary, the injuries to Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella would have been mitigated, and the situation would have ended.
95. The deliberate indifference of the Defendants to the unwelcome sexual assaults of NMSVH students and staff upon Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella created an intimidating, hostile, offensive, and abusive school environment in violation of Title IX and the Education Amendments of 1972, Chapter 39, 886 Stat. 235 (1972), (codified at 20 U.S.C. 1681, et seq. (1982)).
96. The Defendants' indifference to the needs of students, and the needs of Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella specifically, was deliberate and done under color of state law. The Defendants' failure to take action resulted in extreme emotional damage to Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella. This conduct gives rise to claims under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Chapter 39, 886 Stat. 235 (1972), (codified at 20 U.S.C. 1681, et seq. (1982)) for injunctive relief and money damages in an appropriate amount as a direct result of deliberate indifference and intentional discrimination against Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella by employees of NMSVH.
WHEREFORE, on Count III, Plaintiffs Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella pray for actual damages of NMSVH and the Individual Perpetrators in an appropriate amount, punitive damages upon a showing of culpable mental state, and such further relief as the Court deems proper. Plaintiffs Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella also seek a permanent injunction requiring the following:
1. The immediate implementation and enforcement of a mandatory screening process of applicants for employment at NMSVH, including background investigations, drug and alcohol screening, and psychological evaluations.
2. The immediate implementation and enforcement of appropriate security measures at the NMSVH physical facility and the development of written policies, procedures, and regulations to protect students from physical and/or sexual abuse.
3. The immediate adoption and enforcement of comprehensive
policies, regulations, and procedures regarding the protection of students at
NMSVH from physical and/or sexual abuse and mandating the reporting of such
abuse to law enforcement and social services agencies.
(Americans with Disabilities Act)
97. Plaintiffs re-allege paragraphs 1 through 96 hereinabove in full.
98. Because NMSVH is a department of New Mexico's state government, it is subject to the requirements of Subtitle A, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A. 12131-34, and the regulations promulgated thereunder, 56 Fed. Reg. 35694 (codified at 28 C.F.R. Part 35) (July 26, 1991).
99. The ADA prohibits state governments from, inter alia, subjecting any qualified individual with a disability to discrimination in state programs on the basis of disability. The ADA applies to all claims which arose herein after July of 1992.
100. Among Defendants' discriminatory actions which are prohibited by the ADA and its implementing regulations are:
a. denying qualified individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the programs or services of state government;
b. denying qualified individuals with disabilities aid, benefits, or services that are as effective as those provided to non-disabled persons;
c. denying qualified individuals with disabilities any aid, benefit, or service that affords these individuals an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement in the program as that provided to non-disabled persons;
d. using criteria or methods of administration that have the purpose or effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the programs with respect to individuals with disabilities;
e. requiring qualified individuals with disabilities to participate
in different or separate services or when these separate programs are not necessary
to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive aid, benefits, or services
that are as effective as those provided to non-disabled individuals;
f. failing to provide state programs, activities, and services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities;
g. establishing and/or administering licensing or certification programs that subject qualified individuals with disabilities to discrimination;
h. imposing or applying eligibility criteria for state services
that deny individuals with disabilities the full and equal enjoyment of services
i. failing to make reasonable modifications in state programs, policies, and procedures when necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability; and
j. otherwise limiting qualified individuals with disabilities in the enjoyment of rights, privileges, advantages, or opportunities enjoyed by others receiving state aid, benefits, or services.
101. Plaintiffs Ann, Joshua, Michael, and Christella are "disabled"
within the meaning of the ADA and protected from discrimination by the Act because
they have mental and/or developmental impairments which substantially limit
one or more major life activities, have a record of such impairments, or are
regarded as having such impairments. Their claims arose subsequent to July of
102. Plaintiffs Ann, Joshua, Michael, and Christella are "qualified individuals with disabilities" within the meaning of the ADA and thus protected against discrimination by the Act because they can, with or without reasonable accommodations, meet the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of NMSVH services.
103. NMSVH, in the administration of its programs, has violated
the rights of Ann, Joshua, Michael, and Christella under the ADA by conduct
104. Plaintiffs Ann, Joshua, Michael, and Christella are entitled to damages as a consequence of the above-referenced discrimination.
WHEREFORE, on Count IV, Plaintiffs Ann, Joshua, Michael, and Christella pray for actual damages of NMSVH and the Individual Perpetrators in an appropriate amount, punitive damages upon a showing of culpable mental state, and such further relief as the Court deems proper.
(Substantive Due Process Rights to Minimally Adequate Treatment)
105. Plaintiffs re-allege paragraphs 1 through 104 hereinabove in full.
106. As children in state custody who were injured by state
actors, Plaintiffs George, Brenda, Ann, Joshua, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria,
Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella had substantive rights
to due process of law, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution, to safety, freedom from undue restraint, and minimally
107. The Individual Perpetrators have violated Plaintiffs George, Brenda, Ann, Joshua, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella's substantive due process rights by, among other things:
a. Failing to protect them from serious emotional, physical, and mental injury and other unreasonable risks to their safety while in state custody;
b. Failing to provide them with minimally adequate medical
c. Failing to provide them with minimally adequate treatment for their emotional and mental disabilities, including the failure to provide therapeutic services after each of them was abused by a state actor;
d. Failing to provide them with adequate training and habilitation, including the failure to ensure that the educational needs of children who are handicapped within the meaning of federal special education laws are taken into account in decisions regarding their treatment and care;
e. Causing their emotional condition to deteriorate by providing them inadequate services and unreasonably jeopardizing their safety and freedom; and
f. Making and implementing decisions about their treatment based on administrative and fiscal convenience, rather than professional judgment and accepted professional norms.
WHEREFORE, on Count V, Plaintiffs Jennifer, George, Brenda, Ann, Joshua, Michael, Angie, Martin, Gloria, Lawrence, Johnna, Tim, Pete, Bernadette, and Christella pay for actual damages of the Individual Perpetrators in an appropriate amount, punitive damages upon a showing of culpable mental state, attorney's fees and costs, and such further relief as the Court deems proper.
Pasternack & Blake, A Professional Corporation
by Bruce E. Pasternack
Attorney for Plaintiffs
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Endorsed and filed in my office this June 25, 1996, Monica A. Lucero, Clerk, District Court
From the Editor: Over the past two years we have reported from time to time on the situation at the Arkansas School for the Blind and on its longtime superintendent Leonard Ogburn, who was forced to resign in September of 1994. A number of staff members and former students had charged him with inappropriate behavior, and in January of 1995 he pleaded no contest to several of these charges. Some months after the case seemed to have been closed once and for all, Ogburn filed a complaint against the school's board of trustees and two men who had both been members of the Arkansas Legislature during the months of the original investigation of Ogburn's conduct.
The following story appeared in the Arkansas Gazette
Democrat on July 3, 1996. It provides what one hopes is truly the final
chapter in this sordid little story, which has become a footnote to the saga
of the ongoing struggle to provide quality education for Arkansas's blind children.
Here it is:
Called Spanker, Ex-school Chief Fails in Lawsuit Bid
by Oliver Uyttebrouck
A federal judge rejected a lawsuit filed against the Arkansas School for the Blind by former Superintendent Leonard Ogburn, who resigned in 1994 amid allegations that he spanked his employees.
U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. ruled that school board members violated none of Ogburn's constitutional rights when they forced him to resign.
Ogburn pleaded no contest in January, 1995, to a misdemeanor harassment charge.
Howard also rejected Ogburn's claim that state Representatives Mark Riable and Phil Wyrick, both D-Little Rock, made false statements to the media about Ogburn before his resignation September 23, 1994.
"The burden is on Ogburn to demonstrate that such statements, if made, were false and stigmatizing," Howard wrote Friday in his eight-page order. Ogburn made "vague references to media coverage" but didn't point to specific public statements made by legislators or board members, Howard wrote.
Howard acknowledged that board of trustees Chairman Race Drake told a television reporter the board had asked Ogburn to resign.
But Howard said the statement didn't stigmatize Ogburn or damage his reputation.
The School for the Blind board suspended Ogburn at a June 24, 1994, board meeting; Ogburn resigned September 23.
Howard also ruled that board members committed no contract violations when they asked Ogburn to resign. Under state law the superintendent serves at the behest of the board of trustees, who are ultimately responsible for management of the school, Howard wrote.
Former Little Rock Municipal Court Judge Lee Munson sentenced Ogburn to one year of probation and a $250 fine after Ogburn's plea.
A blind woman who pressed the charge said Ogburn spanked them
and said he wanted to be spanked while they were students at the school.
by Peggy Elliott
From the Editor: Peggy Pinder Elliott, NFB Second Vice President, is back with another update on the fortunes of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). This is what she says:
In NAC's early days its own descriptions of its work always reminded me of a spider in its web--an active body at the center busily spinning strands connecting itself to ever more earnestly occupied agencies, with other strands connecting many of those agencies to each other. The picture was of a complex, interwoven web, humming with activity, that represented high standards and professionalism in the blindness field. It always struck me as just plain spidery.
Now, as NAC celebrates its thirtieth birthday in 1996, NAC is much more like the itsy bitsy spider. You remember the child's song about the poor little arachnid going up the water spout and being washed out by torrents of rain and starting up the spout again. Think of the thing from the itsy bitsy spider's point of view. Wouldn't you be tired and maybe a little discouraged after getting washed out of a water spout? But you bravely try again and get the same result with a little more tiredness, a little deeper discouragement. Every time you start up the water spout, it happens again, and you weaken a little more.
Approaching the time for its six-month accreditation lists must feel to NAC like being washed down the water spout again. Every time a new accreditation list is issued, more agencies have dropped off. How many more trips up this particular water spout can be left in the itsy bitsy NAC spider before it lies down and gets up no more? These days even staff members from accredited agencies joke about how much longer NAC will last. They pass off pleas to disassociate themselves with the excuse that it's not worth the effort since NAC will be gone soon anyway.
On the July, 1996, list of accredited agencies, what do we find? Has the spider made it a little higher up the water spout? No. That question is pretty easy to answer definitively. In the past six months four schools for the blind (those located in Arkansas, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) have left the list of accredited agencies. At the beginning of 1996 NAC had fifteen accredited schools. Today, it has eleven. This means that more than one quarter of the residential schools accredited by NAC at the beginning of the year have now disassociated from NAC. And only Arkansas was scheduled to come up for re-accreditation at this time. The other three just stepped nimbly off the sinking ship.
One new agency was accredited, a low vision clinic in Akron, Ohio. A second name has re-appeared on the list of accredited agencies, one that has caused no end of merriment in Minnesota. For a number of years, the Duluth Lighthouse was the only NAC- accredited agency in Minnesota. At the beginning of 1996 the Duluth Lighthouse was dropped from the list of accredited agencies. Federationists in Minnesota celebrated the dawning of the NAC-free environment in their state, and one called the Lighthouse to offer congratulations. To her surprise, the agency head stated in no uncertain terms that the Lighthouse had not disassociated itself, had most certainly paid its dues, and fully intended to be NAC-accredited until the crack of doom or NAC's demise, whichever came first. Sure enough, the Duluth Lighthouse re-appears on the July, 1996, list. This can hardly be counted as a new accreditation. Rather it will probably set off a whole new round of mirth in Minnesota over the agency that NAC forgot, one of the very few that still wants to be accredited, summarily dropped from the list anyway.
Today 94 percent of state rehab agencies, 85 percent of schools for the blind, and 80 percent of workshops for the blind are not accredited by NAC. Smaller agencies--those not a state V.R. agency, school, or workshop--comprise twenty- nine of the fifty-nine agencies now accredited or 49 percent of the total. More and more, NAC is the accreditor of the small, the out-of-the-way, the narrow-focused (either by topic or geography) agencies. The way things are going, the itsy bitsy spider is undoubtedly grateful for any help it can get in these perilous water spouts.
But more states each year can celebrate truly NAC-free environments. New Jersey, West Virginia, and Wisconsin joined the list, now at twenty-five, of states with no NAC agencies. Sixteen states now have one NAC agency. Almost half the states (we of course include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in the Federation's list of states) are now NAC-free. And 72 percent of all NAC agencies are found in just eleven states.
Looking at the lists of agencies who have dropped NAC yields some interesting information. At some time during NAC's life, thirty schools for the blind have been accredited. Nineteen have now dropped NAC. At one time or another, thirteen V.R. agencies received accreditation. Ten have now dropped NAC. Likewise forty workshops have sought and received accreditation during NAC's life. Twenty-four have now dropped their accreditation. One wonders sometimes what the directors of the agencies still accredited think they are getting. They certainly aren't getting safety in numbers any more than they are getting accreditation that is demonstrably related to bettering the lives of blind persons. Maybe these agency heads are a little like the itsy bitsy spider themselves. That little spider always travels by itself, a kind of lonely position with which NAC and its still-accredited agencies must be very familiar.
The overall totals are the best news of all. At one time or another, 129 agencies have sought and received NAC accreditation. Of these, seventy have now dropped their association with NAC. NAC's retention rate is 46 percent, and 54 percent of agencies have fled from NAC. Poor old NAC is starting up the water spout again. Its next list of accredited agencies will be issued at the end of the year. Based on the past several years of semi-annual lists, I think NAC can count on the rain coming down and washing it out yet again. One of these times, the poor little spider will be too tired and too discouraged to get up and start back up that water spout. Will it be in 1996? We'll see. If just a few of those agency heads who now joke in private about NAC would act on their observations and save their agencies the wasted expense of paying dues to the itsy bitsy spider, we might be able to put the spider to rest once and for all.
States With No NAC-accredited Agencies as of July, 1996:
District of Columbia
States With One NAC-accredited Agency as of July, 1996:
by Kenneth Jernigan
From the Editor Emeritus: Ron Johnson was one of the band of Iowans who distinguished themselves in the 1970's as core activists in the Federation. He never held high office, but he never wanted or needed to. He knew what he believed; he knew what he needed to do to promote his belief; and he knew that for him that was sufficient.
A few years back, when it was clear that he was going to lose the battle with diabetes, he said: "I want to do whatever I can to promote the Federation, so I have taken out a $50,000 life insurance policy with the Federation as beneficiary. Maybe I can't do other things, but at least I can do this."
Toward the end, his mind and spirit were about all he had left. His legs had been amputated; his kidneys had failed; and the rest of his body was not functioning. But his will and courage never failed.
Two days before his death in mid-May he called me to say goodbye. He said that he was grateful for what the Federation had done for him, that it had made his life better and helped him in time of need. He said he prayed that the organization would progress in the years ahead--and then he said goodbye. It was that simple and that modest. To the very end he was unassuming and undramatic.
The statistics of his life don't add much beyond what I have already said. At the time of his death he was fifty-five. He had had diabetes since he was ten and had been blind for almost twenty years. I met him very soon after he lost his sight, and we continued as colleagues and friends until the day of his death.
In writing about Ron, Peggy Elliott, President of the National
Federation of the Blind of Iowa, says:
After losing his sight, Ron got a degree in computer programming and worked for over a decade at the former Banker's Trust, now Principal Financial, the fast-growing financial management firm headquartered in Des Moines. The company doesn't employ laggards, and Ron's work record establishes that he kept the pace. But Ron's real work was his family and the Federation. His four daughters teasingly called him stubborn, and we were always glad Ron was -- stubborn about believing in blind people and his responsibility to reach out and help his fellow blind men and women.
Whenever I got a call from Ron, I knew it would be about the troubles of some member. Ron never wanted me to do anything. He just wanted to know what more or differently he should do to help the chapter member. Stubborn included taking responsibility on himself to get things done to help his fellow blind men and women.
In his last several years, diabetes progressed, and Ron used
a walker to get around. No one is very speedy with a walker, and many would
have decided the effort was too great or the time too much. Ron never did. He
planned ahead, took the time, and was always at every Federation function here
and every National Convention. His sister Jackie Purdy started coming to Federation
functions with him, and she is now as valued and loved a member as Ron with
her always-cheerful, ever-committed view of life, the view she shared with Ron.
Jackie was with us as a delegate in Anaheim, and we were as glad to have her
as we will be grieved to miss Ron.
by Kenneth Jernigan
The article that came across my desk was straightforward and
clinically factual. The first sentence said: "Nell Bonnell, 93, 815 Forest
Ave., died Aug. 17, 1996, at Tompkins Memorial Health Center."
Since I had received a call from Nell's daughter Jean a short time earlier, the article was no surprise, but its impact was nonetheless strong.
As anyone with any awareness of the happenings in Iowa concerning the blind in the late 1970's would know, Nell Bonnell was more than a name to me. She was more than a colleague, more than a friend. She was ally, defender, fearless advocate, comforter, and wise counselor. She was an essential element in building a philosophy and establishing a program that brought hope and opportunity to the blind of Iowa and provided inspiration and guidance to blind people throughout the nation and, indeed, the world.
I first met Mrs. Bonnell (I called her "Nell") in the 1960's. She was a leader (and later president) of the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs. The Women's Clubs had worked with the Iowa Commission for the Blind for many years (in fact, the relationship started before I came to Iowa in 1958) to sell towels and other products made by the blind in the home industries program. But Nell helped revolutionize the relationship to a broader vision and a more productive effort. She was appointed to the board of the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1969, but long before that she had been using her contacts and exerting her influence to change what it meant to be blind in Iowa.
She was not a passive member of the Commission board. She was secure enough in her person and clear enough in her thinking not to feel the necessity of disagreeing on every issue just to show that she was independent and able to think for herself. She disagreed when she needed to and said what she thought needed saying, but there was a close bond between us. She trusted me, and I trusted her, each of us knowing that the other would be there when needed and not susceptible to intimidation, flattery, or flim-flam. She never felt the need for the center of the stage but went about doing what was needed in a quiet, efficient way.
In an age when the term has been debased by those who mostly can't measure up, Nell Bonnell was a lady. She could put you in your place without being shrill, and she did not equate femininity with bad manners and overt aggressiveness. And then there was Wayne. He to her and she to him made a team of husband and wife hard to find and a joy to observe. Wayne took part in Federation activities and supported the work of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. He was generous and genuine.
When Michael Gartner, Jerry Szumski, and a few others at the
Des Moines Register tried to boost the newspaper's sagging circulation
by attacking me as an individual and the Commission as an organization in the
late 1970's, Nell did not do what many did. She did not neutralize and run.
She did not cower at the bullying tactics of the slanted reporting and the downright
lies. She stood her ground and never wavered. As so often happens, time proved
her to be right. Anyone who remembers Michael Gartner's disgrace in the scandal
that developed when he was head of NBC News will know what I mean.
After the end of her term on the board of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, Nell continued her interest in affairs of the blind. As long as her health permitted, she came to NFB conventions and took part in state and national activities. She was truly part of our movement. She cared; she understood; and she translated her belief into action. Her going is a great loss--to me personally and to the blind of the nation.
by Peggy Elliott
From the Editor: Peggy Pinder Elliott is a long-time Federationist. Early last spring an event occurred about which she had very strong feelings. Here is what she said about it:
I have always taken pride in the fact that in the Braille Monitor we publish what we believe to be true. Sometimes that means offering criticism and identifying room for improvement according to our beliefs. We rarely take note of the positions of others in the blindness field unless they correlate with our own. We naturally prefer to convey our message, not someone else's.
However, there are times when taking note of another organization's position is instructive.
Federationists know that we have worked for more than twenty-five years to raise or remove altogether the earnings limitation looming over Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients who attempt to work. We have always known this was a long-term goal, and we have made significant advances elsewhere while continuing to work on the earnings limit. But in 1995 it looked as though it might happen. Congress became serious about raising the earnings limit for retirees under seventy, and we hoped to be included. We tried to preserve the language that already linked seniors and the blind in the SSDI method of determining eligibility, which considers earnings and one additional, measurable characteristic--either blindness or age.
The Federation believes that a substantial increase in the
earnings limitation or its abolition will be the single biggest employment booster
for working-age blind people, only 30 percent of whom are now employed. Through
1995 and the first three months of 1996, we called, wrote, visited, did whatever
we could think of to convince Members of Congress to include us. The final vote
was taken in March of 1996, in the middle of a thicket of bills, rules, procedures,
and customs involving both the House and the Senate. Though it was close, we
lost. The link between the blind and seniors has now been broken. As a result
the earnings limit for seniors will almost triple in the next seven years while
that for the blind will creep up to about $14,000 in that same period. We were
disappointed and vowed to continue our struggle. Some of the most disappointed
were the fifty or so men and women from throughout the country who dropped everything
and raced to Washington in the final week leading up to the decisive vote.
Now we come back to the omission. As these Federationists traversed Capitol Hill, they realized that they had arrived almost simultaneously with participants in the legislative seminar jointly sponsored by the American Council of the Blind and the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind. Federationists were seeing members and staff just ahead of or just behind ACB and ALL folks. ACB's agenda included a lengthy piece on public transportation as well as treatment of Social Security.
Imagine our amazement upon reading the ACB legislative memo when we found not one single instance of the phrase, "preserve the linkage" or the phrase "raise the earnings limit" or the phrase "remove the earnings limit." How could this be? The issue has been on the front burner for more than a year. Its climactic days were those on which ACB and ALL were there. Didn't they know? Didn't they care? Did they write their document a month or two earlier and then feel disinclined to change it in the circumstances? Who knows?
The one thing we do know is that the written material presented
to House members that fateful week by the ACB and ALL bore no mention of preserving
the link or raising the earnings limit. It's a good thing those fifty Federationists
dropped everything and went to Washington. Without them this issue, so pivotal
to blind people, would not have been discussed at all immediately before the
This month's recipes were submitted by members of the National
Federation of the Blind of Utah.
COUNTRY-STYLE PORK RIBS
by Kristen Jocums
After having served as First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah for three years, Kristen Jocums was elected President on June 1, 1996. She was a National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner in 1992 and now owns and operates her own law practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kristen served as Salt Lake City Chapter President for four years. The following recipes for pork ribs and yogurt pie are dishes Kristen serves at summer cookouts. The pesto recipe is one of her favorite low-fat dishes.
1 cup red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 small onion, peeled and stuck with three whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds country-style ribs, cut into individual servings
1 teaspoon salt
finely ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe sour cream sauce (recipe follows)
Method: For the marinade, combine the ingredients in the list
from red wine to garlic in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup marinade
for sour cream sauce. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper, place in bowl with
marinade and soak two hours at room temperature or in refrigerator overnight
(turn ribs occasionally).
SOUR CREAM SAUCE
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small onions, finely minced
1/2 cup reserved marinade
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sour cream at room temperature
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
Method: Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and transparent. Add reserved marinade, increase the heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until mixture is reduced by one third. Add the pepper and stir in the sour cream. Remove the mixture from the heat as soon as sour cream is well incorporated. Do not boil. Stir in parsley. Refrigerate the sauce while preparing ribs.
Remove ribs from marinade and grill on an outdoor barbecue for
approximately ten minutes. Flip the ribs over, baste with reserved marinade,
and grill for another ten minutes. Continue the process, basting and grilling
both sides of ribs until the marinade forms a thick glaze over the meat. Grilling
time will vary but will take approximately forty-five minutes. You may also
cook these ribs under the broiler in the oven, using the same glazing technique.
Serve with sour cream sauce.
by Kristen Jocums
1 Graham cracker crust
1 3-ounce package lemon Jello
2/3 cup boiling water
2 8-ounce containers plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon peel
Method: Make the Jello with boiling water, stir in the remaining
ingredients (except Cool Whip), making sure mixture is smooth. Pour into graham
cracker crust and refrigerate overnight. Top with Cool Whip and serve.
by Kristen Jocums
4 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 cup chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup lightly toasted almonds
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
Method: In a large pot, steam the broccoli over the broth for five minutes, or until tender. To the remaining broth add enough liquid to measure six tablespoons. Using a food processor or blender, drop garlic into the work bowl and process until minced. Add basil and almonds until finely chopped. Add two tablespoons of the broth and process until smooth. Add the broccoli, salt, parmesan, and remaining liquid. Process until very smooth, scraping the sides frequently. Serve over your favorite pasta.
by Gloria Taylor
Michael and Gloria Taylor are from Taylorsville, Utah, the newest city in Utah as of July, 1996. They have both been very active in the Salt Lake Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind for many years. They work wherever or whenever called upon in any assignment given to them. Here are several favorite recipes they cook and prepare for others to enjoy.
1 package 2-layer chocolate cake mix
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 6-ounce package chocolate chips
Method: prepare cake according to package directions. Fill muffin cups about 1/3 full. Cream the cheese with the sugar. Beat in egg and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop one rounded teaspoon cheese mixture into each cupcake. Add another 1/3 cake mixture, filling cups 2/3 full. Bake as package directs. Makes about thirty cupcakes. Frost with chocolate or vanilla frosting.
THE TAYLORS' SPECIAL PUNCH
by S. Michael Taylor
6 bananas, mashed in blender
1 standard can crushed pineapple, about 14 ounces
1 large can frozen orange juice
1 small can frozen lemon juice
1 large can pineapple juice
3 cups hot water
2 cups sugar
Method: Combine all ingredients and pour into clean milk cartons to freeze, two to four days prior to party. Thirty minutes before serving, remove from freezer and add three quarts of 7-Up. Makes six quarts.
by Gloria Taylor
1 pound (or more) ground beef
1 small onion, chopped (dried onion may be substituted)
3 or 4 large potatoes
2 cans tomato soup
1 can vegetables (corn, beans, or peas)
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup crushed potato chips
Method: Cook potatoes and make into mashed potatoes. Brown hamburger and onions, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Layer ingredients in greased casserole dish in the following order: ground beef and onions, tomato soup, vegetables, mashed potatoes, cheese, and crushed potato chips. Serve with a green salad and a hot roll, and you've got a delicious meal.
Fifth Format Available:
As Monitor readers know, This magazine has been available for some time in four formats: print, Braille, cassette, and NFBNET--our bulletinboard service. Brian Buhrow, Chairman of the NFB's Research and Development Committee, reports that the Braille Monitor is now available through e-mail. This is what he says:
The National Federation of the Blind is proud to announce the availability of the Braille Monitor by electronic mail. Now you can receive an electronic copy of this publication in your e-mail box every month.
To receive a monthly subscription to the Braille Monitor by electronic mail, follow these instructions:
Send an electronic message to [email protected], containing the line subscribe brl-monitor FirstName LastName.
Be sure to replace "FirstName LastName" with your full name. Also be sure to send your subscription request from the e-mail address at which you wish to receive the electronic text. We will use your return e-mail address to send you the Monitor each month.
Once you have sent this request and we have entered your name in the mailing list, you will receive an acknowledgement stating that you have been added to the list and welcoming you aboard.
Once you are subscribed, you will receive an electronic copy of the Braille Monitor each month. No other messages will come from this list. If you attempt to reply to the messages containing the Braille Monitor, your replies will not be read. If you wish to communicate with the National Center, send e-mail to [email protected] or telephone (410)659-9314. If you wish to communicate with the administrator of the electronic distribution software, send e-mail to: [email protected]
NOTE: If you have any questions about the list, how to subscribe or unsubscribe; or if you want to say something about the distribution mechanism, feel free to send mail to: [email protected]
We hope you enjoy this latest method of access to the periodical of the organization that's changing what it means to be blind, the National Federation of the Blind.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Perkins Braille writer in guaranteed perfect condition (has just been serviced) $400. Call John Stiff at (901) 925- 5108.
New International Radio Program:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For the first time in history the experiences of people with disabilities can be heard on radio around the world. Issues, events, and political analysis affecting people with disabilities are the subject matter of the weekly half-hour program, Disability Radio World-wide. Recent programs have included reproductive health care and women with disabilities, the history of people with disabilities, the values of disability culture, people with disabilities in the Holocaust, community-building, the experiences of women with disabilities at the NGO Forum on Women in Beijing, the progress of children with disabilities in Nicaragua, and the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans.
Producer and host Jean Parker is a well-known disability rights activist, with years of experience working in the movement. "This program is creating a global forum for the exchange of information and ideas over great geographic distances for the first time," said Henry Enns, Executive Director of Disabled People's International and a recent guest on the program. "People with disabilities all around the globe can hear interviews with leaders in the movement as well as those who have a story to tell. Radio provides an excellent way for us to communicate with each other as well as to document our experiences for the future."
Disability Radio World-wide is broadcast from Costa Rica on Radio for Peace International on short wave frequencies 7385 and 15050, Mondays at 19:00 UTC, and Saturdays at 22:00 UTC, each with a second broadcast eight hours later on 7385. It is also carried by KGNU Radio in Boulder, Colorado. For more information write to P.O. Box 200567, Denver, Colorado 80220, USA.
Clearinghouse Service Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Used Equipment Clearinghouse is a free service that matches someone who wants to buy (for example a slate) with a person who wishes to sell one. For more information write in print or Braille or on tape or 3.5" or 5.25" IBM ASCII disk to Barbara Mattson, 519 E. Main St., #8, Spartanburg, South Carolina 29302, phone, (864) 585-7323.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
TeleSensory Braille Interface Terminal (BIT) with 20- cell Braille display, Braille keyboard, PC card, joystick, software, and manuals: $1,500. Also Personal Touch Braille Notetaker with 20-cell display, one megabyte of memory, PCMaster software, connecting cables, and manuals: $2,000. Prices do not include shipping. Call Harold Snider (301) 460-4142.
In June President Maurer received a postcard from Rick Fox, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, giving official notification that he and Debby Bloomer were married. The card was postmarked "Bermuda" and read:
On June 1, 1996, Debbie Bloomer and I were married. We are honeymooning in Bermuda. We are making momentous decisions such as when to go to the beach and how long to stay in the water, Rick Fox.
Congratulations to the Foxes.
Pamela Provost, President of the Chicago Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, reports that on April 13, 1996, the chapter elected the following officers: Pamela Provost, President; Debbie Stein, First Vice President; Tony Burda, Second Vice President; Catalina Martinez, Secretary; and Connie Davis, Treasurer. Board members are Pam Gillmore, Eileen Truschke, Steve Hastalis, and Brian Johnson.
We have been asked to carry the following request:
Seeking home-based business or employment opportunities. Please send information to John Murphy, 24A Coddington Street, Newport, Rhode Island 02840.
For Sale and Hoping to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Colorado trakker T-1000 external tape back-up system for sale. Connects to your computer through the parallel port. Has a pass-through parallel port feature for printer connection. Transfer rate is five to eight megabytes per minute. Capacity is 800 megabytes per tape cartridge. Software works well with speech programs. Comes with power adapter and connection cable. Asking $350. I am willing to trade for a Perkins Brailler in fine condition or several Perkins Braillers in poor condition. For a cash sale a payment plan is negotiable.
Reconditioned Perkins Braille Writers for sale. Costs start at $300. Trade-ins are accepted. Payment plans are negotiable.
Interested in earning some extra cash? I am looking to purchase some Perkins Braille Writers. Look deep into those hidden places. If you have a Perkins Braille Writer that you'd like to sell (working or non-working, missing some parts or all together), contact Nino Pacini (evenings and weekends only) at (313) 885-7330.
Creative Inventor Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Attention all companies that develop adaptive technologies: Visually impaired employee needs screen enlargement capability for a single terminal on a Windows- based telemarketing computerized dialing system which uses one lead terminal that controls thirty-two dummy terminals. An emulator that would enlarge all the computer screens is unacceptable to my employer, who is willing to provide a reasonable accommodation but does not want to disrupt the system in any way. Research indicates that there is no current solution to this problem. But I believe that somewhere there is a knowledgeable, creative inventor interested in developing such a product that could be marketed to the booming telemarketing industry. Your ingenuity could open wider the doors of employment opportunity and greatly help to decrease the 70 percent unemployment rate of those with visual impairments. I want to keep my job, and I know there are many others who are ready, willing, and able but still waiting to go to work. Can you help, or do you know someone who can? Please contact me between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., Eastern Time at (717) 244-8144, or write to Norma Jean Flinchbaugh, 1225 Snyder Corner Road, Red Lion, Pennsylvania 17356-9774.
Mary Hartle-Smith, Secretary of the Bix Beiderbecke Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, reports the chapter's election results: Deb Smith, President; Tom TeBockhorst, Vice President; Mary Hartle- Smith, Secretary; John TeBockhorst, Treasurer; and Mike Smith, Board member.
The recipes column in the June issue of the Braille Monitor included Ruth Broadnax's Hummingbird Cake. The list of ingredients failed to include 1 1/2 cups oil. We apologize for not noticing this omission.
Religious Cassette Magazine Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The "Circle of Love" is a ninety-minute Christian cassette magazine that features music, Bible games, a prayer request section, a pen-pal section, a birthday column, a timely sermon, and other matters of interest to blind individuals. There is a $15 per year cost for the magazine, but a free sample will be sent upon request. Contact Circle of Love Tape Ministry for the Blind, 1002 Johnson St., Pasadena, Texas 77506-4618, or call (800) 677-1207 and then enter pin #1250. Immediately press the pound key (lower right key on touchtone pad) and give your name and address, spelling any difficult names.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Sturdy black check-writing guides, which fit standard-size bank checks, are available for $4.50 each. These guides hold the check securely and have cutouts for date, payee, check description, and amount, plus the signature. They double as excellent signature guides. Make checks payable to Rev. George E. Gray, 1002 Johnson St., Pasadena, Texas 77506-4618.
Fun and Entertaining Computer Games for the Blind:
Curtis Chong, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, recently wrote us with the following information:
Whenever blind people talk about computers today, it is mostly in the context of doing this or that piece of work. We need to run the word processor to write a paper or a letter. We want to run the data base program to analyze data or produce a report. Rarely do we think of the computer as something that can be fun.
Even in the early days of the IBM Personal Computer, we had to content ourselves with intellectually challenging text games such as Zork, Adventure, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the like. But let's face it. These games might have been intellectually stimulating, but they weren't really entertainment. They never tested our physical reflexes, our ability to detect small sounds, or our hand- to-ear coordination.
Now there is a company which markets a few really good, fun, sometimes educational computer games--games designed especially for the blind. The name of the company is Personal Computer Systems. One of the games I have tried is called Shooting Range. This game, which was written especially for the blind, is a tremendous test of one's hand-to-ear coordination. It produces real sound effects (better sound if you have a multimedia sound card), and it is really fun to play! The cost? Well, Shooting Range sells for only $30.
The company also sells a Monopoly game, a bowling game, and a math game for blind children--all for very reasonable prices. For further information contact Personal Computer Systems, 551 Compton Avenue, Perth Amboy, New Jersey 08861, Phone (908) 826-1917.
Robin Zook Doyle, a 1990 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner, gave birth to a seven-pound, one- ounce son named Hiram Patrick Doyle on July 9, 1996, at 10:14 p.m. The whole family is doing well.
Also, we have just learned that at 3:25 a.m., Thursday, September 5, Philip Kenneth Gabias came into the world weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces and measuring 19 1/2 inches long. Mother Mary Ellen; Dad Paul, President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users and President of the National Federation of the Blind-Advocates for Equality; big sister Joanne; and big brother Goeffrey are all fine and excited at the prospect of having another member of the Canadian delegation at next summer's National Convention. Congratulations to the entire Gabias family.
Buffa Hanse, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas, sent us the following short report:
A Windows access seminar for the blind sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Services for the Blind was held May 13, 1996, in Little Rock. A wide-ranging and lively discussion about the challenges of graphical user interfaces (GUI) was led by Federationist, consultant, and R & D Committee member Dr. Harold Snider in the morning. In the afternoon participants, including vision consultants and teachers, rehabilitation counselors, students, and consumer group representatives, engaged in hands-on demonstrations with computer vendors representing Micro-Talk, Henter-Joyce, G.W. Micro, TeleSensory, and Artic Technologies. Participants left with a clear understanding of the visual nature of the Windows Operating System, some training resources, challenges, and an awareness of the leadership role of the International Braille & Technology Center and the R & D Committee of the National Federation of the Blind.
A Guide to Home Ownership Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Fannie Mae Corporation has produced A Guide to Home Ownership on cassette and in Braille. The cost is $10, and it can be ordered by calling (800) 471-5554 or by writing Fannie Mae, Customer Education Group; 3900 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20016-2899.
Two Medical Pamphlets Available on Tape:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research is releasing a new audiotape to help consumers make informed decisions about surgery and pain control after surgery. The audiotape is a narration of two agency booklets, Be Informed: Questions To Ask Your Doctor Before You Have Surgery (Side A) and Pain Control After Surgery--A Patient's Guide (Side B). Side A provides twelve questions for patients to ask their primary care doctor and surgeon before having surgery--and why each question is important. Side B explains treatment options and other information to help patients suffering from post-surgical pain.
Free single copies are available from AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, Maryland 20907, or call (800) 358-9295. Please refer to AHCpR #96-DP02 when ordering. Supplies are limited. Copies are also available from the Library of Congress's regional and sub-regional libraries for the blind and physically handicapped.
The brochures are available online through the AHCPR website at http://www.ahcpr.gov:80/consumer/surgery.htm (surgery) and at http://text.nlm.nih.gov/ftrs/dbaccess/apmp (pain control)
Hoping to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am currently a student attending the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, and I am in need of a CCTV. I would like to have a used model in good condition and would be willing to pay up to $150. Contact Janis Baker at (202) 544-6792.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
DECtalk Express and DECtalk internal PC card synthesizers, $950 each. Also external DECtalk Classic synthesizer. Make a reasonable offer. You can contact me in any format -- print, tape, or Braille -- and by phone. I will ship all items UPS-insured. Contact Roger Behm, 1611 Clover Lane, Janesville, Wisconsin 53545, (608) 754-0658.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am a college student who has recently acquired my first guide dog and am interested in corresponding by cassette with other college students who have guide dogs. I hope that people who have had more experience working with a guide dog can share helpful suggestions and experiences with me. If interested, please send correspondence to Carmella Broome, 129 Broome Lane, Jackson, South Carolina 29831.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Braille 'n Speak Classic, asking $350 (negotiable). Dymo tape, five rolls for $18 plus $3 shipping and handling. Ten rolls for $30 plus $3 shipping and handling. Contact Isaac Obie, 755 Tremont Street, Apt. 205, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, (617) 247-0026.
Spreading the Word:
Peggy Chong, President of the Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, writes as follows:
Old Dogs and New Tricks is the latest Kernel Book, and we in Minnesota look forward to adding it to our collection of literature. We ordered over 1,100 copies of this book. Many will go into our Christmas mailing to all of our donors from our mail campaign. Many more will find their way into school libraries throughout the Metro area.
Each time we go out to speak to public school classes, civic clubs, or groups of employers--we take along NFB materials. Many times this means copies of Kernel Books. In fact, in some cases we have been called back and asked if there are any other Kernel Books that the school could add to its library.
Ruth Broadnax, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee, writes to say that the NFB of Tennessee congratulates Reggie Lindsey, affiliate president, and his wife Erlina, who after long anticipation have become the proud parents of five-year-old Chelsey and seven-year- old Anthony Lindsey. Reggie and Erlina have served as foster parents for many years. They have opened their hearts as well as their home to several children. Upon returning home from the National Convention in Anaheim in July, Reggie and Erlina were graced with the good news that Chelsey and Anthony would now be little Lindseys. Chelsey and Anthony attended the National Convention with their proud dad and mom. Congratulations and lots of luck to all the Lindseys.
Cassette Tutorials Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Talk-Me-Through Tutorials by Phil Scovell are what their name implies -- clear, concise, step-by-step instructions with at-the-computer demonstrations on cassettes of many popular PC computer programs used by blind persons, such as WordPerfect, DOS, Commo, Telix, Talking Directory, Q&A, Readit, and many more. You don't have to be blind to take advantage of this easy way to learn computer programs.
There are TMT tutorials on how to access the Internet, how to send and receive e-mail, how to join chat groups, and how to download files from the Internet. There are TMT tutorials on faxing, cleaning up viruses, DOS utilities, and many other subjects. Appropriate software is available with many of the TMT tutorials for a nominal cost. To order or for more information, contact Ray Lemos, 780 Post Street #26, San Francisco, California 94109 or e-mail [email protected]
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
International Disabled Marketing Associates (IDMA) is pleased to announce the immediate availability of the following catalogs for 1996-97: (1)The Ann Morris Enterprises catalog of innovative products for blind and visually impaired people, featuring 190 new products. Available in large print; audio cassette, and IBM disk (no charge); or Braille edition, $6. (2)Electronics catalog for home and business, one cassette, $1. (3)The Amway Christmas catalog, two cassettes, $1.50.
IDMA pays substantial cash rebates for products purchased through both Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc., and Amway. Contact Jack Morgan, President, IDMA, 901 Freeport Road, Creighton, Pennsylvania 15030-1049, (412) 226-9855.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Exercise tape, guitar instructions, country music. "Moving With Marge," a 50-minute exercise program, was produced for people of all ages. Side one contains detailed instructions for many exercises, which are to be done to the music on side two. Each side is more than 50 minutes in length. "Learn to Play Country Quickly" is a 90-minute instructional tape for beginner guitarists. "To You With Love," a tape of ten country songs, features Ray and Lois Howard and their seven adult children. Each of the cassettes sells for $7.50 per copy.
The Howards also have for sale a Yamaha Programmable Rhythm Section, $150; a set of three never-used cordless mikes, $60; and a Morse Code keyboard, $25.
You may contact the Howards at 61951 High Hill Road, Cambridge, Ohio 43725 or (614) 432-2287.
Buffa Hanse, President of the NFB of Arkansas, reports the following good news:
The Arkansas May primary coincided with the birthday of the Howard County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas. Officers include Charles Epton, President; Daisy Johnson, Vice President; and Rose Bissell, Secretary/Treasurer. Board members are Bill Strong, Norman Adamson, Charlie Caldwell, and Willie Benson. Newly elected state Senator Jim Hill, members of the press, and community residents enjoyed a catfish dinner.
Fun and Food in Mississippi:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Hardy Enterprise is sponsoring a 1997 Super Feast of the Disabled. The festival will be held on Saturday, January 25, 1997, at the Frank Cochran Center located at 1725 Carseal Drive in Meridian, Mississippi. The festival will include a talent showcase, comedy show, talk and discussion segment, as well as a picnic.
The festival will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and an after party will be held from 8:00 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $25 (non-refundable); the deadline for tickets is January 1, 1997. One price includes all activities. I am also looking for disabled talent to participate in the talent show and talk segment of the feast.
For more information about the festival and hotel group rates, call Mr. Eldridge Hardy at (334) 269-5870, Monday through Thursday evenings, and weekends at (334) 418-0308.
On April 25, 1996, the Harbor View Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine held its annual election. The following officers were elected: Robert Whitney, President; Bruce Westfall, Vice President; and Walter Stredt, Secretary/Treasurer.
New Hadley Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Hadley School for the Blind is pleased to offer a brand new course catalog available in large print and Braille and on audio cassette and disk. Students can select from more than ninety courses in six core course areas: Academic and High School, Braille and other Communication Skills, Independent Living and Life Adjustment, Recreation and Leisure Time, Technology, and Parent/Family Programs. To that end, Hadley offers courses for the parents of blind children, for the families of adult blind individuals, for high school students preparing for college, and independent living courses for older adults who have become blind later in life.
To order the catalog, contact Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, Illinois 60093-0299, (847) 446-8111.
Another Advance In Eye Research:
The following item appeared in a recent publication issued by Johns Hopkins University:
New Protein Tricks Body Into Attacking Cornea
Johns Hopkins researchers have found a previously unknown protein in the eye that leads to "meltdown" of the cornea, the clear covering of the opening of the eye, which leads to painful blindness.
The Hopkins team found evidence that part of the protein, called CO-Ag, may resemble the surfaces of certain bacteria or viruses. In a disease called Mooren's ulcer, this similarity apparently fools the immune system into mistaking the protein for a germ. In the resulting attack on the protein, the cornea is destroyed.
"The finding should help us determine the cause of this disease and why only certain groups of people get it," says John Gottsch, associate professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Hopkins.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Springfield Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts recently elected Diane Hall, President; Paulette Gordon, Recording Secretary; Keith Bartin, Treasurer; and Joseph Mitchell, Sergeant at Arms. Wenda Ryan, and Joan Merrill were elected to the board.
New Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Give the gift that says something. Our new fall/winter, 1996 catalog promises to be the best yet. Speak to Me will premiere a generous selection of Christmas holiday gifts and decorations plus a wide variety of children's and novelty products. There are plenty of singing and musical holiday Santas and bears, singing and talking greeting cards, "Star Trek" and "X Files" talking products, a new 60-second recording pen that lets you even retrieve erased messages, fun singing and musical Coke collectibles, serenity prayer key chain, new hand-held talking bingo box, and lots more. For the kiddies, a loveable and cuddly talking blanket along with a child's lamp that dims every fifteen minutes with a song until it goes completely out. Plenty of wacky and zany novelty items for those who tend to like the more unusual. Call (800) 248-9965 (PST) to receive your free '96 Speak to Me catalog. Request print, cassette, or IBM floppy copy.
Sir Isaac Newton Meets Arthur Segal: The Effects of Gravity on the Bionic Man:
Don Morris, Treasurer of the Merchants Division, recently wrote the following report:
It was a warm summer Sunday when Sir Isaac Newton, asleep under a tree (he swears he was only thinking with his eyes shut), was hit on the head by an apple which had lost its grip. No one else having claimed the honor, Newton declared thereupon that he had discovered gravity. Gravity is that irresistible force which makes true the statement, "Everything that goes up must come down." But you already knew that.
Now, in your mind move forward several hundreds of years and again imagine a warm summer Sunday. This time, however, our intrepid hero is long-time Federationist Arthur Segal. He and a friend were visiting a farmer's market in downtown Baltimore. Like Newton, Arthur is a man of distinction and honor. He is a former president of the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind and one of a handful of life members of the division. Arthur's friend owns a nice leather leash, one end of which she attaches to her dog. Arthur volunteered to hold the other end while his friend finished her shopping. The dog waited patiently with Arthur for approximately twenty-eight seconds before it felt compelled to circle Arthur and then try to make its escape. With his leg tangled in the leash, certain events inevitably took place. As Arthur lost his balance, Newton's discovery once more came into play. Terpsichorean sashay notwithstanding, gravity ultimately won out, and Arthur (as they say) "bit the dust."
You've probably wondered at what point the bionic man would enter this story. The answer is right now, or at least when Arthur was released from surgery with a steel pin in his arm, which rejoined the three broken pieces. Arthur and the Six Million Dollar Man assumed a common bond.
Arthur asks that this article include three important points: He is on the mend and doing well. Second, he thanks his friends for their cards and phone calls. And third, the two jars of jam he was holding both survived the ordeal unscathed.
Recipe Collections on Tape:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Six recipe tapes on 90-minute cassettes for sale: Crockpot Recipes, Diabetic Recipes, Vegetarian Dishes, Microwave Recipes, One-Meal Dishes, and Desserts--all packed with delicious recipes. Each cassette is $12. Place your order in print or cassette format (I do not read Braille).
Send check, money order, or cash to Janet Murphy, 24A Coddington St., Newport, Rhode Island 02840. Your cassette will be sent the next day.
Technical Toy Committee Established:
Robert Jaquiss of the NFB's Science and Engineering Division writes as follows:
Modern technology has changed the way
people are educated. Books with narrative texts and classroom models that showed
objects, systems,and concepts have given way to more pictures, video presentations,
and even virtual reality. A blind person cannot learn and keep pace with sighted
peers in such an environment. As a consequence blind learners must have access
to diagrams and models in order to stay competitive. Some sighted people also
benefit when presented with tactual experiences. For example, the Montessori
educational approach is one of the most widely known methods for teaching by
engaging all the senses. Whenever possible, models should be used in addition
to experiences from the real world. When models such as animals are used with
small children, the children must understand that a toy cow is not a living
cow. The best way to learn about a cow is to feel a real cow.
A model is a three-dimensional object. There are several classes of models including scale models, conceptual models, and learning systems. Scale models are models of large objects such as airplanes, ships, and automobiles. Anatomical models fall into this category. Conceptual models explain concepts such as the dissection of a cone and other concepts used in plain and spherical geometry.
Learning systems are the most advanced form of models. Examples of learning systems include everything from toy automobiles, airplanes, and boats that can move to construction sets such as Erector, Mechano, Lego, and Fischertechnik.
The Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind has formed a committee to address the issue of technical toys for the blind. The purpose of the committee is to create sets of instructions for construction toys suitable for blind people. This committee intends that blind children and blind parents be able to use the various construction toys such as Lego, Erector Set, Fischertechnik, and others now on the market. Blind people can work with construction toys if they have accessible instructions. If you are interested in helping with this project, or for more information, please contact Robert Jaquiss, 11970 SW 9th Street, Beaverton, Oregon 97005, phone (503) 626-7174 (Home), e-mail [email protected]
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Blind Center in Washington, North Carolina, has items that can be sold as fund raisers. These items have been made by the blind and visually impaired in this area. Contact the Blind Center, P.O. Box 491, Washington, North Carolina 27889, or call (919) 946-6208 for more information.
More about Rebounders:
From the Editor: In the June issue we carried a notice about the virtues of Rebounders, small trampolines for exercise. I have now purchased one of these units and find it easy and fun to use. Michelle Landry, who asked us to run the original miniature, now writes as follows:
I have a concept for modifying the Rebounder so that blind users can exercise with it and still use their arms for additional activity. The manufacturer that makes the top-of-the-line Rebounder that I sell is willing to work with me. He can produce the finished product in just a few months. Aerobic classes can use these units. Rebounding is excellent for everyone, young and old: pregnant women and those with sports injuries, bad backs, or cancer--because of its detoxifying effects on the lymphatic system. Weight- lifters can use it for enhanced results. They can also use weights while rebounding for building unbelievable strength. Excellent for anyone with a missing leg. Rebounding is next to non-impact exercise, making it an excellent exercise for everyone.
The Rebounder is friendly when the weather isn't. I would like to use this notice as a survey to find out how much interest there is in my idea of modifying the rebounder to dispense with the stabilizing bar for additional exercise. Sending $1 with a business-sized SASE will provide complete information about rebounding and its benefits.
Any interest, comments, or suggestions will be greatly appreciated. I need survey results to apply for grants and to show the manufacturer.
The Rebounder measures 40 inches in diameter. It comes in non-fold or half-fold styles and classic (firm) or soft bounce (for a bouncier bounce, more popular than firm). The classic is for a heavier or larger person or for heavy workouts. The half-fold is excellent for travel and storage (more popular than non-fold model). The half-fold comes with a carrying case and a book in its pocket.
I am selling the Rebounders at the manufacturer's suggested price. The shipping for the Rebounder or the stabilizing bar, when ordered separately, is $15 each. If the Rebounder is ordered together with the stabilizing bar, I'll absorb the shipping, which will come to $20.
Prices are Half-fold (soft bounce), $249.95; Half-fold Classic (firm), $229.95; Non-fold (soft bounce), $219.95; Non-fold Classic (firm), $198; stabilizing bar, $50.
I would appreciate a very quick call to my answering machine including name, address, phone number, and comments to keep on file to show to manufacturer and to apply for grants. Contact Michelle Landry, Air Robics, P.O. Box 28362, Parkville, Maryland 21234, phone (410) 668-7120.
New Book Available:
We have just learned that Hip Deep in Trouble and Angling for More, a novel suitable for teens, is available for $12 from the author Loraine Stayer, Editor of Slate and Style, the quarterly publication of the NFB Writers Division. To order the book in print, contact her at 2704 Beach Drive, Merrick, New York 11566. It can be ordered in Braille for $30 (3 volumes) from Volunteer Braille Services, Route 1, Box 398, Coulterville, Illinois 62237, or call (516) 868-8718.
Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, reports that the affiliate has added still another chapter to its family, the fifty-third. The McCormick County Chapter was organized Thursday evening, June 6. Representing some of McCormick County's most prominent families, the new and enthusiastic chapter has excellent leadership. The new officers are Lavinia Newell, President; Edwin Bell, Vice President; Arlene Wilkie, Secretary; Irene Bandy, Treasurer; and Rev. Gil Harper, Chaplain. Some time ago newly elected vice president Ed Bell contacted the Federation Center in Columbia, so naturally Don followed up the contact by organizing this new chapter. The organizing dinner was held at the historic Fannie Kate's Country Inn and Restaurant located in downtown McCormick.
Raymond J. Toolan, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Vermont, reports the following election of officers: Susan J. Toolan, President; Rose Dolly, Vice President; Raymond J. Toolan, Secretary; and Bruce Holland, Treasurer.
Book Available from NLS:
Tom Bickford, a long-time Federationist who works for the National Library Service, recently wrote to call our attention to the following notice that appeared in the July/August, 1996, Talking Book Topics:
The Struggle of Blind People for Self-Determination, the Dependency/Rehabilitation Conflict, Empowerment in the Blindness Community, by C. Edwin Vaughan, 8 sides (2 cassettes), Library of Congress annotation: The focus of the book is the struggle of people with visual handicaps and people who work to educate and rehabilitate them with emphasis on those whose experiences with visual handicaps and the rehabilitation system began early in life. 1993.
Dr. Vaughan is the chairman of the Department of Sociology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is a long-time Federationist and makes use of extensive quotations from Federation literature and Federation members.