STATE AGENCY SCANDAL #3: SCANDAL AT TEXAS STATE SCHOOLS
November 12th, 2009
The state of Texas has an obligation to support and help Texans who are most in need, including those seeking care for developmental disabilities at our Texas state schools. Unfortunately, Rick Perry and his partisan appointees at the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) severely neglected their responsibility to protect those who live at these state schools, to the point that employees used residents to participate in staged “fight clubs” for their own twisted amusement.
In March of this year, a cell phone was turned over to police that contained at least 17 videos taken by state school workers depicting residents with mental disabilities who were coaxed to physically attack one another for the sake of the employees’ sick entertainment. One of the state workers was reportedly laughing as he recorded an incident in which one of the residents “cries and flees from room to room as he tries to avoid an attack by a resident.” (Source: Corpus Christi Caller Times)
Although Perry and his handpicked appointees could have acted to reform the State School system a year earlier based on recommendations they were given by the Legislative Study Group (LSG), it wasn’t until after the chilling footage became a public political embarrassment that Governor Perry stepped in to request a fast-track reform of the state school system. (Source: The Austin Chronicle)
In 2007 and 2008, the Legislative Study Group, led by Democratic State Representatives Garnet Coleman, Solomon Ortiz and Abel Herrero, went to Corpus Christi to conduct hearings and meet with advocates, employees and family members about the State School system. Their months of work led to a report which recommended the Governor intervene in the serious problems facing the School. (Source: The Austin Chronicle) Their recommendations to Perry and his appointees at DADS included:
- “More accountability and discipline must be enforced for allegations of abuse.” The request included the establishment of an independent authority which was recommended after the “potential for abuse and cover-up” was discovered by the LSG.
- “Minimum quality standards for employment must be raised in order to ensure that state schools are safe and provide the best care possible.” This recommendation was based on the LSG’s finding that direct care staff members only needed an 8th grade education to be employed and that criminal background checks containing arrests such as “DWI, resisting arrest, prostitution, and vehicle theft” could still be considered for employment.
Rep. Herrero and Rep. Ortiz – who represent the people of Corpus Christi – took their serious concerns in their communities to Governor Perry, but Perry flat-out ignored their warnings.
Much like the Texas Youth Commission, the Department of Aging and Disability Services scandal is another case where Governor Perry and his handpicked appointees refused to solve a problem involving neglect and physical abuse until it became a political problem. Under one party Republican rule, state agencies have too often failed to provide basic state services with the decency and accountability Texans expect.
To read more about Republican mismanagement, corruption, and pay-to-play politics, visit the TDP’s “Top Ten State Agency Scandals” campaign by clicking here.