Romney Administration Considers Apologies For Fernald Six
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 20, 2004
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--The administration of Governor Mitt Romney said Thursday that it is considering whether to apologize and correct the records of six men who claim that they were inappropriately confined at Fernald Developmental Center after being labeled "morons".
Gerald J. Morrissey Jr., the commissioner of the state Department of Mental Retardation, said he would consider adding a page to the men's state files, along with the files of hundreds of others who were "wrongly" institutionalized across the state, explaining that they had been victims of "one of the saddest chapters in Massachusetts history", the Boston Globe reported.
Morrissey said it was too early for him to respond to the group's demands, including their request to have a task force study what they should be paid for years of free labor at the former Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded from the 1940s into the 1960s. In recent years it has come to light that many of those housed at the institution were forced to work with little or no pay.
"It was devastating enough to lose out on a normal childhood and suffer the abuse that occurred in that place," said Fred Boyce, who was at Fernald for 12 years beginning in 1949 at age 6. "But to know that the state officially considers you a moron just continues the pain."
The men are blaming an intelligence test that led to them being incorrectly labeled "feeble-minded" and confined at state facilities designed to house people with mental retardation. Many were placed there because they were runaways or had trouble in their own homes or foster homes.
Details about the mistreatment of former Fernald residents have been revealed in the recently-released book "The State Boys Rebellion" by Michael D'Antonio.
Founded in 1848, Fernald Developmental Center is the oldest institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere. Romney's recent attempts to close the aging facility have met with resistance from institution employees, and family members of those housed there.
While the men claim that they "should not have been" placed at the institutions because of the flawed IQ test, many disability rights and community living advocates have argued that nobody should have been placed at the institutions -- regardless of their IQ scores or labels.
David White-Lief, the lawyer who is representing the men, said he was encouraged by the Romney administration's response to their petition. "I'm confident I will be able to work with the governor's office and get something for these guys," he said.
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)