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Starting in the
early 1900s, hundreds of thousands of American children were warehoused in institutions
by state goernments. And the federal goernment did nothing to stop it.
!he "ustification# !he kids had been labeled feeble$minded, and were put away in
conditions that can only be described as unspeakable.
%ow, a new book, &!he State 'oys (ebellion,& by )ichael *'Antonio, reeals een
more+ A large proportion of the kids who were locked up were not retarded at all. !hey
were simply poor, uneducated kids with no place to go, who ended up in institutions like
the ,ernald School in -altham, )ass.
!he ,ernald School is the oldest institution of its kind in the country. At its peak, some
.,/00 people were confined here, most of them children. All of them were called feeble$
minded, whether they were or not.
!he people who ran ,ernald back in the bad, old days are no longer alie, but many of the
ictims still are $$ ictims like ,red 'oyce, who was locked up there for 11 years. 0e
came back to ,ernald with Correspondent Bob Simon.
&-e thought for a long time that we belonged there, that we were not part of the species.
-e thought we were some kind of, you know, people that wasn't supposed to be born,&
And that was precisely the idea.
!he ,ernald School, and others like it, was part of a popular American moement in the
early .0th century called the 1ugenics moement. !he idea was to separate people
considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society, to preent them from
1ugenics is usually associated with %a2i 3ermany, but in fact, it started in America. %ot
only that, it continued here long after 0itler's 3ermany was in ruins.
At the height of the moement $ in the '.0s and '40s $ e5hibits were set up at fairs to teach
people about eugenics. 6t was good for America, and good for the human race. !hat was
'ut author )ichael *'Antonio says it wasn't "ust a moement. 6t was goernment policy.
&7eople were told, we can be rid of all disease, we can lower the crime rate, we can
increase the wealth of our nation, if we only keep certain people from haing babies,&
0e says back then, schools tested children regularly, and those classified as feeble$
minded got a one$way ticket to ,ernald $$ or to one of the more than 100 institutions like
&6diot, imbecile, and moron were all medical terms. !hey were used to define arious
leels of retardation or disability. )oron was coined to describe children who were
almost normal,& says *'Antonio. &6 would estimate that at least /0 percent would function
in today's world well.&
,red 'oyce was "ust 8 years old in 1999 when his foster mother died, and the State of
)assachusetts committed him to ,ernald.
'oyce's records from ,ernald show they labeled him as a &moron&, een though tests
showed his intelligence was within the normal range, not bad for a boy with no education
at all. 0e was kept there for 11 years.
'oyce says he thinks the state recommended that he come to ,ernald because it was the
easy way out+ &!hey didn't hae to look for homes for you, so they could "ust dump you
off in these human warehouses and "ust let you rot, you know. !hat's what they did. !hey
let us rot.&
)ost of the school is closed now, including 'oyce's old dorms, which will be torn down
soon. Appro5imately 4: children slept in each room, with the beds "ammed together. And
the children receied little education and less affection.
(egimentation# !here was no shortage of that. And how long would they stay at ,ernald#
!he kids were told they could be here for life, that there was no e5it.
&6 kinda thought for a while, maybe there was something wrong with me, or why would 6
be here,& says ;oe Almeida, who was swept up into the system een though there was
nothing wrong with him.
Almeida, an abused child, was only 8 when his father took him for a drie to the ,ernald
School, and told him to wait in the hallway.
&6 said, '-ait a minute, dad. -here are you going,'& recalls Almeida. &0e goes, 'Oh, you
wait right there. 6 gotta go get the car.& And he went. And that was the last 6 seen of him.&
Almeida had no idea where he was, and no idea that he now wore an inisible label,
which read &moron.& 0e ended up in the same dorm as 'oyce, and they spent their
mornings in the &schoolroom.& At least, that's what the room was called.
&6t was a school in name only. A child would e5perience the first year of school / or :
times in a row,& says *'Antonio. &0e would read the same '*ick and ;ane' reader, and
neer make any progress because the school wasn't e<uipped to actually educate children.
6t was there as a sort of holding pen.&
!he children did most of the manual labor at the school.
&!he kids at ,ernald raised the egetables that they ate. !hey sewed the soles on the
shoes that they wore. !hey manufactured the brooms that they used to sweep the floor,&
says *'Antonio, who adds that the school made sure that at least 40 percent of the kids
admitted had normal or near normal intelligence.
!he school needed those kids to work. &=ou had to hae somebody with a certain leel of
intelligence in order to run this place,& says 'oyce. &And 6 can remember being out in the
gardens from morning until night in the sun.&
Almeida, howeer, had an unusual "ob, and the fruits of his labor are still there /0 years
later. 0is "ob was to cut up the brains of seerely retarded people who had died at
,ernald. 0e cut them into thin slices so scientists could study them. %othing eer came of
the research, but the bits of brains are still there.
&!hey're still sitting here years later,& says Almeida. &6 mean, what was it all for#&
-orse than the work, says Almeida, was the abuse he suffered from the attendants who
staffed the place. 6t was called &(ed >herry *ay,& and the kids would sit in a circle and be
called up alphabetically.
&And lucky me, my name is what# Almeida. =ou'd get up in front of all these kids, and
you would pull down your pants,& recalls Almeida. &=ou'd pull down your underpants
and they'd make you turn around and they'd whack your ass with this branch until it was
red like a cherry.&
Almeida says few of the attendants showed any kindness, and some of them should hae
been institutionali2ed themseles+ &!hese people were sick that worked here.&
And of course, there was se5ual abuse. !he place was tailor made for it.
As the boys grew older, many rebelled, often by running away. !hey always got caught.
'oyce showed Simon what happened then. !he kids were taken to the infamous -ard ..,
the school's detention center.
&>ouldn't escape, you know, this was the prison,& says ,red, who was locked up in
solitary confinement here. &And they had a little mattress on the floor there.&
As a further humiliation, kids were stripped naked. 'ack then, the windows had bars.
&=ou're "ust this child, and you're in this cell because you ran away,& says 'oyce. &And
you ran away for reasons of abuse and thinking that you don't belong here. =ou wanna
hae a life outside.&
'oyce finally got that life in 19:0, when he was 19. 1ugenics was no longer politically
acceptable in America, and ,ernald started releasing people. !he problem was, there
weren't a lot of "obs around for alumni of a school for the feeble$minded.
'oyce "oined the carnial circuit, traeling around the country, mi5ing with people who
didn't need to see diplomas ? surrounded by reminders of what his childhood could hae
&6 see these happy families, you know, and 6 see how much they loe their kids. And 6
think, you know, '6 can neer hae that,'& says 'oyce.
-hat would their lies hae been like, if they hadn't been sent to ,ernald#
&!he one thing 6 can imagine is that their lies would hae had a lot more loe in them.
6'e had men tell me, '6 neer saw a man or woman who loed each other growing up. 6
neer saw family life. And it's been impossible for me to find it as an adult,'& says
*'Antonio. &!hat's the part that gets me most upset, is they were denied the human
relations that sustain all of us.&
Almeida got out of ,ernald the same year as 'oyce, but when he hit his 90s, he found
himself drawn back to the place. 6t was the only home he'd eer really known.
'ut ,ernald had changed, and only the seriously handicapped were liing there now. So
Almeida applied for a "ob and worked there as a drier for .0 years. 0e retired last year.
&6 always felt like they owed me. 6 always felt that they owed me, because they took the
most important thing of my life away,& says Almeida. &!hey took away my childhood and
my education. !he two things that you need in life to make it, they took from me.&
And that's not all. )ore than 40 years after 'oyce and Almeida were released, they found
out that the school had allowed them to be used as human guinea pigs.
6n 1999 Senate hearings, it came out that scientists from )6! had been giing radioactie
oatmeal to the boys $ men now $ in a nutrition study for @uaker Oats. All they knew is
that they'd been asked to "oin a science club.
Among those who attended the hearing was Almeida, also a member of the club. 0e says
the boys were recruited with special treats+ &-e were getting special treatment, you know,
e5tra dessert, we got to eat away from the other boys. -e were getting e5tra oatmeal.
-e're getting e5tra milk.&
&'ut they forgot to mention the milk was radioactie,& says *aid -hite$Aief, an
attorney who worked on the state task force inestigating the science club.
0e says he was outraged that the children were e5ploited without their knowledge. &6t's
my contention, and it was my contention on the task force, that these e5periments,
because of the lack of informed consent, iolated the %uremburg >ode established "ust 10
years earlier,& says -hite$Aief. &!he lesson of %a2i 3ermany was we don't do
e5periments on people without informed consent. !hey didn't use the word &informed
consent& $ without knowing consent.&
'oyce, also in the science club, got a group of members together and they sued. 1ach
receied appro5imately B:0,000 in compensation from )6!, @uaker Oats and the
'ut 'oyce and Almeida neer got what they really wanted+ an apology for sending them
to ,ernald and calling them morons, a label that remains on their state records to this day.
'oyce, who is :4, says he has neer receied an apology from the State of )assachusetts
or from any agency at all. -hat stays with him the most, says Almeida, is being labeled a
moron, and &neer getting to know what 6 could hae been.&
!oday, kids like ,red 'oyce and ;oe Almeida are placed in foster homes and attend
public schools. !he dark era of institutionali2ation ended in the 'C0s at ,ernald. Since
then, it's become a home for mentally and physically handicapped adults, and it's about to
be closed down foreer.
!he publisher of the book, &!he State 'oys (ebellion,& is Simon and Schuster. 'oth
Simon and Schuster and CBSNEWS are units of Diacom.
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