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First Charges of Neglect

Front Page Headline from the Lewiston Evening Journal, March 7, 1938: Governor Orders Probe At Pownal State School

Lewiston Evening Journal, March 7, 1938

In 1938 came the first whispers of something more sinister, when a former Superior Court judge accused the institution of neglect. While the state investigation sided with the School, this was not the last time the public would hear such rumors. These accusations occurred as a new Superintendent would take the reins at the Pownal State School, Dr. N.S. Kupelian, who countered that he would “welcome an investigation any time”.

The State ended up siding with the institution, and nothing came of the allegations.

Front Page Headline from the Lewiston Evening Journal, March 7, 1938: Governor Orders Probe At Pownal State School
Newspaper clipping from the Lewiston Evening Journal, March 7, 1938 with the headline: "Connolly Charges Neglect – Former Portland Superior Court Judge Declares Lack of Clothing, Soap, and Conservation of Heat Make for Improper Conditions"
Lewiston Evening Journal, March 7, 1938

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Theme Alert!


Values Check

Who and what do we value in our society? How do we determine someone’s “worth”, and whether they are deserving of help when they need it? Are all people really equal – and do we treat everyone as equally human?

People with developmental disabilities were sent to institutions because they were seen as useless or even dangerous to society. Their value in a place like Pineland rested on their potential for being trained to do menial labor – a Pineland resident could potentially get a furlough or even release from the institution if they could show that they could work.

In general, people with developmental disabilities throughout our history have been dismissed, patronized, and dehumanized. Doctors assumed that people with developmental disabilities didn’t feel pain, caretakers believed that they did not need friendships or hobbies or someone to communicate with, and society saw them as dangerous and unfit.

There were also people and moments in history that shifted our assumptions about the value of people with developmental disabilities – President Kennedy’s experience of loving his sister with disabilities led to huge policy shifts that impacted people with developmental disabilities across our country, and the brave self-advocates who organized a civil rights movement led directly to another president signing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The question must be posed, what is the value of all potential members of the community, with or without disability, to the very health and fiber of the community?