Program on August 7 will describe activism for people with Down syndrome and the closing of Willowbrook State School in New York.
By News Desk
Pasadena Unified School District Trustee Jennifer Hall Lee will present a program on Special Education at the annual gathering of the district’s employees. The presentation will be on August 7, 2023 at 12:30 pm at the Pasadena High School Auditorium. The title of the Lee’s presentation is “The Closing of Willowbrook State School and the brave activism of Elizabeth Hall Lee and Lillian Hall.”
Lee’s mother was a social worker at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, N.Y. She organized parents and worked to get media coverage on the horror that was Willowbrook. It eventually gained national attention when a then-unknown reporter named Geraldo Rivera covered the story. Lee’s mother and a doctor were fired for their activism.
Lee said, “The work done by my mother and grandmother for the rights of developmentally disabled people is a unique and unprecedented story. The years of 1971 and 1972 transformed my family and, I think I can say, my family’s activism helped change the nation. Staten Island was the epicenter for the fight for rights of disabled people.”
Trustee Lee said, “My uncle has Down syndrome, and he was born in 1956 on Staten Island, New York. My mother, a social worker, was one of the activists and whistleblowers that shined a light on the horror that was Willowbrook State School. When I was nine years old, I went inside Building 6 with my mother because she knew I needed to see it. My grandmother was instrumental in the creation of group homes for people with Down syndrome. This is a story about institutionalization, parent activism, an intrepid reporter for the local newspaper, and the explosion of national news coverage by Geraldo Rivera.”
August 7 12:30 pm Location Pasadena High School Auditorium
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