It was a night to continue building the momentum in the effort to save the Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls in Toledo.
It was not a night for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad or the Department of Human Services.
It was a night for testimony to the many years of service to Iowa youth provided at the Toledo facility.
It was a standing ovation for a former student at the Iowa Juvenile home / State Training School for Girls after her testimony to how her stay here had made positive effects on her previously troubled life. More than 300 persons turned out for a SAVE?THE?IJH?meeting at the South Tama High School gym on Thursday night, Dec. 19.
Chronicle photos/John Speer
It was not a night for Disability Rights Iowa nor The Des Moines Register.
It was a night to refute what have been called erroneous reporting and to present the "real side" of the IJH program.
It was a night for some "teary eyes" one person said after a bevy of heartfelt words.
More than 300 area residents turned out on an icy night to bolster efforts to preserve the 93-year-old institution. The South Tama High School gym provided the setting as speakers ranging from state legislators to IJH employees past and present, former IJH students and community members to give testimony to the need for the Juvenile Home to remain open to serve Iowa's youth in need.
Amidst many standing ovations, speaker after speaker took to the podium to tell their positive experiences with the institution which has operated here since 1920.
In something of a surprise move, The Department of Human Services under which IJH operates announced on Dec. 9 the home would close on Jan. 16, 2014, the 21 remaining female students on campus would be place elsewhere and the 93 IJH employees would be laid off.
Disability Rights Iowa, a federally-funded, private, non-profit group of attorneys began an investigation of IJH a year ago. The investigators claimed it
discovered at least two girls had been kept in quite rooms- isolated - for lengths of time which violated treatment standards. Further, it was reported
one girl had been in a quiet room for one year and had illegally been denied educational services.
Disability Rights Iowa head Jane Hudson told The Chronicle her organization had gone to The Des Monies Register and supplied information for news stories.
The Register has continued to make periodic reports of the Disability Rights Iowa investigation beginning in May and continuing to the present.
Several speakers on Thursday night took issue with media reports terming them "half-truths" and simply incorrect.
State Representative Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) termed some of the reports "grossly disturbing and untrue."
The procedure of announcing the closing of IJH was an example of "bad management" State Senator Steve Sodders charged.
Both said they were working with legislative leaders of their parties to bring the closing before the House and Senate when the legislature convenes in January.
On hand Thursday night was State Rep. Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) the new Iowa House minority leader and State Senator Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines)
who chairs the appropriations committee overseeing the budget which includes IJH.
Sodders also said he expected an answer shortly on a legal question of whether the Governor has the authority to close the Toledo facility.
Audience members heard from several women who were former students ta IJH. They praised how their time at IJH had turned their lives around and several
described the IJH staff as "family."
Cathy Campbell-Currier, an IJH recreation director in the 1980s and 90s, told the audience she had spoken to DHS Director Charles Palmer in the afternoon by telephone.
She said Palmer did "not have an answer why IJH was being closed" when asked directly.
This prompted Rep/ Fisher to say Palmer could "expect one phone call in the morning."