Southbury Training School

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Southbury Training School
Lenore H. Davidson Building at the Southbury Training School.png
Lenore H. Davidson Building, the administrative building at the Southbury Training School that also houses a location of the CT State Employees Credit Union.
Southbury Training School is located in Connecticut
Southbury Training School
Southbury Training School is located in the US
Southbury Training School
Location 1484 S. Britain Rd., Southbury, Connecticut
Coordinates 41°27′49″N 73°16′23″W / 41.46361°N 73.27306°W / 41.46361; -73.27306Coordinates: 41°27′49″N 73°16′23″W / 41.46361°N 73.27306°W / 41.46361; -73.27306
Built 1940
Architect Salmon, Edwin A.; et al.
Architectural style Colonial Revival
NRHP reference # 92000368[1]
Added to NRHP May 1, 1992
Sara Crawford Hall, a building no longer in use
Southbury Training School Greenhouse, overview of the building

Southbury Training School is a large residential facility in the towns of Southbury and Roxbury, Connecticut. It was built in the 1930s as a large state-funded and state-operated residential and habilitative facility for adults with intellectual disabilities. It consists of 125 buildings situated on a campus of 1,600 acres (6.5 km2). It independently operates its own power, heat, sewage treatment, water, laundry, fire, ambulance, public safety, building maintenance, transportation and dietary services. It is run by the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services.[2] The facility is listed as an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.


Southbury Training School was built in the 1930s as a place to house the intellectually disabled. It is and was self-sufficient from the town of Southbury.[3]

In 1976, John Lennon donated his 1970 Oscar statuette for auction to raise money for the school - it netted $600. It was auctioned again in 1992 for $110,000 with a portion of those proceeds going to the school.

In 1986, admissions to STS were closed. There was a current population of 1,111. The Department of intellectual disabilities was directed to attempt to place residents in group homes and other such settings.

The facility was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.[1]

In 1997, STS was prohibited from accepting any new residents. STS had 782 residents remaining.

As of 2000, STS maintained a staff of 1,700 people. STS had 696 residents remaining.[3]

As of 2001, STS had 639 residents remaining. The average age was 55, and the average resident had been at STS for 43 years. The State intends to continue decreasing the number of residents through placement in other settings and through the death of residents.[3]


In 1984, the first major lawsuit regarding the conditions at STS was filed by the United States of America against the State of Connecticut. A consent decree settled the suit in 1986, requiring that the State increase the conditions of both the care and the facilities.

In 1996, the United States District Court for the District of New Haven held the State in contempt of the consent decree.[3]

In 1997, an order was issued and a special master appointed to oversee the School.

In 2005, Governor Rell requested the removal of David Ferleger as special master, also using the opportunity to request the removal of special masters as a whole.[2]

Without granting the state a hearing, the federal court rejected the state’s request to end Mr. Ferleger’s work for the court as special master. “As a federally appointed "special master," Ferleger is responsible for making sure Connecticut complies with a 10-year-old U.S. Department of Justice order to improve conditions at the facility for the mentally retarded. In her ruling, Burns said that the state "pointed to nothing" in Ferleger's execution of his duties over the past eight years to suggest they were deficient. Hartford Courant, “Ruling Keeps Monitor on Job: State Loses Bid to Remove Training School ‘Special Master’” Colin Poitras, December 15, 2005 [1] [2]

The state unsuccessfully contested most of the special master’s reports. As one historical summary of the case puts it, “the court ultimately accepted all of the reports.” Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. [3]

“Between July 30, 1997, and February 22, 2006, the Special Master submitted twenty-six status reports, sixty-three topic-specific reports, and numerous other reports, recommendations, and analyses. Based on the docket, it appears that the Special Master addressed (1) individualized planning, (2) community placement policies, (3) abuse and neglect, (4) the rights of persons with disabilities, (5) human rights and behavioral programming reviews, (6) occupational and physical therapy, (7) medical and dental care, (8) dosage benchmarks, (9) physical restraint techniques and standards, (10) mortality investigations, (11) case management and advocacy, (12) quality assurance plans, (13) facility upkeep, safety, and sanitation, (14) transportation, (15) employment of direct care staff, medical professionals, and specialized therapists, and (16) staff development. The defendants contested most of the Special Master's reports, but the court ultimately accepted all of the reports. For instance, on February 22, 2004, the court accepted and adopted the Special Master's report on Southbury's development of mortality review procedures.” Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. [4]

In the court’s “Order Purging Defendants of Contempt and Ending Active Judicial Oversight,” (March 2006), the court expressed “the gratitude of the Court for his service.” (p. 3), and stated, “Special Master David Ferleger has effectively rendered a great public service in shepherding this process through to its conclusion. He has submitted to the Court twenty-six periodic status reports, sixty-three numbered topic-specific reports, many special reports and recommendations to the parties, and numerous other analyses.” (p. 11). The court concluded that the remedial process had resulted in substantial positive change at Southbury Training School: “The contempt finding has resulted in the reform of Southbury Training School mandated in the Remedial Plan and its associated plans and orders. The remedial process has done much to advance the interests of the residents of Southbury Training School. Ten years ago, this Court found systemic flaws at STS which placed residents at risk of great harm, even death. Today, residents of STS are safer and benefit from a state-of-the- art model of institutional care as Defendants have met the “adequate care” requirements in the Remedial Plan and, in many instances, gone beyond the court-mandated requirements to provide ‘best practices.’” (p. 12). Court Ruling, March 2006, United States v. State of Connecticut. [5] [6] IN 2006, STS was released from judicial oversight.[4]

On June 4, 2008, in another lawsuit about Southbury Training School called Messier v. Southbury Training School, the federal court relied on the findings of Special Master Ferleger to find that most of the challenged inadequacies has been remedied under his evaluation process. “In a process of evaluation lasting almost a decade, the Special Master, with the assistance of experts commissioned by him and the parties, measured improvements at STS against the standards set forth in the Court Requirements. Periodically, when the Special Master concluded that the defendants had demonstrated compliance with a particular Court Requirement, he recommended that the court release STS from oversight for that Court Requirement.” Court Ruling, June 4, 2008, Messier v. Southbury Training School.[5]

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