In 1990, prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a group of residents of the Wyoming State Training School, an institution that housed individuals with intellectual disabilities, brought this lawsuit. Represented by the Wyoming Protection and Advocacy System, the plaintiffs sought to remedy unconstitutional conditions and statutory violations at the institution and aimed to force Wyoming to create community living options for many of its residents.
Though it predated the ADA (and the ADA interpretation endorsed by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C.), the lawsuit alleged numerous legal violations. The plaintiffs alleged violations of state and federal disability-focused statutes, most prominently Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Medicaid. The plaintiffs also alleged violations of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) based on the institutions' failures to assess the individual needs of and provide educational services to school-age children in the institution. Finally, via 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiffs alleged that the institution and its officials violated the U.S. Constitution (including a number of Due Process-based liberty interests and Equal Protection).
The Complaint detailed an extensive set of inhumane and neglectful circumstances that led to these violations. Individuals in the Wyoming State Training School were not individually assessed or provided with sufficient habilitation, training, and treatment for their needs. Staff routinely failed to protect residents from abuse and physical injuries (including self-inflicted injuries). There was insufficient space and lack of privacy for the residents. Residents were not provided socialization, stimulation, education, therapy, or training in self-care. Staff were overwhelmed, unsupported and not provided with adequate training.
The Complaint further alleged that the plaintiffs had a right to live in the community where possible, and that the state was responsible for providing the services that would allow Training School residents to live in integrated settings.
The litigation process moved toward settlement. On April 27, 1990, the parties stipulated to the certification of the class and entered a Stipulation to Establish the Framework for Settlement. In this Stipulation, the parties laid out areas to resolve, appointed an expert committee to carry out the negotiation, made plans to provide for the immediate needs of the plaintiffs, and set ground rules for future negotiation. In July 1990, the parties entered a stipulation on the immediate needs of the plaintiffs, which included the creation of an Immediate Needs Assessment Team to engage in the necessary individualized planning for each plaintiff.
After several more months of discovery and negotiations, the parties entered a complete Settlement Agreement on March 31, 1991 to address the needs of both those residing at the institution and individuals with disabilities who would be at risk of placement in the institution without additional support services. The Agreement sought to substantially improve conditions at the Wyoming State Training School. It covered the nature of the institution, its staffing, educational opportunities, and individualized planning, with substantial monitoring and reporting requirements. The agreement also sought to increase the availability of community placement options. The parties selected a Compliance Advisory Board (CAB) composed of two experts who would both assist in carrying out the agreement and report to the court on its implementation.
The CAB continued to report to the court until the fall of 1994. During this period, a bout of litigation emerged in the case over the placement of class member Sara Kawulok. With the Kawulok issue resolved and substantial progress documented, the parties agreed to relieve the CAB of its reporting requirements in late 1994. The parties entered a permanent settlement in October 1994 and in December 1994, the court dismissed its jurisdiction over the case. Beth Kurtz - 11/27/2012