Willowbrook State School

Rooted in Rights tells authentic, accessible stories to challenge stigma and redefine narratives around disability, mental health and chronic illness. By 1965 it had a population of 6,000.

By 1955, it had reached its full capacity of 4,000 occupants. The new campus opened at Willowbrook in 1993 (at the same time, one of CSI's two other existing campuses, located in the island's Sunnyside neighborhood, was closed and that site became the home of a new high school). Everyone knew something about Willowbrook State School. The Last Great Disgrace 1972. The school staff was entrusted to teach and care for mentally disabled children, but instead they exposed them to diseases and subjected them to horrifying abuse. The Willowbrook State School experiments continue to be hotly debated. Around that time, hepatitis infections ran rampant among patients and staff. The exposé revealed gruesome conditions and neglected mentally disabled children. A long abandoned and decaying state institution located on New York’s “Borough That Time Forgot” Staten Island, The Willowbrook State School, was known as a “snake pit” — and for good reasons. The school was designed for 4,000. In only a short time, Willowbrook was overfilled and understaffed. Willowbrook State School was a state-supported institution for children with intellectual disability located in the Willowbrook neighborhood on Staten Island in New York City from 1947 until 1987. The horrors endured at the Willowbrook State School will never be forgotten. Willowbrook State School presented itself as a place of learning, and its occupants should have been taught basic curriculum within its walls. The school was designed for 4,000, but by 1965 it had a population of 6,000. The school did not receive its first residents, however, until after World War II, during which time it was used as a veteran’s hospital for injured and disabled war heroes. At 204 acres, this campus is the largest maintained by … The facility which was originally designed as a hospital for children with extreme intellectual disabilities who were once called “mentally retarded” back in […]

Migdalia and thousands like her had grown up in the Willowbrook State School, a notorious institution on Staten Island.

In 1938, a state-supported institution for the mentally handicapped, known as the Willowbrook State School opened in Staten Island, NY. Instead, the people in charge never put any educational structure in place, and the few attempts at education were aimed at very few students for a short period of time.

Investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera's exposé documentary of the Willowbrook State School. At the time, it was the biggest state-run institution for people with mental disabilities in the United States.

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