Texas Woman Fights Abuse at the State's Schools for the Mentally Retarded

Her son was beaten up by an angry caregiver at Denton State School

While Chishty refuses to reveal what role she has played in the pending U.S. Justice Department investigation of the school, she had advance knowledge of the arrival of federal investigators at the school and the resignations within the last year of the superintendent of the school, its director of nursing and its director of incident investigations. One Denton State School employee who spoke to the Observer on condition of anonymity blamed the federal investigation on Chishty. The employee also said abuse allegations at the school have dramatically spiked over the past two years.

For Chishty, this is good news. "It means somebody is getting the message. They know I am there and that I am watching."

She knows the answers now. For so long, they told her she was crazy, that what she said happened to her boy couldn't be true. And then they found the man who did it, and he confessed and is in prison. Everything that has come out since has only confirmed what she has always believed.

Complications from pneumonia when he was a baby caused permanent damage to Haseeb's brain.
Photos Courtesy of Farhat Chishty
Complications from pneumonia when he was a baby caused permanent damage to Haseeb's brain.
When Haseeb did not want to go to bed, his caregiver punched and kicked him more than a dozen times.
Photo Courtesy of Farhat Chishty
When Haseeb did not want to go to bed, his caregiver punched and kicked him more than a dozen times.

The prison is in the middle of nowhere, at a far west corner of the state in Fort Stockton. It is a bleak and foreboding place — a cluster of tan buildings surrounded by razor wire — and on hot days it bakes in the sun. It's the perfect spot to shelve a man the state would just as soon forget about.

In July, Kevin Miller agreed to a visit with the Observer, saying he was ready to talk again. He knew the school, despite his confession, had never taken responsibility for its role in the matter.

He wanted to talk, he said so in a letter, but what difference would it make? After all he had said, so little had been done. He'd gained nothing by confessing, other than to give the Chishty family some semblance of justice, and they still wanted him dead. And so, not long ago, weighed down by what he had done, he tried to kill himself. It was his second attempt.

There was so much about him he wanted people to know — the abuse he had suffered as a child, his habitual bouts with drug addiction, his bipolar disorder. Not that any of that was an excuse for what he had done.

"The above is not intended to put the blame on others and somehow reduce mine," he wrote. "I just feel now that it would have never happened if there weren't a hostile work environment, chronic drug abuse and a system of abuse of residents already in place."

Chishty says she knows all this, has known it for years, but it's still good to hear again, to revalidate what she's been fighting for. Because he is now a danger to himself, Miller has been transferred to a mental health unit. Both he and her son have become victims of the same act, and now both reside in institutions for the mentally challenged. In October, the state agreed to let Haseeb come home and to provide a nursing assistant to help Chishty with his care. She says she expects Haseeb to be home within a month or two, but considering the history of her battle with the state, she wouldn't be surprised if it takes longer.

Back on the grounds of Denton State School, she pushes her son in his heavy wheelchair, as she does most days. They cross the grass that leads to the edge of the campus and stop under a grove of trees. Off in the distance, at the top of a small hill, is the cemetery, surrounded by a white picket fence. Every year, the residents of this school who have no family end up there. The school will not say how many they bury, but she knows that last winter 11 died in one month alone. She thinks of the many residents who have no family, and she says a silent prayer for them.

"Whatever happens, I will keep fighting," she says. "Not just for Haseeb, but for the other people here. I have to make sure what happens to him never happens again."

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