West Oaks Hospital, Don Quixote and Galveston ISD

Bad experience: When I was 17, I attempted suicide and was institutionalized at the West Oaks Psychiatric Hospital. I honestly believed that if they just sent me home, I would have been perfectly fine. As soon as I got there, I was taken away from my crying mother and aunt and crawled into a cot/bed. The attendants there were complete assholes. They would yell at us if we didn't "act right" (the reason I got yelled at was because I picked up the husk of a cicada and got out of the line we were walking in). This would be followed by LOFTS, or "Loss of Free Time," which meant we were confined to our rooms while the other juveniles colored or read books. I still get upset about this and cry when I think about it.

They yelled at suicidal and mentally disturbed children. They will get away with this murder, just like they got away with the scarring of children.

Name withheld by request


West Oaks Hospital

An injustice and a tragedy: My heart breaks for both Mario Vidaurre and his brother Chazz Vidaurre ["Death in a Box," by Margaret Downing, October 25]. Chazz Vidaurre is a wonderful brother with a big heart. It is a shame he could not have kept his brother at home with him. The government should provide full-time, at-home help for people who want to care for their emotionally distressed and damaged family members. Human beings who are ill need help, not punishment. Chazz saw his brother as he was before he was damaged and devastated; the other people who were not there at the beginning and did not provide the hands-on care only see the result.

Mario was truly loved by Chazz. Chazz says the doctors and personnel at IntraCare Hospital always liked Mario, and that was for a reason. IntraCare at Fannin may have treated Mario in a kinder, more humane way, and in turn Mario improved and showed his real self. It's too bad IntraCare couldn't keep the patients longer, because they have a better attitude toward people like Mario who are suffering.

It seems to me that Mario and many other people who become mentally ill are actually suffering from trauma and loss. And that would be a much more humane way of looking at it, because it wouldn't cause the rejection and segregation that a schizophrenic label causes. He was originally diagnosed as bipolar, which is slightly less stigmatizing. Twenty or so years ago, bipolar disorder was called manic-depressive reaction, which was a lot kinder than the bipolar name, because it implied that the person suffering had a story that just might have something to do with loss and trauma.

At West Oaks, a doctor had labeled Mario with schizophrenia. People treat patients with this diagnosis in a more rejecting way. Mario shadowboxing in the hall and flailing his arms may have been because he was a boxer. His flailing his arms and contorting his face may have been symptoms of the tardive ­dyskinesia, serious side effects of the medication.

This is a horrible injustice and tragedy, and blaming the victim is terribly wrong. My heart goes out to Chazz Vidaurre. He saw his brother as a beautiful person, and he must hold onto that memory and not let anyone take that away from him.

Anne Reese Hernandez

Quixotic Quest

It's the statue: While I appreciate any exposure of art to the general public, it must be a correct portrayal — or, even less likely, a correct review ["Dream On," by Troy Schulze, October 11]. The subject of David McGee's painting Valencia Dulcinea del Taboso is not the infamous Don Quixote's love but a Mediterranean fertility statue that stands 4 3/8" high and is from 24,000 to 20,000 B.C.E., at least 21,605 years before Don Quixote. Reference the real subject, the Venus of Willendorf, at http://witcombe.sbc.edu/willendorf/willendorfgoddess.html. I learned this in Art History 1 at HCC. I think that our reviewer, Mr. Schulze, might benefit from this class.

Charles Clark II

Editor's note: While the painting is based on the statue, it also references Don Quixote's Dulcinea. Note the work's title, as well as the exhibition's theme — Don Quixote.

In the Suer

Houstoned readers comment on "Galveston ISD Threatens to Sue Watchdog Group," by Richard Connelly, October 25.

Keep fighting: I am pleased that more grassroots citizens are speaking out and standing for justice. Our system of elected "leadership" feels threatened and will seek to tone us down to meaninglessness. Watchdog groups must have a legal defense fund in place to defend themselves from such attacks! I constantly battle elected officials and their agencies that harass me at every turn. We are stronger as a group, so keep fighting.

Gladys House

I agree with you, Gladys: Those of us who watch government must have a "legal defense fund," because currently government has limitless use of our tax dollars to retain private attorneys, who then battle against the public's right to be fully informed and involved.

We all need to carefully monitor these private law firms and private attorneys, all funded by our education tax dollars. It appears to me that these attorneys profit most when they convince school districts to withhold public information and punish citizens who speak up.

Dianna Pharr

Big mistake: Mr. Connelly, I just wanted to drop you a brief e-mail and tell you how much I liked your commentary regarding this issue. Watchdogs across this state and nation continually tell me about the never-ending fight to stop district intimidation. We here in Katy have battled it since we formed our group in August 2005.

GISD will be making a big mistake if they carry out this ridiculous threat. It will give the district, the GISD board and GISD superintendent a huge black eye. It will also infuriate watchdog activists everywhere and will be an enormous waste of hard-earned tax dollars. It is a truly sad day when one realizes that to some the word "dissent" has become a four-letter word.

Chris Cottrell
Co-Founder/Katy Citizen Watchdog$
www.katycitizens.org and www.radiofreekaty.com

Give me a break! Elected officials threatening to sue one of the taxpayers in their district for having the audacity to criticize them? According to the Texas Comptroller's Web site, GISD has more than one nonteaching staff member for each teacher, they spend only 43.7 cents out of each education dollar in the classroom and the school district is rated only academically acceptable. Sounds like more parents and taxpayers need to be criticizing them.

I try not to assume motives, particularly when elected officials are doing things that are really stupid, but it appears the GISD officials are wanting to squelch any criticism. It won't work. They should focus their attention on the students and deal with the criticism. It appears to be deserved.

Peggy Venable


Press photographer gets national recognition

Houston Press staff photographer Daniel Kramer has been named a finalist in feature photography in Editor & Publisher magazine's 2007 Photos of the Year ­contest.

Kramer was cited for his photograph of a toddler dressed in cowboy garb at Day of the Dead festivities sponsored by Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA).

The contest, sponsored by Canon, selected winners from hundreds of selections from photographers in print media across the United States.


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