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A Video 30 Years In The Making

A federal court decision 30 years ago allows Nora Hyde and others with similar disabilities to work and live in Bowman today.

Prarie Publications cameraman Ben Ftommes films Bowman resident Nora Hyde walking south down Main St. Tuesday afternoon.

Posted on August 17, 2012

A federal court decision 30 years ago allows Nora Hyde and others with similar disabilities to work and live in Bowman today. Prairie Publications was in Bowman Tuesday to hear Hyde’s personal story. Executive Producer Kim Stenehjem led the three-person film crew.

“It is good to know that you can stay close to your family, have a good job and a nice place to stay,” explained Stenehjem. “It’s a good story.”

It wasn’t always that way in North Dakota. On Sept. 26, 1980, an association representing six mentally challenged individuals filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota against the state. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief regarding treatment and conditions in the Grafton State School facilities. Prior to a trial, on Nov. 4, 1981, the court entered a consent decree in which the state agreed to improve the conditions in the school. However, the state failed to comply and a trial was held in early 1982.

District Court Judge Bruce M. Van Sickle came down hard against the state. He entered a broad permanent injunction based on violation of the plaintiff’s due process rights, rights to privacy and free associations, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and state law. The court also found that North Dakota spent less per resident than any other state and there were significant problems related to the residents’ treatment. The order required the state to provide individualized habilitation plans for residents, provide appropriate food, shelter and medical care, and provide an environment that assured privacy rights for residents. The decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

It wasn’t until the 1900s and a couple of more court hearings later that a court-appointed Panel of Masters conducted a hearing and made a final report to the district court.

In 1995, Van Sickle adopted the panel’s finding that the state had made significant improvements and no longer violated the federal rights of the mentally challenged residents.

ABLE Inc. Director of Satellite Services Carolyn Jones has known Hyde since 1983 – nearly 30 years.

“Kim (Stenehjem) inquired about doing the project and I sent her a short profile on each of our employees,” Jones said. “She picked one person from Bowman (Hyde) and one person from Hettinger.”

After spending Tuesday morning in Hettinger, the film crew than made the short trek to Bowman. After visiting the ABLE’s building, Hyde, Jones and the Prairie Productions crew went to Lasting Visions. The filming then concluded at Hyde’s residence.

Hyde shared that she likes her time at home.

“I like doing what I want to do,” she said.

In addition to her responsibilities at ABLE’s, which includes working with the looms and cleaning the store, she also takes care of her long-time boyfriend, Darwin Magnuson, who recently fell and broke his hip, and her own house chores.

“I like to do everything,” Hyde said with a smile.