LOUISE M. LOMBARD
There is no metropolitan center of the United States which may assume superiority over San Francisco in the education
and training of delinquent and mentally deficient children, this department of the local public school system having
attained an international, as well as a national, reputation for its completeness and efficiency. The greatest
share of the credit for this phenomenal development of the ungraded classes of the San Francisco schools must be
given to Louise M. Lombard, supervisor of these classes and who has for a long period fulfilled her duties with
rare intelligence and intimate knowledge of her profession.
Louise M. Lombard was born in Lapeer, Michigan, and there received her common school education. Later she took
special studies at New York University, and then for twelve years she was principal of the Michigan State Home
and Training School in Lapeer, which institution is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Her family,
with the exception of a sister with her, had previously gone to California, consequently they themselves followed.
She was in Fresno for the first year, and then came to San Francisco.
Through the work of the educational department of the California Club, the first class for the education of mentally
deficient children in San Francisco was established in 1910. The class was situated in a temporary building on
the site of the old Garfield school, which had been destroyed in the fire of 1906. This building, which was unsatisfactory,
was razed in 1917, and a bungalow built in its place and used until the fall term of 1927.
In 1910, there was no specially trained teacher available for the teaching of the children who were classified
as subnormal. In 1913, Dr. E. B. Hoag and Dr. H. Porter began a mental and physical survey of the twenty children
enrolled in this class, but prior to the completion of the work Dr. Hoag was called away, and shortly thereafter
Miss Lombard was appointed to assume charge of the work and arrange for additional classes for the children needing
education within their ability to grasp. Thus began the notable work of Miss Lombard in this department of the
city schools. She found first that before this time pupils were chosen for the ungraded class upon the recommendations
of the principals and teachers of the elementary schools, which was quite inadequate, as some of the twenty children
then so assigned were found to be normal, others deaf, and a few incorrigibles. A testing program in the various
schools in all parts of the city indicated the need for more classes, and in 1915 the ungraded primary school was
organized, which proved to be a model of its kind. By 1919, there were four classes at the ungraded primary school
and eight in operation in schools of the outlying sections. In 1920, the plan of "after care" work was
started for the purpose of supervising and observing the pupils of the ungraded classes after they had left. The
ungraded primary school at this time had become the center of activities in educating disabled children, and was
the object of study for numerous delegations from universities and colleges elsewhere in the state. It had increased
to five classes by 1927, and additional space was needed for their accommodation. Accordingly, the Washington grammar
school, of sixteen rooms, which had been abandoned, was chosen as the new site. A psychological and psychiatric
clinic was established by the San Francisco board of health, and later the dental clinic of the board of public
health was transferred from Garfield school to the ungraded primary school. Three additional classes were also
added by the transfer of pupils from the Washington, Hancock, and the Commodore Stockton schools. At the close
of the 1928-29 period, there were fifty four ungraded classes, and due to the enlargement of the ungraded primary
school and the large number of ungraded classes in the elementary schools, Miss Lombard was appointed supervisor.
At the same time, Miss Mary Carmichael was made principal, and Mrs. Ella M. Cunningham vice principal of the ungraded
primary school. Since that date, some classes have been discontinued and others added. Beginning August 11, 1930,
provision was made for an average of eighteen pupils in each of the fifty six classes existent; thus one thousand
and eight pupils could be taught. This was a bit more than one per cent of the total school population of eighty
four thousand, nine hundred and forty three.
A special course of study has been in use in the ungraded schools since September, 1926, and in every phase the
work is undergoing decided improvement as time goes on. On August 19, 1930, there were seven hundred and seventy
five pupils enrolled, but the annual enrollment of 1929-30 was nine hundred and ninety five.
Pupils are selected for the ungraded classes largely by means of an official intelligence test applied to those
who are reported by the principals, by the parents, or otherwise. It is proved that the idea of segregating subnormal
children into small groups for special training is no longer an experiment. The fact that the schools are for the
purpose of preparing these pupils to fit into social and industrial circles, however humbly, is becoming to be
appreciated more and more, for otherwise they would become useless, or criminal, burdens upon the public. There
have been objections which Miss Lombard and her associates have encountered. Parents have often resented the classification
of their children as mental defectives, and secondly school executives have frequently objected to the expense
of caring for pupils of low mental ability. The truth has been shown that the expense of training the youth of
this class is infinitely less than caring for the potential future criminal or helpless individual. Normal pupils
are enabled to progress faster if the subnormal are removed from their midst, and likewise the subnormal, with
subjects within their grasp and comprehension, and free of the embarrassment of competition which they could not
meet, are prone to gain confidence and progress much better when they are segregated.
The character of teacher necessary for this highly specialized class of pedagogy is well illustrated in the type
of Miss Lombard. She must have human sympathy, patience, and a deep insight into psychological methods. She exerts
more of a personal influence over her pupil than one teaching in regular classrooms, and upon the impression she
creates in the mind of the pupil, so may the latter's future be governed or influenced. Her role is to give them
knowledge of kindness, courtesy, justice, and self respect, and to endeavor to guide them into a channel which
shall make them useful citizens, in so far as humanly possible. Every child is given every opportunity to improve;
nothing is spared to give the unfortunate mind a square deal. Trades and numerous other vocations are taught, and
a pupil will be carried to whatever heights his mental equipment will permit him to reach.
In 1920, the San Francisco public school department established the so called "after care" or "follow
up" supervision of the pupils of the ungraded classes, a necessary provision for those who had left the school
when they had reached the legal age of sixteen. The purpose of this new phase of the work was to exercise supervision
over the pupil's future welfare, the suitability of his work, his social problems, and many other problems which
would naturally confront him. An astonishingly small number of pupils have faced court difficulties in their later
lives. According to the official report of June 30, 1930, only eight out of sixteen hundred and ninety three cases
whose address was known had come before the adult court, and seventeen between the ages of sixteen and eighteen
had come before the juvenile court. The late Dr. Walter E. Fernald of Massachusetts, considered a foremost authority
on subnormals, stated that decent mental defectives far outnumber the trouble makers, the last being so much better
known that they have given a bad name to the entire group. The list of positions occupied by former students in
the ungraded classes includes employment in various unskilled labors with the exception of a very few cases which
have succeeded in higher types of employment such as musicians, fur designers, telephone operators, and expert
weavers. There are now in San Francisco over eight hundred former pupils on the "after care" list. It
is a valuable department of the city's educational system, for without it much of the tremendous expense of the
ungraded school system would be a total loss.
The Lombard Club was organized by the teachers of the ungraded classes in 1926, its purpose being increased professional
and social activity for the group; to keep the public in closer touch with the educational work being done; to
visit other institutions; and to hold dinners and meetings at which prominent speakers are the guests of honor.
The work of Miss Lombard in making the ungraded schools the success they are is a notable achievement. She has
devoted her life to the labor which she loves, and she has won the affection and respect of all with whom she has
come in contact.
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931
San Francisco, CA
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