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Article posted Jun 15 2006, 8:12 PM Category: Big Brother/Orwellian Source: Boston Globe Print

N.Y. report denounces school which punishes troubled and disabled students with electric shocks

''Students can be shocked for behaviors including 'failure to maintain a neat appearance', 'stopping work for more than 10 seconds', 'interrupting others', 'nagging', 'whispering and/or moving conversation away from staff', 'slouch in chair' ''

From the report:

Many of the students observed at JRC were not exhibiting self-abusive/mutilating behaviors, and their IEPs had no indication that these behaviors existed. However, they were still subject to Level III aversive interventions, including use of the GED device. The review of NYS students' records revealed that Level III interventions are used for behaviors including 'refuse to follow staff directions', 'failure to maintain a neat appearance', 'stopping work for more than 10 seconds', 'interrupting others', 'nagging', 'whispering and/or moving conversation away from staff', 'slouch in chair', as well as more intensive behaviors such as physical aggression toward others, property destruction and attempts to hurt/injure self.

...
> It was reported by a JRC staff member that one of the behavioral rehearsal lesson (BRL) episodes involved holding a student's face still while staff person went for his mouth with a pen or pencil threatening to stab him in the mouth while repeatedly yelling 'YOU WANT TO EAT THIS?' The goal was to aversively treat the student's target behavior of putting sharp objects in the mouth.

...
> One student stated she felt depressed and fearful, stating very coherently her desire to leave the center. She is not permitted to initiate conversation with any member of the staff. She also expressed that she had no one to talk to about her feelings of depression and her desire to kill herself and told the interviewing team that she thought about killing herself everyday. Her greatest fear was that she would remain at JRC beyond her 21st birthday.

...
> A student interviewed stated that she had entered JRC at the age of 19 with the expectation that she would receive vocational training while she resolved her emotional and behavioral problems. She had not received any vocational training and still remained in the most restrictive settings offered by JRC. This student wept as she asked the team to bring her back to New York.

New York education officials issued a scathing report yesterday on a Massachusetts school that punishes troubled and disabled students with electric shocks, finding that they can be shocked for simply nagging the teacher and that some are forced to wear shock devices in the bathtub or shower, posing an electrocution hazard.

The report, based in part on an inspection last month of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, portrayed a school in which most staff lack training to handle the students and seem more focused on punishing bad behavior than encouraging good acts.

The investigators said some forms of discipline, such as a device that delivers shocks at timed intervals, appear to violate federal safety regulations, and students live in an atmosphere of ``pervasive fears and anxieties."

* Read the report on the Rotenberg Center (.pdf)

The report, denounced by Rotenberg officials as biased, is expected to play a key role next Monday when education regulators in New York are scheduled to vote on whether to severely restrict the use of painful punishment on students from New York.

Two-thirds of Rotenberg's students are sent from New York. The inspectors said they had notified officials in Massachusetts and at the US Food and Drug Administration about possible violations of state and federal safety rules.

There have been increasing allegations of abuse at the Rotenberg Center in recent months.

They include several assertions that students have been badly burned by the shock devices, known as graduated electronic decelerators. The Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission has received 22 allegations of abuse at the school since January, including 12 that involve injuries. Rotenberg officials have steadfastly denied the charges, but commission officials say that at least two have been substantiated.

Yesterday, a lawyer for the school, Michael Flammia, said the New York report grossly distorts what goes on at the school, which is often used as a place of last resort for students with autism, mental retardation, or behavioral problems. School districts in several states, including Massachusetts, refer students to Rotenberg after other methods to control their behavior, such as hospitalization or drugs, have failed.

The school has about 250 students, about half of whom wear electric shock devices that teachers can activate around the clock.

``These findings are completely false. They are the product of a biased review team sent by the New York State Education Department for the specific purpose of making derogatory findings" about the center, said Flammia, who denied that students are forced to wear shock devices in the shower.

He also said that New York officials are mistaken in asserting that the school is violating FDA or Massachusetts rules.

Flammia noted that New York inspectors had given the Judge Rotenberg Center high marks for safety last September, but he believes they turned against the school after the publicity surrounding a lawsuit filed this spring by the mother of a New York student.

Some parents of Rotenberg students rallied behind the school, as they have in the past, saying that most people don't understand how serious their children's problems are. The school, which costs states and school districts more than $200,000 a year per student, helps students who have failed everywhere else, they say, and turns to shocks and other punishments only if less painful methods fail.

``This school has saved my daughter's life," said Marcia Shear of Long Island, whose 13-year-old daughter, Samantha, used to punch herself in the head so often that she detached both retinas.

After she received a few high-level shocks, Shear said, the self-abuse stopped. ``I am livid at these people and pieces of garbage who think they know what they're doing. Let them come and sit with my child and go through what I've gone through for 11 years."

The 26-page New York report intensified a debate over the Judge Rotenberg Center's methods that has gone on for much of its 35 years. The latest controversy began in March, when Evelyn Nicholson of Freeport, N.Y., went public with a charge that her son, Antwone, had been mistreated at the school, where he was shocked 79 times over 1 1/2 years. She initially consented to the procedure to curb her son's aggressive behavior, but said she changed her mind after Antwone became increasingly desperate to get away.

``There's no education in what's happening here," said Ken Mollins , a lawyer representing the Nicholson family, which is suing New York for $10 million. ``The head of this institution calls this therapy. I think this is more like a domestic torture chamber."

The New York inspectors found that more than two-thirds of the direct-care providers at the Rotenberg Center have completed only a high school education, which they said ``in many cases . . . is not sufficient to oversee the intensive treatment of children with challenging emotional and behavioral problems."

They also noted that only six of the 17 clinicians who oversee mental-health care at the school have a license in psychology.

The inspectors said the school appeared to violate FDA regulations in several ways, including a policy that allows the parents of students to administer shocks to students after only minimal training. The New York report also said that the school appears to violate Massachusetts regulations that allow painful punishments only for ``extraordinarily difficult or dangerous behavioral problems," noting that they witnessed one student who was threatened with a shock after sneezing in class. School officials said no shock had been given in this case.

Finally, the report raised concerns about students' nutrition because the Judge Rotenberg Center withholds food as a punishment. The report found that one New York student was in a program where he could be denied up to 25 percent of his normal food intake.

New York Deputy Education Commissioner Rebecca Cort said the report painted a much darker picture of the Rotenberg Center than last year's review, because the state took a more in-depth look, including a surprise inspection that showed the school's practices are a lot different from written treatment plans for students.

Rotenberg's Flammia said the school was never given a chance to review the report before it was made public and he said the school would demand a fair chance to respond. He warned that if New York students are denied access to the Rotenberg Center, the state could be sued by parents of children who hurt themselves as a result.

Supporters of a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature to ban the use of electric shocks on students said they hoped the New York report would give new momentum to their efforts to force the school to change its methods or close. A proposed ban was written into the state budget passed by the Senate, but the House of Representatives has not taken a position.

``It's troubling that it's necessary for New York officials to point out the violations of Massachusetts law taking place at this facility," said state Senator Brian Joyce, the Milton Democrat who has led the effort to ban electric shock.

Related:
> Teen Who Pinched and Twisted Another Boy's Nipple at a Deli Gets Four Days Juvenile Detention For Refusing To Write An Essay Describing His ''Criminal Thought Processes''
> Kindergarten student and her classmate disciplined for hugging each other on the playground
> 12-Year-Old Boy Suspended Because His Mother Refused To Drug Him
> Our Schools Are Now Hellish Prisons: Under a new bill, 'Parents face weekend detentions with their kids', 'Teachers will be given the legal right to detain kids on any day they choose, with or without parents' consent', and 'Parenting orders, backed by the threat of a 500 fine, will be slapped on families of kids who skip detention'

Why are they doing this to youths? This is why:
The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher - By John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991
The Century of the Self: The Untold History Of Controlling The Masses Through The Manipulation Of Unconcious Desires





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Comments 1 - 20 of 31 Add Comment Page of 2 >
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 16 2006, 3:48 AM

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This is the most psychotic thing ive ever read
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 11:44 AM

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why isn't this place closed down? what year is it?
TFGA

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 12:01 PM

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"New York education officials issued a scathing report yesterday"

Scathing report? SCATHING FUCKING REPORT!? Why is this school not being surrounded by NYPD this fucking second and these pedophile fucking psycho freaks not being put in the back of police vans with handcuffs around them!? This is disgusting, never mind closing the school down, people should be in jail for this! How dare fucking cunt politicians talk about fucking gay fucking marriage and indecency on airwaves while people being fitted with electric shock bracelets!
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 12:06 PM

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wow, those are some crazy ass people...
woah!
no really, what year is it?!
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 12:19 PM

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The reason why these places aren't closed down is because parents consent to these conditions. Usually as a last choice situation.

Boot camps, conditioning and some prep schools use physical punishment. From detention, running laps around the school, to cleaning toilets. I don't agree with electroshock therapy, but apparently this institution was able to sell the idea to the parents.

I would have liked to see this author present more details, such as the 17 clinicians -- are 6 psychologists, and the remaining 11 medical doctors and nurses?

When journalists present half the facts to sensationalize their own perspective, they are not doing their job which is to present the facts and have the reader develop their own opinion.

Please do not jump on the bandwagon and say this is awful treatment of children, before you are able to stand in the parents shoes.

Read the article and logically fill in the blanks, then come to your own conclusion.
Dagon

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 1:49 PM

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Imagine having been to that school after having left it a few years. I'd remember every teacher, by name, adres, car type. I am the kind of person that would get even. The cops would never find their corpses. There is such a thing like shovels and hydrochloric acid.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 2:11 PM

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What the FUCK is wrong with these people? Just reading this story made me want to jump up and donkey punch these bastards. MASSACHUSETTS BOARD OF EDUCATION, WAKE YOUR SORRY ASSES UP!
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 2:35 PM

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Wow! I am amazed. Here we have quotes saying things like "We aren't breaking any rules" or similar. In the UK this behaviour would put whoever did it in prison for torture. It is a Human Right (under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Magna Carta, the European convention on human rights and our own domestic law) to inflict this sort of thing on anyone - regardless of parental permission. I would hope that people would see that torturing people is not the way to cure them. Roll on court cases.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 2:50 PM

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This school has been extremely controversial for the 30 or so years it's been around.

Well I personally have a hard time agreeing with their methods, there is support for the program amongst many of the parents of students who have been helped by the program (as well as the former students themselves). This article mentions, but de-emphasizes, the severity of the problems faced by many of the students.

I think that this type of treatment should be withheld and used only for patients whose behaviors are life-threatening (and even then only in extreme cases), but, most importantly, the fact is that the issue is far less "black and white" and far more "shades of grey" than many of the comments above make it out to be.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 2:57 PM

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They should put some of those "shock" devices on the school officials and see how they like it!!!
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 3:03 PM

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Why don't we just go back and start sticking long pins in through the eyes to give lobotomies while we're at it. Shock therapy has been almost consistantly proven to not be the effective cases in changing people's behavior. All it does is give them another complex, if you ask me. And to use it on CHILDREN!!! I can't believe that such places still exist, and that some parents are actually supporting this!
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 3:39 PM

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It's the kind of parents that beat there kids that support this.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 5:55 PM

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"13-year-old daughter, Samantha, used to punch herself in the head so often that she detached both retinas"...so they shocked her and she quit...

Apparently it's the parents of children who beat themselves that support this.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 6:32 PM

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It sounds grotesque, but try walking a mile in one of these parents' shoes before you storm the tower with gasoline and torches. For some of these profoundly disturbed kids, there is no other way to stop them from seriously hurting themselves.

Besides, it's not nearly as harsh as what we do to the citizens of Iraq and the folks in Gitmo for no legal reason. Are those of you who are protesting this school also calling for that to stop?
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 6:42 PM

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Some of these kids are not profoundly disturbed, did you read the excerpts from the actual report itself? The parents need to take reponsiblity for themselves and not send their kids off to some camp to "fix" their children for them. And yes, we are calling for Gitmo to be closed.

"> One student stated she felt depressed and fearful, stating very coherently her desire to leave the center. She is not permitted to initiate conversation with any member of the staff. She also expressed that she had no one to talk to about her feelings of depression and her desire to kill herself and told the interviewing team that she thought about killing herself everyday. Her greatest fear was that she would remain at JRC beyond her 21st birthday.

...
> A student interviewed stated that she had entered JRC at the age of 19 with the expectation that she would receive vocational training while she resolved her emotional and behavioral problems. She had not received any vocational training and still remained in the most restrictive settings offered by JRC. This student wept as she asked the team to bring her back to New York."
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 7:10 PM

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No shit, I don't want to belittle the problems that some of the kids have, but it sounds like the people in charge are the problem here. Electroshock therapy, whether it's effective or not, SHOULD NOT BE IN THE HANDS OF ANYONE WITHOUT EDUCATION BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL! Are you fucking kidding me? With America's public education system in the state that it's in today?

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 9:13 PM

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If the people who set up the program described below had had enough exposure to science fiction, they would have realized that they had had a bad idea.

Posted: Jun 17 2006, 9:15 PM

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oops... below, above... the program using electroshock to control behavior
cranston snord

Posted: Jun 18 2006, 3:47 AM

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While the idea of electroshocking retarded children as a form of punishment is totally abhorrent to me, there is another side to this.

I am the father of a profoundly retarded 14 year old son whom I love more than life itself. Like one of the students described in the article, he sometimes shows a propensity to strike himself in the head repeatedly. He can't hear, doesn't comprehend speech, doesn't understand instructions or admonitions, and can't be stopped without physically stopping him.

I can understand the use of a shock as aversion therapy to modify this sort of behaviour simply to prevent him doing long term damage to himself.

Now, having said all that, I absolutely believe that this form of "therapy" should ONLY be in the hands of a properly trained therapist (Doctor) and should be extremely limited with clearly defined purposes and goals. It should never be long term, there should never be burn marks, and the children should never be made to wear the thing in a bath or for long term.

And it should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER be used by the guards and orderlies simply as a control device.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 18 2006, 5:09 AM

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On Monday, June 19, the NYS Board of Regents will consider "emergency proposed regulations" by the NYS Dept. of Education that were developed partly in response to the concerns about placing NYS students in JRC. While some parents do support the program and feel it has helped their child, there are also significant program failures and concerns.

The first draft of the NYS emergency proposal called for barring all use of electric skin shock in NYS public schools and state-approved private placements (such as JRC).

The revised draft called for allowing electric skin shock and other 'aversives' in NYS schools and state-approved private placements, if the child's team obtained a "child-specific waiver." Under the proposal, no physican clearance was even required.

The most recent draft and the one that will be voted on tomorrow bars electric skin shock but permits other aversives with a "child-specific waiver." The latest version might also allow electric shock and all of the other aversive methods if they're called "treatment" instead of viewing them as part of a planned behavioral program. If they're 'treatment,' no waiver seems to be needed. Again, the proposal doesn't specifically require medical clearance or ongoing medical supervision and review.

The proposed regulations are not based on replicated and research-validated methods on educational methods. They are not consistent with the policies of a federal agency, SAMHSA, that has called for the barring of all such techniques.

For a series of articles on JRC and the NYS proposed regulations, see the series of articles and discussion at http://www.dailykos.com/user/Dissent .
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