Located in Canton, MA, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center
is special needs school for children with varying degrees of mental retardation. Its website states that
for 38 years JRC has provided very effective education and treatment to both high-functioning students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and low-functioning students with autistic-like behaviors.
Each student has his or her own individualized plan of treatment, which is charted daily. If, after eleven months of positive programming and educational procedures
it is clear that the students aren't responding to the treatment, then an intensive treatment procedure is introduced, called "adversives". Simply put, electroshock treatments.
Of all the students, sixty percent of the students do have court-authorized treatment plans, which include electroshock therapy. These are used only after obtaining prior parental, medical, psychiatric, human rights, peer review and individual approval from a Massachusetts Probate Court.
Putting the icing on the proverbial cake, the State of Massachusetts just "renewed"
Rotenberg's authority to use electric shocks on students. This, even though Rotenberg had admitted to administering excessive and unfair shocks to two children after being told to do so by a prank caller
and the state tried twice to have the school shut down due to this practice and failed both times!
The prank caller, who is believed to have been a former student, called the center pretending to be one of the staff, and ordering shock treatments to be initiated on a then 16-and 19-year old students because of some things that were done hours prior. After the call, the students were awakened. One was shocked 22 times and the other student was shocked 77 times.
A spokesman for the school, Ernest Corrigan agreed that it was unusual for someone to receive 77 shocks, and that it was
"excessive to what is normal protocol."
As a result of this incident, the school fired seven people and that steps had been taken to be assured it would not happen again.
The conditions of this renewal are that there must be proof that the students being shocked are dangerous
with self-destructive behaviors
. As well, these bee sting-like shocks could not be used for minor infractions, like swearing or moving from a seat without being told to.
The final condition is that the school, who is the only
remaining school in the US that still uses electroshock therapy, must be showing that they are phasing out the use of this form of treatment. Rotenberg has agreed to eliminate the practice of delayed punishment or waking students up to receive punishments.
Of course, children's rights and mental health advocates have had their say about this practise. Barry Pizant of the Brown University Center for the Study of Human Development said,
"I see [shock therapy] as the last vestige of [an] old practice that was proven ineffective and we should have stopped doing it all together 20 or 30 years ago."
"It's inexplicable. There's no reason to [shock] another human being," said Rita Shreffler, executive director of the National Autism Association.
Shreffler urges parents of special needs children to thoroughly research the people and the institutions that they are considering entrusting their children to.