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Advocates Want School Using Shock Therapy Defunded


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A national coalition of disability advocacy groups is calling on the federal government to stop providing funds to a Massachusetts school that uses skin-shock therapy on students with disabilities.

In a letter sent earlier this month to health and education officials in the Obama administration, 20 groups including The Arc, the Autism Society, TASH and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law called for federal funds being sent to the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Mass. to be halted.

The request was made in light of a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent to the school in December citing concerns over the devices used to administer electric shocks.

“It is time to take drastic and significant action in order to compel the Judge Rotenberg Center to change its treatment of some of the most vulnerable young people in our country,” wrote the coalition known as APRAIS in their letter to Cindy Mann at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Michael Yudin at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

“An immediate suspension of federal funding for the Judge Rotenberg Center is the only conscionable action,” the letter said.

For years disability advocates have likened the use of electric shocks at the Rotenberg Center to torture. Findings from investigations of the school’s practices conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the United Nations have not been released, advocates say.

However, some parents and former students have defended the practices at the school, which serves kids with developmental disabilities as well as behavioral and emotional problems, saying that the approach is effective.

In its warning letter, the FDA indicated that devices being using at the school to administer electric shocks did not have proper clearance or approval from the agency and without corrective action the center could be subject to “seizure, injunction and civil money penalties.”

School officials told ABC News last month that they planned to work with the FDA to address the agency’s concerns.

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. Tacitus says:

    I wish people would stop calling it “shock” therapy; it is incorrect and misleading. It isn’t shock therapy, it’s aversive therapy. The problem is not that it involves electric shocks, the problem is that the entire idea is that you hurt children badly in order to change their behavior. That’s what’s wrong with this, not the particular method they use.

  2. Holly says:

    Words here like (for years) ha ha ha ha ha ha like the so called disability advacates actually do anything.

  3. Virginia McInturff says:

    But did they ask the student if it is ok?

  4. Sylvia Hebel says:

    In 2007 a small girl died under a supposedly safe hold. An “instructor” laid on top of her and suffocated her because of his weight. Our children are not guinea pigs for every “new: treatment that comes along. Even guinea pigs are protected. Please protect our children and vulnerable folk!

  5. Dorothy says:

    If a parent were to use these school approved methods on their kids, they would go to jail for abuse

  6. Elisabeth Van Wersch says:

    Electric shock used on students is awful, horrible, unspeakable. The authorities need to learn how to deal with special needs kids and their behaviors.

  7. Pat Fratangelo says:

    I have read letters written by people who resided there and it is torture for no real reasons. I have also read an evaluation done of the system which supported the input I read from survivors. This place needs to be shut down. They have no respect for people with disabilities and do nothing on proactive approaches to support people with difficulties. I am appalled that they are continued to operate.

  8. ann masotti says:

    I cannot believe this place is still operating. Their methods are medieval and casts a shadow on any progress advocates make to enlighten the public about Mental Illness, Autism, and Developmental Delays.
    It is not “OK” even if the student says it is. My daughter was given ECT many years ago in a psychiatric ward at a well-known hospital in New York for behaviour modification purposes…..they missed the fact, at the time, she was undiagnosed Autistic. By the Grace of God, and a good neuro doctor in Virginia, She is now 25 and after 100 (worthless) hospitalizations, travelling through six states and scores of therapy sessions she is coming into her own……places like the Rotenberg School PUNISH the victim. This place is not the only one either….I’ve been to others and the underlying premise is that our children are not valuable enough to save….NY is a good example of backward thinking. In the last five years at least six students of various DD backgrounds have been accidentally so-called special schools. A wonderful reporter for the NY Times has been doing some great investigative reporting for the last year or so…name Danny Hakim. (Sitting on patients, regardless of outbursts should be outlawed as well). As parents and caregivers, it’s up to us to protect our loved ones because these places are not.

  9. Phillip says:

    Using this kind of “method” in my opinion is criminal and all staff involved, particularly those who wrote and abide by this policy should be criminally charged. A part of their punishment should be on the receiving end of the “method”, starting with the admin and working their way down.

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