At a “special needs school” in Canton, Massachusetts, children and teenagers with autism and other disabilities are being administered electric shocks as a means of controlling their behaviors. As a former Teacher’s Assistant, I regret having participated firsthand at this school - The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC).
The human rights abuses taking place at the JRC are well documented. The United Nations is aware of the JRC and has called these shocks “torture”, and says that “The prohibition of torture is absolute.” Yet the school continues to use a powerfully painful electric shock device on students to control their behaviors. These devices are reportedly much stronger than police stun guns and were created by the founder of the Judge Rotenberg Center.
The Judge Rotenberg Center must immediately stop its practice of shocking special needs students.
Rather than shocking students for only severe behaviors, student behavior plans at JRC dictated that we shock certain students for even the most minor of behavioral issues like closing their eyes for 15 seconds while sitting at the desk, pulling apart a loose piece of thread, tearing an empty used paper cup, or for standing up and raising a hand to ask to go to the bathroom. In some classrooms, very often students who observe their peers being shocked react in fear by standing up out of their seat, yelling or crying, or throwing down their task -- and are then shocked for these reactions.
A non-verbal nearly blind girl with cerebral palsy was shocked as part of her behavioral plan for making a moaning sound and for attempts to hold a staff’s hand (her attempts to communicate and to be loved).
In 2002, 18 year-old Andre McCollins was strapped down and shocked for hours at the JRC. He begged for the shocks to stop and when they did, he was left in a catatonic state for days which resulted in permanent damage. Video of Andre’s shock treatment was sealed until recently and you can view it here.
The JRC’s founder, Dr. Matthew Israel, resigned after being charged with misleading a grand jury by destroying video footage of other students being shocked.
Not only does the JRC need to immediately stop this practice but Massachusetts legislators need to make these shock procedures illegal. These students are among Massachusetts’ most vulnerable citizens and have no voice of their own to describe their pain. They need your help.
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