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Judge Rotenberg Center lobbies against seclusion and restraint bill

Posted Nov 13 2011 12:35pm

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is a special needs school which employs controversial behavior modification techiniques, including electric shock. The JRC has been the focus of much criticism for this practice, which is illegal in many (possibly most) states. Even its home state of Massachusetts has made, and continues to make, efforts to curb this practice.

In Judge Rotenberg Center lobbies D.C. against bill , the Canton Journal (a local newspaper for the JRC) notes that the JRC is lobbying to stop state legislation and federal legislation:

As the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton gears up to oppose new state regulations that limit the use of controversial shock treatment, the school is also covering its bases in Washington.

So far this year, the Judge Rotenberg Center has paid $16,500 to Malkin & Ross, a New York-based lobbying firm, according to recent lobbying reports filed with the secretary of the Senate.

This lobbying effort includes targeting a seclusion and restraint bill:

A bill filed by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., now the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, would ban the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools. The bill is co-sponsored by 27 Democrats, including Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, and one Republican.

Seclusion and restraint legislation has been a major focus of autism organizations as diverse as the and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network .

The Miller seclusion and restraint bill, House Resolution 1381, includes language calling for children to have the right to be “Free from physical or mental abuse, aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety…”

(2) Behavioral interventions for children must promote the right of all children to be treated with dignity. All children have the right to be free from physical or mental abuse, aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety, and any physical restraint or seclusion imposed solely for purposes of discipline or convenience.

and specifically call for the prohibition of restraints and aversives that “compromise health and safety”:

(1) School personnel shall be prohibited from imposing on any student the following:

(A) Mechanical restraints.

(B) Chemical restraints.

(C) Physical restraint or physical escort that restricts breathing.

(D) Aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety.

I guess rather than argue that their methods do not “compromise health and safety”, JRC would prefer to quash this bill. Unfortunately, JRC may get their wish. H.R. 1381 appears to be stalled, with no actions taken since it was referred to committee in March.

  1. Kate Gladstone:
    The Judge Rotenberg Center is now legally barred from zapping _new_ admissions — ...  However, the existing population (which includes people from age 5 into middle age at least) will continue to receive this form of punishment.
  2. Victoria Gillen:
    $16,500 for lobbying? Where did that come from, I wonder? The exec director made ca. $400K in salary and benefits, and their legal bills must be tremendous... so, perhaps a lot of money is saved when extreme aversives are used? or should the school lose their not-for-profit status? When my son was recommended for residential placement JRC sent a "sales team" to my house - several hundred miles away! Their presentation left me thinking about Donkey Island (from Disney's Pinocchio)... prizes, fun, and a very dark reality.
  3. Sullivan:
    Kate Gladstone, thanks for that! I hadn't seen it. The ASAN letter is now up as a blog post here.

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