The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is probably the best known and most controversial special education school in the world. The JRC describes itself as:
The JUDGE ROTENBERG CENTER (JRC) is a special needs school in Canton, Massachusetts serving ages 3-adult. For 38 years JRC has provided very effective education and treatment to both emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and developmentally delayed students with autistic-like behaviors.
If you haven’t heard of them, you are probably wondering how they could be controversial. From the JRC website:
If positive and educational procedures alone are not effective, then after trying them for an average of 11 months, we approach the parents to suggest supplementing the rewards with a corrective (aversive) consequence for the problem behavior. If the parent approves, and if we obtain an individualized authorization from a Massachusetts Probate Court, we apply an aversive in the form of a 2-second shock to the surface of the skin, usually on the arm or leg, as a consequence each time the problem behavior occurs.
Yes. The JRC uses aversives. Not just any aversives, they use electric shocks. When I first read that it sounded like they get parental and Court approval for each shock. Not so. Children are fitted with backpacks or “fanny packs” which have control units. Children are monitored 24/7. If an aversive is called for, the JRC staff can remotely signal the control unit to apply a shock to the child. Children can be shocked 30 timesor morein a single day.
The Department of Justice responded with a letter stating they have opened a “routine investigation”.
A letter from Nancy Weiss informing people of the investigation is below. Ms. Weiss is from the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities and the University of Delaware.The Complaint letter, signed by 31 disability organizations, is quoted below that.
Disability advocates have cause for celebration today. In response to the September 30th letter signed by 31 disability organizations, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division has announced that they have initiated an official investigation of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC); see the Department of Justice letter attached.
This is the complaint letter.
September 30, 2009
Here is an addendum letter.
If you can stand reading more about JRC, Mother Jones ran a story on JRC in 2007, School of Shock.
The disability advocates say it much better than I ever could. Picking but one sentence: We cannot condone treating persons with disabilities in a manner that would not be tolerated if applied to other segments of the population.
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