School for the disabled won’t stop electrically shocking its studentsDecember 19, 2018
A controversial Massachusetts school for children with disabilities is still using electric shocks as a form of punishment — and an international human rights group wants the Trump administration to step in.
The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center — a Canton, Massachusetts, school for children and adults who are emotionally disturbed, have intellectual disabilities or autism — currently subjects more than 40 of its severely disabled students to electric shocks as “aversive therapy,” according to The Guardian.
Students at the school are forced to wear backpacks containing the zapping devices, which are attached to the students through wires connected to electrodes on their skin. The jolts are worse than those discharged by stun guns, according to the Guardian.
The contentious practice has been met with condemnation by disability advocates and human rights groups.
“This facility’s decades-long insistence on so-called ‘aversive therapy’ as a treatment of first resort defies logic, decency, and expert medical opinions,” said Andy Imparato, executive director of Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), a network of centers for those with disabilities.
“Using electric shocks to punish and ‘correct’ behavior is widely discredited throughout the medical and educational community, making the Rotenberg Center the only facility in the nation that clings to the practice,” Imparato added.
Now, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has issued a rare, formal notice to the school to immediately disband the practice, despite a court ruling in its favor.
As part of its notice, the intergovernmental organization gave the Trump administration 15 days to ban the school from shocking its students or risk condemnation. The IACHR reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask for his observations on electric shock therapy but has not received a response, The Guardian reports.
The controversy surrounding the school erupted in 2012 when a video showed an 18-year-old boy with autism being shocked 31 times over the course of seven hours while being tied down. Throughout the video — which was taken in 2002, according to the Huffington Post — the teen can be heard screaming, “That hurts.”
The school says it no longer use the restraint board seen in the video, according to CBS News.
In a statement to The Guardian, The Judge Rotenberg Center said: “The clients are generally free of restraint and ineffective and dangerous psychotropic medications, free of injuries and able to further their education and relationships with their families in ways that were not possible with any other treatments.”
But another former student, Jennifer Msumba, told CBS she too was subjected to the shocks, saying: “It’s not humane, you don’t even feel like a person.”
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