Report: Massachusetts child psych center violated students

May 11, 2013

A 131-page report released Monday by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office details the abuse of two teenage students at the Judge Rotenberg Center who received nearly 100 "inappropriate" electric shocks during an incident at a JRC group home in Stoughton back in August 2007.

The report, done by retired Judge Isaac Borenstein, calls for the Canton-based special needs school to "strengthen its practices, policies and procedures to further ensure safety of the residents.”

The school uses aversive therapy, which includes GED (Graduated Electronic Decelerator) shock therapy to correct behavior in students "who do no respond to only positive procedures," the study said.

The shock treatment, which must be approved by a Probate Court Judge, is administered by a small, round metal disc connected to electrodes. The electrodes are usually placed on the arm or leg of a student with a Velcro strap and locking mechanism.

The GEDs deliver a two-second shock to the surface of the skin when a student exhibits an inappropriate behavior.

In an incident on August 26, 2007, a former student who had previously run away from the school called a JRC student residence in Stoughton and pretended to be a member of the Quality Control Department at the school.

The former student instructed employees at the residence to administer 77 GED shocks to one student and 29 shocks to another student.

A 19-year-old student referred to as John Doe in the report was wrongly administered over 70 shocks as a result of the incident.

“After the tenth GED, John Doe asked for water, which the staff gave to him along with a tissue to wipe his nose. After the thirteenth GED, John Doe began shaking and breathing deeply. The staff failed to count all of the GED applications, counting nine total when there had been fifteen given. After the fourty-ninth GED, John Doe asked if he could receive the rest of the applications in the morning because he was really tired. When sixty GEDs had been given the staff’s count was at forty-seven. When seventy GEDs were administered in the basement, John Doe was moved to Mark Poe’s former bedroom at the residence to sleep. Staff observed that John Doe’s skin was red. When he was in bed, John Doe told staff that his mouth was dry, blood pressure was racing and he was sweating. John Doe said he felt like he was about to have a stroke. Staff took no action,” the report said.

A 16-year-old student referred to as James Roe received 29 GED shocks as told to do so by the former student on the phone.

“The staff did not rotate James Roe’s electrodes at all. James Roe told staff that his leg was “killing” him and asked them to call a nurse. The staff did not act in response to these complaints,” the report said.

Borenstein highlighted "serious mistakes by members of the JRC staff, as well as, some unclear policies and procedures on the part of JRC, lead to a failure of the JRC program for student safety with regard to these two students.”

“The human rights of the students harmed in the August 2007 incident were certainly violated by the abusive and neglectful actions of the staff persons involved,” Borenstein wrote in the report.

Several changes in policy were made after the 2007 incident. Some include that staff members cannot administer a GED for behaviors they did not witness. An In-House Monitor, a new position created after the incident must personally witness all GED applications at residences.

“Overall, JRC has implemented a number of positive changes since August 2007 to address safety, staff training and supervision, the exercise of good judgment, and even reporting behavior that may be critical of JRC and its polices,” the report said.

Borenstein will continue to conduct quarterly reports on JRC’s progress.

Source: Benjamin Poulin "New Report Details Controversial Incident at Judge Rotenberg Center Group Home in Stoughton," Stoughton Patch, May 10, 2013.



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