Judge Rotenberg Center: House Passes Bill That Would Prevent Funding of Facilities That Use Shock to Discipline Students

August 2, 2021

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation that would prohibit the Department of Education from funding any institution that uses electric shock devices to discipline students — a provision specifically intended to stop the practice at a Massachusetts special education school.

Currently only one institution is known to use shock therapy to treat patients with disabilities in the United States: the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, a taxpayer-funded private school in Canton, Mass.

The language was added to a massive spending bill covering federal health, education and labor programs. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., told GBH News that she added the provision to the bill to stop the practice at the school. Clark previously worked as an attorney at the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, where she sued the school for their use of “aversive practices” to discipline people with disabilities.

“It is unbelievable to think that in 2021 electric shock devices are still being used in schools.” Clark said in an email. “I’ve been working for over a decade to stop this practice and finally, through this year’s Appropriations package, we will ensure that students in Massachusetts and across the nation will no longer be subjected to this horrific and dangerous practice.”

Officials at the center couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The methods used at the school have long sparked controversy, including protests and lawsuits. Many at the school struggle with profound disorders causing severe aggressive and self-injurious behavior like head-banging and biting. Some family members swear the shocks have been the only way to control their loved ones, while critics call the practice torture.

The Food and Drug Administration banned the shocks last year, but the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned that decision earlier this month.

Inclusion in the House spending bill is only the first step in the long annual process for federal appropriations, and the Senate has not yet begun to consider spending bills.

Nancy R. Weiss, director of Disability Initiatives at the University of Delaware, said she is hopeful the bill will prohibit the Rotenberg Center from using electric shocks on people with behavioral issues. Weiss has long spoken out against the practice.

“What they give them is pain and terror,” she said. “We don't do it to political prisoners, we don't do it to convicted terrorists. We don't do it to animals down at the animal shelter. We only do it to people with disabilities, because we just don't value them to the same degree as we value other people.”

Source: Gabriela Lopez,  “Bill To Ban Shocks At Canton Special Education School Passes First Test In U.S. House Of Representatives,” WGBH News, July 29, 2021, URL: https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2021/07/29/bill-to-ban-shocks-at-canton-special-needs-school-passes-first-test-in-u-s-house-of-representatives  


No comments.

Post your own comment here:

Your Comment