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You may have thought the Middle Ages was over. You know, blood-letting, witch-burning, water torture, that sort of thing.

But you would be wrong. Apparently its practices (albeit modernized with the discovery of electric current) are alive and well in Canton, Massachusetts as a recent article in New York magazine reveals.

For years, the state of New York has been sending troubled kids to a notorious "school" in Massachusetts known as the Judge Rotenberg Center, where students who don't follow the rules receive painful electric shocks. The "treatment" at the center has nothing to do with electroconvulsive therapy, where people with severe depression are induced into having seizures under anesthesia -- it's behavior modification for troubled children, and the Rotenberg Center is the only place in America that uses this approach.
Not to make light of this in any way but indeed, their chief weapons are fear... fear and surprise.
Students have electrodes attached to their limbs, and staffers trigger the shocks by remote control; the kids never know which limb will be zapped.
Finally, a video of these practices has come into the public domain because of a lawsuit and a responsible judge who refused to censor the evidence. You do not want to watch the video, but if you insist on hearing screams and seeing limbs flailing here it is.

Like many a defense lawyer before him, in the video the Rotenberg Center's attorney claims his clients were just following orders

These are dramatic tapes. No question about that. But the treatment plan at the Rotenberg Center, the treatment plan that Andre had in place, on October 25, was followed.

"Are you sure, Doctor? Another 20 shocks?"
"Proceed with the treatment.."
"Yes, Doctor."

What's the backstory here? Andre McCollins was diagnosed with autism as a child, and sent by the State of New York to the Rotenberg Center for treatment. 2002, Andre McCollins walked into a Rotenberg Center classroom at 9:33 a.m. and refused to take off his coat. "It was a new classroom," said his lawyer Ben Novotny of Lubin & Meyer in Boston. "He doesn't like change." For this transgression, Andre received one shock.

He then tried to crawl under a table. "Staffers pulled him out and put him in a four-point restraint face down," Novotny says. While restrained, he kept screaming and tensing up his body, prompting 30 more shocks. Finally, at 4:30 p.m., the staffers untied his restraints. "The entire weekend, he spent in a psychotic, catatonic state," Novotny says. "He has permanent brain damage from the stress response from that day."

Andre's mother sued, as have other families. But Cheryl McCollins' suit is the first one that has been able to force the defense to show videos of their "treatment plan" to the world.
...McCollins and her lawyer have accomplished something that no one else has managed to do: show the public exactly what it looks like when a student is being shocked. More video was aired in court on Wednesday, and the trial is expected to continue until the middle of next week.
Read the New York article and an article published in 2006 by the same writer, Jennifer Gonnerman, and be prepared for more harrowing tales such as
As I walked through a classroom, a 15-year-old girl from the Bronx held up a sheet of paper where she’d scribbled a message with pink marker: "HELP US."
It costs the State of New York some $220,000 per student to send people to this place. Funny how the Rothenberg website doesn't mention electric shock therapy.  As if they thought we were living in the 21st century in a country that was considered marginally civilized and might not approve of forcibly restraining troubled kids on a table and sending bolts of electricty at random through their bodies.

2:16 PM PT: Courtesy of Catte Nappe:

In early 2011, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services responded to an executive order from Governor Deval Patrick to amend existing regulations regarding use of aversives, such as electric shock aversives. The proposed regulations were heard in two hearings in July and August 2011 despite immense JRC opposition, but were enacted into law in the Fall 2011. The regulations completely prohibit the use of aversives on any student admitted to the JRC after 1 September 2011, but do permit their use under an annually-reviewed court-approved behavioral intervention plan for students who were authorized to receive the shocks before 1 September 2011.
7:16 PM PT:
Cheryl McCollins testified that, on visiting Andre three days afterwards ((after the incident shown in the video)), he was “catatonic.” She had him admitted to the hospital on the same day; Andre was diagnosed with acute stress response caused by the shocks. She also described watching the video and hearing staff members laugh while Andre was on the floor.

7:25 PM PT:
The drama isn't just playing out in court. Senate President Therese Murray is calling for a state ban on shocks and other aversive therapies. She has the support of the state Senate, but so far not the House.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 09:42 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Policy Zone, Occupy Wall Street, Milk Men And Women, Massachusetts Kosmopolitans, House of LIGHTS, Mental Health Awareness, and Parenting on the Autism Spectrum.

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