Who is iBrain's founder? NYC school sued for using students as research 'guinea pigs' without consent

Who is iBrain's founder? NYC school sued for using students as research 'guinea pigs' without consent
An ex-employee of International Institute for the Brain filed a suit against the institution run by Patrick Donohue ( iBrain/Facebook )

MANHATTAN, NEWYORK : International Institute of the Brain, a private school for children with brain disorders, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, also known as iBrain is now the target of a lawsuit. An ex-employee of the special needs school has accused the institution of several wrongdoings, including using students as 'guinea pigs' in scientific experiments, sexually harassing female employees, and being infested with cockroaches and dead rats. 

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Former publicity associate for iBrain, Katelyn Newman, said the school scammed the New York government for extra funds and asked unqualified employees to perform nursing procedures on disabled students. She filed a lawsuit against the school on January 16 after quitting in early December. In the shocking court documents, Newman accused iBrain founder Patrick Donohue of fostering a discriminatory and abusive work environment, and creating a neglectful and dangerous space for vulnerable students.

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Who is iBrain's founder?

Patrick Donohue founded iBrain in 2016. Donohue's LinkedIn profile claims he is the "Founder & Chairman, Brain Injury Rights Group" and the "Founder & Chairman, International Institute for the Brain (iBRAIN)". His "About Me" bio reads, "To change the world for my little girl by advancing our knowledge of the brain fifty years in the next five!" The girl he is refering to is his own special needs child, Sarah Jane, who also goes to iBrain as Newman's lawsuit mentions, accusing the founder of giving "special and favored treatment" to his daughter that the other students were not entitled to.

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Donohue's daughter Sarah Jane (Patrick Donohue/LinkedIn)
Donohue's daughter Sarah Jane (Patrick Donohue/LinkedIn)

All his professional work experience in field of providing services to the "brain injuries community and their families" has been through non-profit organizations or companies (including iBrain) that he himself has founded and run. Before that, he was with Max Consulting, Inc. that was into "political and non-profit consulting and fund-raising."  He was also the Finance Director of NY Governor George Pataki's campaign office. His educational qualifications included an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law. However, neither his professional or educational qualifications seems to point to any specialized research, pedalogical or medical knowledge to cater to students with brain injuries or run a special needs school for them. However, iBrain was receiving up to $350,000 in taxpayer funding per student, ex-worker Newman claims in the New York Supreme Court suit.

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Patrick Donohue hired incompetent staff 

Besides being seemingly unqualified to run an institute like iBrain and receive tax payers' money to do so, Donohue also seems to have hired incompetent staffers. One such staffer was 'chief innovations officer' Dr Victor Pedro whose chiropractic license expired in December 2021, the suit noted and who also did not seem to have any specialized knowledge in the field. Newman alleged Pedro conducted research on students without informed parental consent, promoting various controversial techniques that had not been approved by the FDA or apparently any other governmental agency. Newman said Pedro was also "sexually suggestive". Donohue himself was allegedly an emotionally abusive boss. Newman finally submitted her final resignation after Donohue had an angry fit where he allegedly screamed "You're so unprofessional, pathetic, and incompetent."

The incompetence of management and staff even put students in physical harms way, Newman alleged, describing how teachers were often forced to carry out basic medical procedures on students they were not qualified to perform. "One student had to go to the hospital because his circulation was impeded, and his legs swelled up," the filing read, as reported by the Daily Mail.

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Newman also alleged that the school was "filthy". The court filing stated. "The first thing she noticed was that the facility located on East 91st Street was extremely filthy and unsanitary. The floors were generally left unwashed, spiders and bugs everywhere, with often no toilet paper, paper towels, soap, hand sanitizer, or running water in the bathroom." The court documents further stated, "The cockroaches were so prevalent that they were sometimes nested in students' wheelchairs." 

The building also had frequent leaks in the plumbing, which were "stuffed up with Dorito bags or whatever else was readily available," the filing said, adding, "At one-point, some disgusting and gross-smelling residue started falling from the ceiling in therapist's office area, but there were no immediate instructions given to vacate the premises. The carcass of a rat could be seen for an extended time period before it was finally removed, and the ceiling over the entryway where the children entered the building was falling down." The lawsuit also said the inhumane conditions extended to things such basic as the school's air conditioning, which were allegedly non-existent even through summertime heat waves.

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