School for disabled children uses electric shocks more powerful than stun guns to punish students
The Judge Rotenberg Center's method of disciplining students has been described as "unconscionable," with a human rights watch dog requesting the Trump administration to intervene.
A Massachusetts school for children with disabilities has come under fire from various human rights organizations after it emerged that they were still using electric shocks on their students as a form of punishment. Now, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an international body set up to uphold human rights across the Americas, has called on the Trump administration to interfere and put an end to the controversial practice.
According to the Guardian, the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is the only school in the world that uses these shocks — described to be more powerful than the ones discharged by stun guns — as a form of "aversion therapy" on 47 of its disabled students.
To mete out the punishment, which has been termed as "unconscionable," the school developed its own zapping devices known as "GED" machines which students are made to carry in backpacks that they have to wear around the clock. Wires run from the boxes to electrodes attached to the skin of the student's arms, legs, or torso, and whenever a student behaves in a manner deemed to be harmful to themselves or others, they are given a shock that lasts up to two seconds.
Though the school insists that the devices present no risk to children, the claim has been has been contended by numerous reports over the years.
In 2007, the staff at the school reportedly shocked two students almost 100 times after a call from a manager informed them that the pair had misbehaved. That incident resulted in the school's founder resigning from his position and serving five years of probation after he was found guilty of destroying evidence.
In another such case, a video that was released to the public in 2012 showed a 18-year-old student, Andre McCollins, being shocked 31 times over the course of seven hours while he was strapped to a gurney. He can even be heard screaming, "That hurts, that hurts."
And yet, the practice is still continuing to thrive at the school. Speaking to the New York Post, Andy Imparato, executive director of Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), said, "This facility’s decades-long insistence on so-called ‘aversive therapy’ as a treatment of first resort defies logic, decency, and expert medical opinions."
"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," he continued.
The IACHR has now intervened, bringing up the fact that the UN's 2013 monitor on torture had found the technique a violation of UN convention against torture and other international laws, and issuing a formal notice to the school to immediately disband the practice.
It has given the Trump administration 15 days to impose the ban, which while non-binding, will see the US condemned in the international community if ignored. They have also written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the US ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo and asked for their observations on the electric shock therapy, though they have not yet received a response.
In light of the recent developments, the school once again defended the practice and said the call for the ban was based on inaccurate information. "No one from the JRC or the families of clients whose lives have been saved by the treatment were interviewed and there has been no response to multiple invitations to visit the school," they said in a statement to the Guardian.
The school may even have the law on its side, with a family court judge ruling this past June that JRC's activities were legal and must be allowed to continue.
Watch the video of McCollins being shocked here: