(NaturalNews) It appears that the use of electroshock punishment tactics isn’t limited to the U.S. military these days: The state of Massachusetts has renewed a special education school’s authority to use electric shocks as a form of punishment, even after the school admitted to administering excessive and unfair shocks to two children after being told to do so by a prank caller.
Last year, a prank caller believed to be a former student called the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, MA, in the middle of the night. Posing as an administrator, the caller told school officials to administer electric shock treatments to two students, one 16 and one 19, for infractions that had allegedly happened more than five hours before. In response to the call, the two students were awakened; one was shocked 22 times, and the other was shocked 77 times.
“I think it’s fair to say that [giving someone] 77 shocks is unusual,” school spokesperson Ernest Corrigan later admitted. “It is excessive to what is normal protocol. Giving 22 shocks is also excessive.” So why did they give the shocks to children? And why did they do so after merely receiving a prank phone call?
According to Nancy Alterio, the executive director of Massachusetts’ Disabled Persons Protection Committee, which received a phone tip about the incident, a third person was also shocked based on the same prank call.
In response to the incident, the school fired seven people, claiming, “This [incident] happened, we reported it and we’ve taken steps necessary so that this doesn’t happen again,” Corrigan said.
How America treats mentally disabled children…
Rotenberg has approximately 250 students, most of whom live in one of 38 nearby group homes. All the students have mental disabilities that make it difficult for them to function in normal society, and many are low-functioning autistic children. About two-thirds of Rotenberg’s students are minors.
It is my belief, by the way, that nearly all of these children were put into this mental state through either vaccinations, exposure to toxic chemicals or severe nutritional deficiencies during their mother’s pregnancy. In other words, virtually all the children in the facility could have avoided mental retardation if our nation had a healthy food supply and realistic nutritional support for expectant mothers.
While much of the behavior modification treatment at the school is based on rewards, Rotenberg remains the only school in the United States to still use electric shock as a form of therapy. The state of Massachusetts has twice tried to have the school closed due to the practice, but has failed both times.
According to Rotenberg’s Web site, shock therapy is only used “after obtaining prior parental, medical, psychiatric, human rights, peer review and individual approval from a Massachusetts Probate Court.” (They forgot to mention it also includes a “prank phone call.”) Corrigan dismissed the shock as similar in pain to a bee sting, and the school maintains that the shocks have “no significant negative side effects.” You will note, however, that they did not subject their own employees to such electroshock treatment before firing them. That would be cruel, of course.
There’s something rotten in Rotenberg
Sixty percent of the school’s students have court-authorized treatment plans that include electric shocks as punishment. And autism experts and patient’s rights advocates dispute the claim that the shocks are harmless, pointing to the inevitable psychological harm done by such a practice.
According to Barry Pizant of the Brown University Center for the Study of Human Development, shock punishment “interferes with [autistic students’] ability [to] trust people who are with them, and these are people who already have trouble understanding people.”
Yet the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services recently extended Rotenberg’s authorization to use electric shock by one year. To continue using electric shock therapy, the school must prove that it only uses shocks to punish the most dangerous and self-destructive behaviors, and must also prove that the shocks reduce the occurrence of those behaviors. Shocks must not be used for “seemingly minor infractions” such as swearing or getting out of seats without permission, and the school must show that it is committed to phasing out the treatments, particularly for students who are about to leave the school. Further, the state criticized the school for failing to customize treatments to individual students, and for failing to address the root causes of disruptive behavior.
Rotenberg has reportedly also agreed to eliminate the practice of delayed punishment or shocking sleeping students, as occurred in the August incident.
Opposition to electroshock therapy for autistic children
Mental health advocates expressed disgust that the practice of shocking children will continue. “I see [shock therapy] as the last vestige of [an] old practice that was proven ineffective and we should have stopped doing it all together 20 or 30 years ago,” Pizant said. “If you look in the mainstream of people working with kids with disabilities these aversives are totally out of the mainstream.”
“I think it’s barbaric and there are really no words,” said Rita Shreffler, executive director of the National Autism Association, “It’s inexplicable. There’s no reason to [shock] another human being.” Shreffler urged parents with special needs children to carefully investigate the people or institutions that they entrust their children to.
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