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UN Calls For Investigation of Autism School’s Electric Shock Treatment

UN Calls For Investigation of Autism School’s Electric Shock Treatment

Juan Mendez, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on torture, is calling for an investigation of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JREC), a school in Canton, Massachusetts that has the highly dubious distinction of being the “only one in the world” to administer electric shocks on autistic children and others with emotional-behavioral conditions or mental retardation, all in the name of “therapy.”

As reported in the Guardian — whose reporters have witnessed the school in operation — Mendez has started discussions with the US mission to the UN in Geneva about investigating the JREC. Stating that he is “very concerned” about the JREC’s “treatment plan” of giving autistic children electric shocks on their skin via remote-control devices, Mendez said:

The use of electricity on anyone’s body raises the question of whether this is therapeutic or whether it inflicts pain and suffering tantamount to torture in violation of international law.

Mendez himself was subjected to electric shock by Buenos Aires police in 1975, of which he said

I feel very strongly that electricity applied to a person’s body creates a very extreme form of pain. There a lot of lingering consequences including mental illness that can be devastating.

About half of the students at the JREC carry special shock devices 24 hours a day, in backpacks or in packs strapped to their waist.

Disability rights activists have long opposed the horrific “aversive therapy” which is based on a highly outdated and frankly inhumane (and sickening, if you ask me) application of behaviorism.  Recently, opposition to the JREC has taken a more public form, with a rally demanding the end of its “aversive therapy” outside the Massachusetts state house earlier today, Saturday, June 2. Afterwards, participants planned to march to the JREC.

Massachusetts senator Brian Joyce spoke at the rally; he is a leading proponent of a bill to ban aversive therapy in the state. The bill has already passed the state Senate and is being considered in the House. According to Joyce, the JREC has been able to stay open while using its controversial therapy “through a combination of secrecy and legal threats, spending $16 million on lawyers’ fees between 2000 and 2010.” In April, a video was released that, for the first time, showed the public the JREC’s horrifying use of electric shock on children.

The school, via its former director, Matthew Israel, claimed that it provided therapy that “worked” for children whose severe behaviors, such as aggression and self-injurious behavior, could not otherwise be treated. Israel stepped down from his position in 2011 after facing criminal charges for a 2007 incident in which two teenagers with disabilities who were residents at the JREC were wrongfully administered a number of shocks after a prank phone call by someone posing as a supervisor ordered them.

As I wrote in an earlier post about the JRECmy teenage autistic son has a history of some of the most challenging behaviors associated with autism including self-injurious ones like head-banging. He has been doing a lot better now thanks in large part to his school and the good work of his teachers.

Laurie Ahern of Disability Rights International, which has long opposed the treatment, describes the JREC’s “therapy” as simply “a horrific form of torture.” Mendez’s predecessor as torture rapporteur, Manfred Nowak, had also called for an investigation of the JREC: We must urge the US Mission to the UN to undertake this investigation and end the use of abusive “therapy” at the JREC.

Sign the petition and tell the US Mission to the UN to investigate the JREC’s use of electric shock on autistic children and children with disabilities!

Related Care2 Coverage

Shocking Video of School Torturing Student With Disabilities Released

Matthew Israel, Founder of the “School of Shock” JREC, to Face Criminal Charges (VIDEO)

On Memorial Day Weekend, America Reckons with Torture

 

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168 comments

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8:31AM PDT on Apr 6, 2013

I certainly hope they were investigated and stopped.

8:30AM PDT on Apr 6, 2013

I certainly hope they were investigated and stopped.

11:38PM PST on Feb 26, 2013

Shocking! I had a hard time reading this story, to think that anyone could do this to a child in todays time and think it is ok, I'm here to tell you...it is not ok! The Children might never get over the effects of this horrible treatment. Lauren B. I agree with you!

1:11PM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

Don't the parents have any choice about their child being there? That's awful.

3:15PM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

SOOO WRONG

3:14PM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

i remember seeing this on Nancy Grace one of the kids Mothers was on she said that her child was shocked so much that when she picked him up he was unresponsive! Some kids were shocked for simply raising hands to go to the bathroom! How is this even allowed? I dont give a DAMN if a parent signed permission to shock form or not its WRONG!!!! Needless to say i signed thanks for sharing

3:14PM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

i remember seeing this on Nancy Grace one of the kids Mothers was on she said that her child was shocked so much that when she picked him up he was unresponsive! Some kids were shocked for simply raising hands to go to the bathroom! How is this even allowed? I dont give a DAMN if a parent signed permission to shock form or not its WRONG!!!! Needless to say i signed thanks for sharing

4:56AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

What is wrong with homo sapiens ? Can someone tell me if they understand anything about that ? Every day I am more amazed at how we spend the little time we have on this beautiful earth. If there is a traveller's guide to the galazy, we certainly are in the "absolutely avoid" list.But thank God, we are able to change, but let's hope we will change fast !

11:11AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

Oh dear...for sure an investigation would be more than necessary!

6:49AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

Do the parents of these students, have to give written permission for this type of torture? Is this a day treatment, type of school, or a boarding school?
They mentioned that they wear these devices 24 hours a day, does that mean, if they go home, the parents can also shock them?
This makes me sick. I would not be able to shock a child, just for misbehaving.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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