At the Judge Rotenberg Center special needs school in Canton, Massachusetts, controversial disciplinary practices—such as giving children electric skin shocks—have been in practice for decades.
The kids attending school at the center are labeled emotionally disturbed. Some are autistic or have intellectual disabilities.
On June 25, 2010, kids and staff at one of the Judge Rotenberg Center’s group homes got into a brawl that landed three kids in the hospital with broken bones.
Reported by The Boston Globe, local Police Lieutenant Patty Sherril says, “In my 17 years here, I’ve never seen anything like this.” She added that one of the male teenagers whispered to her, “Miss, you have to get me out of here. I fear for my safety.’’
The children in the fight were not among the students who wear skin electrodes that transmit a shock from staff members when the kids misbehave. Still, State Senator Brian Joyce and disability rights advocates who have struggled for years to shut down the school have been galvanized by the incident.
The Boston Globe reported earlier this year that, “Some disability advocates say students are punished for behaviors as minor as stopping work for a short time, getting out of their seats, interrupting others, or whispering.”
However, some parents, as reported by the Globe, accept the disciplinary measures as necessary:
Many parents who have children at the Rotenberg center have supported the school, saying it accepted their children when other institutions turned them away or that the shocks are a better alternative to heavy sedation administered at some facilities.
Regardless of what parents or advocates believe to be happening at the school, kids were severly hurt after fighting with the staff.
The question remains: Are the practices at Judge Rotenberg Center and their group homes necessary and ethical or extreme and detrimental to children’s well-being?