Judge Rules School Can Use Electric Shocks On Special Needs Students

Judge Katherine Fields ruled the state failed to prove the practice does not conform to the “accepted standard of care” for individuals with disabilities.



A school in Massachusetts will be allowed to use electric shocks on its special needs student after a judge ruled it “accepted standard of care.”

The technique has been condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the United Nations special rapporteur on torture. However, the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) continues to use the method; in fact, it is the only school in the United States to do so.

The procedure has been long condemned. In 2013, the Massachusetts governor’s office sued to stop the practice but a recent ruling has allowed administering electric shocks on students.

Judge Katherine Fields of the Bristol County Probate and Family Court ruled the state failed to prove the practice “does not conform to the accepted standard of care for treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The JRC is a special needs day and residential school that specializes in treating “emotionally disturbed” children and adults, according to its website.

When some of their residents show out of place behavior, like inclination to self harm and others, the school shocks the students, using a Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED).

While some parents have said the treatment works, many have condemned its inhumane nature and long-term problems ensued by it: using fear to modulate behavior.

The first case of protest against the practice came in 2012, when 18-year-old Andre McCollins’ video at the center showed he received dozens of such shocks while tied to a bed.

Cheryl McCollins, his mother, sued the school and settled with them for an unreported amount of money. JRC claims their practices have changed since the incident.

But the protests against the use of the cruel technique are yet to die down. Only last month, disability rights advocates from the group ADAPT gathered around outside the home of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, in an attempt push the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop the practice at the center. In 2016, the agency said the procedure posed an “unreasonable and substantial risk” to public health.

“They have been sitting on these regulations for more than two years,” said Philadelphia ADAPT organizer German Parodi in a press release, “and they can stop this atrocity now with the stroke of a pen.”

According to WCVB, Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders will now have to decide whether to appeal against the court’s ruling, to overturn the practice that has already been banned by all other schools in the United States.

Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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