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School of Shock: Don't Tase Me, Teach!

At the Rotenberg Center, students as young as nine and ten receive shocks for misbehaving. Employeed wear remotes bearing a picture of each child around their waist so they don't shock the wrong kid.

The cover story of last month's Mother Jones magazine is a chilling account of a America's most controversial "behavior modification" school:

In 1999, when Rob was 13, his parents sent him to the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, located in Canton, Massachusetts, 20 miles outside Boston. The facility, which calls itself a "special needs school," takes in all kinds of troubled kids—severely autistic, mentally retarded, schizophrenic, bipolar, emotionally disturbed—and attempts to change their behavior with a complex system of rewards and punishments, including painful electric shocks to the torso and limbs. Of the 234 current residents, about half are wired to receive shocks, including some as young as nine or ten. [...]

The Rotenberg Center is the only facility in the country that disciplines students by shocking them, a form of punishment not inflicted on serial killers or child molesters or any of the 2.2 million inmates now incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons. Over its 36-year history, six children have died in its care, prompting numerous lawsuits and government investigations. Last year, New York state investigators filed a blistering report that made the place sound like a high school version of Abu Ghraib. Yet the program continues to thrive—in large part because no one except desperate parents, and a few state legislators, seems to care about what happens to the hundreds of kids who pass through its gates.

Link | Full article at Mother Jones - via The Good Reverend

Pretty cruel treatment for someone you just want to teach. Makes you wonder what sick motives lay behind shocking the students.

Aversion therapy is nothing knew. Psychiatrists have been tormenting their patients with this kind of thing for about a hundred years now.
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Wow, they are doing this to autistic and metally retarded children. These kids need special attention, not over the top punishment. I have to say that is pretty cruel; how this place is still around is amazing to me and in Massachusettes no less.
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That is the worst thing I have read in a long time. I am not sure how this is considered "neat" in any way..
The guy who runs the place sounds criminally insane.
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I think this is one heck of a bad idea. Anyone remember the "Stanford Experiment"? Give a person power over another who has no way to retaliate from abuse or worse and things go very bad. It's plain human nature.
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As the parent of a special needs child, just reading the info on Neatorama makes me want to vomit. How any parent can allow their child to be treated so cruelly is beyond me.

I don't know if I can bring myself to read the full article.
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Punishing people who can't understand or control their own behaviour? That's just sick. I've heard about this place before. I can't believe it's still allowed to operate.
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I jut finished reading the full article. The man forces total control and conformity on the students their through fear and pain. I can not see how anything in there could possible be justified.

the Saddest thing is that each year Massachusetts tries to stop it but is blocked by the parents of the kids who want to keep them there.
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I must say this is pretty over the top and I am in the psychology field. Although in no way would I dismiss the great benefits of electric shock for a last resort for severe and harmful behaviors, this is just way too much and really terrible.

This place seems to be using shock as a psychological punishment instead of a physiological one by having those picture belts...
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This is sick, utterly sick.

On the other hand, I'm not going to raise a special needs child for someone else, so if the parents are willing to let their offspring be subjected to mild torture I say let them.
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Any parent who thinks about putting their child in this dungeon of torture (a true oubliette for some of these families) should have to undergo a week of regular shocks, food deprivation and probings.

Then if they still want to put their child in this hell, they should have their child put in a decent facility, their parental rights terminated and they should be sterilized.
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Harsh though it may be, negative feedback invariably gets better results than positive feedback. Noone gives suspected terrorists a cookie every time they tell something the army need to know; they torture them until they've said everything and have started making stuff up. Take the classic little albert experiment of classical conditioning for example; the child was conditioned into non-natural responses due to fear. This could be the same thing happening here, the autistic and to a lesser extent, retarded kids are being forced to behave in a manner not natural to them though fear of pain. If it gets results and it doesn't cause permanent damage (unlike torture) then it may be worth continuing.
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Ms. Gonnerman’s article “School of Shock,” which appears in the September/October issue of the Mother Jones magazine, is an entirely one-sided and biased account of the court- and parent-approved behavior modification therapy used at the Judge Rotenberg Center to successfully treat, without drugs, severe (sometimes life-threatening) behavior problems of children and young adults with special needs that have not responded to any other form of treatment. For readers who would like to hear the other side of this story, please see
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