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New York Panel Considers Limits On JRC "Therapies"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 23, 2006

ALBANY, NEW YORK--The New York Board of Regents considered recommendations Monday designed to limit the use of corporal punishments and "aversive therapies" in schools.

The proposal by deputy education commissioner Rebecca Cort and other state education officials would ban the use of certain punishments -- such as electric shocks and withholding of food to change student behavior -- except in plans that are reviewed and approved by an appointed panel.

The new rules would apply to students within the state and those sent to other states, most specifically Massachusetts, where pain and aversion are allowed at the privately run Judge Rotenberg Education Center. About 150 students at JRC come from New York school districts. Half of them wear electrodes on their skin 24-hours a day so that JRC staff can deliver 2-second shocks to them to alter their behavior.

Most of the children reportedly have mental disabilities that affect their behavior.

While some parents defend the use of the electric shocks to keep their children from hurting themselves or others, critics point out that the jolts are also applied for simply not following orders, and for such behaviors as whispering and "failure to maintain a neat appearance".

Cort told the Board of Regents that JRC staff commonly restrain children with splints, helmets, or tubes, and force them to eat ''bland food consisting of mashed potatoes, chicken, and spinach garnished with liver powder" as punishment.

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care is investigating reports by a former JRC worker claiming that the strict diet forced on a 12-year-old girl with autism amounted to neglect.

The proposal came three weeks after New York mother Evelyn Nicholson filed a $10 million lawsuit against the state, claiming education officials were negligent by failing to ensure that her son, Antwone, was not mistreated when he went to JRC.

The Board did not vote on the proposal Monday, nor did it take public comment from the parents and others who had gathered at the meeting. A vote is expected next month.

"We don't do this to prisoners in the criminal justice system, so we shouldn't be doing it to people with disabilities," Leo Sarkissian, executive director of the ARC of Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe.

"N.Y. aides ask curb of shock use at center" (Boston Globe)
"Aversion to therapies" (Newsday)
"A question of 'tough love' vs. torture" (Boston Globe)
"N.Y. debates Mass. school's shock use" (Boston Globe)
"JRC Under Three Investigations; Mom Sues State That Sent Son To Facility" May 3, 2006 (Inclusion Daily Express)

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