Thursday, January 18, 2007

Banning Skin Shocks - Some Parents Say NO!

The New York State Board of Regents wants to ban the use of skin shocks on students, and surprisingly, parents of the children are opposing the new policy. The article cited is a short but very eye-opening read.
In New York State The Board of Regents is expected to approve a policy that would ban skin shocks and other controversial measures to control troubled students’ behavior, by July 2009, despite objections from families that say it has saved their children’s lives.

The new regulations would only allow the use of skin shocks, which are mild two-second electrical impulses, and other "aversive behavioral interventions," such as withholding meals and exposing a child to noxious odors, with the permission of a review board for a specific child...

The policy is largely a response to complaints about the use of skin shocks at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass., where New York sends some of its special education students, and other types of behavior-modification techniques at preschools for disabled children. About 50 of the students New York sends to Judge Rotenberg receive skin shocks, in which electrical pulses are sent to one of several receivers on a student’s body. In 2005-06, the state paid $33.4 million to the Rotenberg Center.

Parents of students at the center and the school itself have sued the state over the issue. Parents say the shocks are the only treatment that has worked to control their children, and positive-only behavioral therapy does not work in the most difficult cases. Many of the students treated at the center have been in other programs without success. They have severe behavioral disorders and have done things like try to gouge their eyes out or vomit to the point of starvation and even attempted murder, according to a written statement from the school. Many students are severely retarded or autistic.
Other requirements in the policy would:

-- Prohibit the use of aversive behavioral interventions in preschool programs.

-- Require that applications for exemptions for specific children be submitted annually to the state.

-- Clarify that such interventions can be considered only for children who are injuring themselves or is behaving in a way that could harm others.

-- Bar the simultaneous use of physical or mechanical restraint with other aversive behavioral interventions.

-- Set up new procedures for allowing the use of time-out rooms, monitoring of students in time-out rooms and documentation of incidents resulting in such punishment.

Accompanying comments to the article indicate that the state has not done enough to protect kids in the past, and that this policy still allows for mistreatment of kids. :
There have been numerous injuries and deaths reported nationwide from the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion. There is a federal law that says that developmentally disabled students may NOT be exposed to physical restraint or seclusion for punishment purposes. It is the policy of federal agencies that restraint and seclusion are not to be used. And yet NYSED and the NYS Board of Regents have just gone ahead and said that they can be used with disabled students.

Some of us believe that the Regents have approved amendments that violate the constitutional rights of disabled students. We will continue to pursue all alternatives to get these amendments overturned by whatever means necessary. If NYSED and the Board of Regents do not protect the health and safety of disabled youth in NYS, the we hope that the state legislature, courts, or relevant federal agencies will.
I posted a related story reported on in CT. Is your state examining how children in institutions, and schools are being treated? Are you surprised to learn that forms of electro shock therapy are still being employed? What do you think? Should shocks be used as a way of controlling behavior in children? Despite what they say it is pretty painful. On top of this, the use of "electroshock" technology is being spread to law enforcement in the use of Taser guns which are already being used (and misused) even in my own town (I believe the man is suing the police department).

So... let's see now... How about you read what the definition of torture is as put out by the U.S. government (Department of Justice). It seems to me that if electro shocks and withholding food was done to people in custody in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison or in "Gitmo" then civil rights people would be all over it. So why should American kids, and especially disabled kids, in special "educational" institutions be any different? and why wait until 2009 to implement the ban? How many kids will experience pain and even death before then? What can be done to better "manage" kids who they claim cannot be managed any other way than with use of electro shock and other disturbing methods?

Update:
Here's more on the subject.