August 1, 2021

Mercedes Schneider: House Appropriations Prohibits Fed Funds for… Electric Shock to Students(??)

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In looking through the House Appropriations Committee’s budget proposal, Mercedes Schneider uncovered an unexpected prohibition–then learned the disturbing reason for it. Reposted with permission.

I am reading the House Appropriations Committee’s budget proposal for the Department of Education (which begins on page 138 of the entire, 198-page document), and I noticed on pages 164-165 what I thought to be an strange prohibition for federal funding:

Sec. 313. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Education to support an educational institution that engages in the use of electric shock devices and equipment for adversive conditioning or disciplining of students.

I wondered what in the world prompted legislators to include such a prohibition, so I Googled, “schools electric shock devices,” and found my answer.

A Massachusetts school has been using electric shock as a means for controlling behavior in students with limited intellectual ability. In March 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the practice, and in July 2021, the FDA ban was overturned on appeal. From the UK Independent:

The Judge Rotenberg Center, Canton, is the only school in the US that uses electric shock treatment on its students, and has suffered heavy criticism from disability rights advocates, including Mental Disability Rights International (DRI) and the United Nations, which considers the practice “torture”.

“The idea of using electric shocks to torture children has been recognised as unconscionable around the world,” DRI’s president, Laurie Ahern, told the Guardian.

“The real torture is what these children are subjected to if they don’t have this programme,” institute and treatment founder Matthew Israel previously said to ABC News. “They’re drugged up to the gills with drugs that cause them to be so sedated that they essentially sleep all day.”

However, a 2006 report by the New York State Education Department found that the device was regularly used for minor disobedience and “behaviours that are not aggressive, health dangerous or destructive, such as nagging, swearing and failing to maintain a neat appearance”.

The report also found no evidence that the school “considers the potential negative effects, such as depression or anxiety, that may result from the use of aversive behavioural strategies with certain individual students”.

So, there’s the answer: One school is using electric shock on some of its special needs clientele; the FDA prohibited such usage; some parents sued and won on appeal to have the use of electric shock continue, and House Appropriations cannot prohibit the practice but wants to prohibit the use of federal money funding any schools using electric shock on students.

Well. I didn’t see myself writing about this today.

Electric shock device attached to ankle
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