Monday, April 16, 2012

Sealed Rotenberg Video Finally Played in Court

After Eight Years, Video of Autistic Student Electroshocked by Teachers Finally Goes Public

KSN&C Backstory (2007 here) (2008 here , here, here, herehere, and here)

This from Jezebel:
For decades, critics have attacked the Rotenberg Center in Boston — which was originally founded to treat severely autistic and mentally disabled children but also accepts kids with ADHD, mental illnesses, and juvie rap sheets — for its use of electric shock therapy. (You may recall Jennifer Gonnerman's 2006 Mother Jones piece, in which she described a 9-year-old with electrodes strapped to his legs so staffers could easily zap him for minor transgressions, and a 15-year-old girl who actually held up a sheet of paper that said "HELP US" as she walked by her classroom.) One mother, Cheryl McCollins, has been trying to sue the school since 2002, after her teenage son Andre received permanent brain damage due to being shocked 31 times in one day for refusing to take off his coat in a new classroom. He's now heavily medicated and state institutionalized, and it doesn't look like he's going to get better anytime soon. This week, she convinced a judge to show a recorded video of Andre's ordeal to not only the jury, but the public as well.
The video's release is a huge victory for the Center's opponents, since the school convinced a judge to seal the video eight years ago and its attorneys tried their best to stop it from going public this week. "These are dramatic tapes, there's no question about that," said one lawyer. "But the treatment plan at the Rotenberg Center, the treatment plan that Andre had in place on October 25, was followed." McCollins disagreed. "I never signed up for him to be tortured, terrorized and abused," she told the jury. "I had no idea, no idea, that they tortured the children in the school." She also testified that she could hear staff members laugh while her son lay catatonic on the floor.
The Rotenberg Center has not publicly commented on the case, but the PR firm that represents it released a statement saying that "JRC educates and treats the most difficult behaviorally involved students in the country and administers the (shocks) to treat severe behavior disorders only after other treatments have failed and a court order is obtained to do so at the request of the student's parents and doctor." But it doesn't look like their excuses will bail them out this time.
This from Fox News:

Disturbing video of teen being shocked played in court

Video of a student restrained and shocked for hours at the Judge Rotenberg Center was played in court on Tuesday after a years-long battle by the center to keep it from the public eye.

The video, which shows former resident Andre McCollins screaming, writhing in pain, and begging for help, was played at the start of McCollins’ trial against the Canton-based Judge Rotenberg Center.

The Rotenberg Center convinced a judge eight years ago to seal the video, and the battle continued up until Tuesday morning when their attorneys asked Superior Court Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara to bar FOX Undercover’s camera from recording the video as it was played.

Dortch-Okara denied the center’s request, clearing the way to give the public the first look at how these controversial electric shocks are used. The video was taken by one of the center’s classroom cameras.

McCollins, then 18 years old, was shocked 31 times that day in 2002. Lawyers for the center and its clinicians say it was part of the treatment he needed to quell his aggressive behavior.

“These are dramatic tapes, there’s no question about that,” said attorney Edward Hinchey, who represents two of the Rotenberg Center’s clinicians. “But the treatment plan at the Rotenberg Center, the treatment plan that Andre had in place on October 25, was followed.”

It was an emotional day for McCollins’ mother, Cheryl, who was in court watching as the beginning of her son’s ordeal was played.

Andre is shown seated at a desk inside a classroom as a staff member asks him several times to remove his coat. He stays still, apparently not responding or removing his coat, until he is given a shock.

He screams and falls to the floor, yelling as he tries to hide under his desk. He was eventually restrained face-down, a helmet on his head, without breaks for food, water or the bathroom.

“I never signed up for him to be tortured, terrorized and abused,” Cheryl McCollins told the jury. “I had no idea, no idea, that they tortured the children in the school.”

She also testified what her son was like when she visited him three days later after the incident. She said she found him in a “catatonic” state.

“I couldn’t turn Andre’s head to the left or the right. He was just staring straight. I took my hands and went like this,” she said, waving them as if in front of his eyes. “He didn't blink.”

McCollins did get Andre to Children's Hospital that day, where he was diagnosed with acute stress response caused by the shocks. The jury also heard her testify about watching the video and hearing staff members laughing while her son was on the floor.


Anonymous said...

How do folks think they are going to regulate instruction and curriculum when we have this sort of thing going on unmonitors or overseen?

Richard Day said...

The Judge Rotenberg Center is a private school. I would hazard the guess that if it were public, the folks responsible would have been fired long ago. Instead, the Center's founder Matthew L. Israel designed the approach and defended it in court. When a judge upheld his method, he named the center in his honor.

Anonymous said...

Wow, very scary and sad! I hope the family wins a quick and financially significant verdict. I am afraid that once this video becomes exposed, their enrollment will drop and perhaps result in the school going belly up.