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Maia Szalavitz Headshot

No Surprise: State Spares 'Shock School,' Not Kids

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Even though there is no evidence beyond anecdote that its methods work, even though there are clear cases of harm, even though it is now clear that its employees will just follow orders no matter how bizarre, Massachusetts has cleared the Judge Rotenberg Center to use electric shocks on emotionally disturbed and disabled children for another year.

If you are a parent, after serious child abuse has been documented, you can't just tell child welfare authorities, "Don't worry, I promise not to starve and beat my kids again."

But if you are an institution, you can starve, restrain, sleep deprive, shock, sexually humiliate and assault, beat, utilize stress positions, gag with ammonia, pepper spray, emotionally brutalize, isolate and even occasionally kill with complete immunity. All you have to do is promise regulators you won't do it again, write up some new rules that you say you'll follow, maybe fire the occasional scapegoat staffer.

If things really get hot, you can just move to another state or change your name. But no matter how many kids you order to be abused, no matter how discredited your treatment model, no matter what regulatory violations you commit, there always seems to be a state regulator willing to give you one more chance.

One wonders why the "tough love" "zero tolerance" "one strike and you're out" approach isn't applied to the facilities, only to the children who can't fight back.

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