Digital Surveillance Ends Career of Controversial School of Shock Director

May 27, 2011
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Eye in the sky is everywhere, watching you, watching me, watching us all, but an ironic twist of fate has ended the career of a man who happily took advantage of his 24-hour surveillance cameras that recorded the behavior of kids with disabilities and the staff at his highly controversial “School of Shock.” If the electronic spying caught bad behavior, a student was punished by receiving electrical shocks. The school director allegedly destroyed the surveillance tapes to keep them from getting out on the Internet. He is now facing a criminal indictment involving the digital surveillance.

Now that he destroyed the “evidence”, the 77-year-old psychologist Matthew Israel, founder of Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, a controversial school for people with disabilities that uses electric shocks to control and punish students’ bad behavior, must resign and start five years of probation. Nasty break.

The controversial “School of Shock” near Boston has been in and out of the news for more than a decade. The “school” was founded in 1971. Mother Jones ran a horrifically shocking story about the school, pointing out that six kids had died in Israel’s “care.” The article also stated that this sort of electroshock treatment is a “form of punishment not inflicted on serial killers or child molesters or any of the 2.2 million inmates now incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons.”

Director Israel responded four years ago, making it out that the shock treatments were helpful and not extreme. The school website describes itself as “The JUDGE ROTENBERG CENTER (JRC) is a special needs school in Canton, Massachusetts serving ages 3-adult. For 39 years JRC has provided very effective education and treatment to both emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and developmentally delayed students with autistic-like behaviors.” Optional electroshock treatments included “intensive treatment procedures known as aversives.”

Boston.com explained, “Israel’s center endorses an unorthodox behavioral-control method, in which more than half of the center’s 200 students wear electrodes attached to their skin, and staff members, armed with remote devices, can punish them with shocks for deviant behavior. Students generally have severe behavioral problems, including some with autism and intellectual disabilities.”

The court case involved the destruction of digital video from 2007 which Israel was told to preserve due to what was on them. The recorded tapes showed what happened on a “horrifying night at a Rotenberg group home in which two teenagers were given dozens of inappropriate skin-shock treatments based on a prank phone call….surveillance tapes captured what happened when a prank caller — pretending to work in the central television screening room — said he noticed two teenagers in a Stoughton group home misbehave and ordered electrical shocks on them”

The students were dragged out of bed in the middle night, based upon the prank call and Israel’s orders, restrained on a flat surface and hooked up to electroshock machines. One of the students was given “77 skin-shock treatments over three hours while protesting and being restrained; another was given two dozen shocks.”

Despite Israel’s abusive shock treatments being condemned by more than 30 disability rights groups and mental health professionals, three dozen parents showed up at court to support Israel.

Image credit: Tomas Fano

Author: Tessa