JRC Under Three Investigations; Mom Sues State That Sent Son To
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 3, 2006
CANTON, MASSACHUSETTS--One of the three state investigations into the controversial Judge Rotenberg Center isn't about alleged neglect or abuse -- it's about fraud.
The privately-run center, formerly known as the "Behavior Research Institute", currently houses about 255 youths, most with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses, or brain injuries. About 150 of those were sent from school districts across the state of New York.
The Boston Herald reported Wednesday that the Massachusetts Division of Public Licensure is investigating at least 10 JRC therapists for allegedly practicing psychology without a license. The allegations were initially made by New York lawyer Kenneth Mollins, who complained last week that 14 of the 17 clinicians listed on the residential school's website are not licensed psychologists.
After Mollins' allegations became public, JRC removed the title of psychologist from the names of all of its therapists that do not have licenses.
"We have acknowledged we were giving the incorrect title," JRC attorney Michael Flammia told the Herald.
A district court magistrate will decide next week whether criminal charges will be filed against the 10 therapists and possibly four others that are also under investigation.
Additionally, the state Department of Early Education and Care is investigating reports by a former JRC worker that the strict diet a 12-year-old girl with autism was forced to follow amounted to neglect.
"She looked like a bag of bones," said Susan Donovan, who quit in January.
Department officials are also investigating burns another youth with autism has received from being jolted repeatedly by an electric shock device. Another former worker claimed that JRC staff failed to move the electrodes each day as required to keep from burning the boy's skin.
The boy wore a "Graduated Electronic Decelerator", a device that is about the same size and shape as a backpack, and is worn much like one. About half of the residents at JRC wear them 24 hours a day for what is called "aversive therapy". The devices have electrodes that are placed on specific spots on the person's skin. When a youth wearing a GED "misbehaves", JRC staff members push a button on a remote control device to deliver an electric jolt, which a JRC spokesperson described as feeling much like a hard pinch of skin or a bee sting, for up to two seconds.
JRC officials defend the use of the GED and other painful techniques to change the behavior of some children and teenagers. Some of the parents whose children are sent to the facility also defend the use of such "aversive therapies".
New York education officials and lawmakers are considering ending the practice of sending children and adults with disabilities to other states.
On a related note, a New York mother whose 17-year-old son received electric shocks while at JRC has filed a $10 million lawsuit against her state's education department.
Newsday reported that Evelyn Nicholson, who is being represented by Ken Mollins, claimed in the suit she filed Friday that education officials were negligent by failing to ensure that her son was not mistreated at JRC.
Her son, Antwone Nicholson, started school last week in a New York facility closer to home that does not use shock treatments or other aversive methods.
"Patient a bag of bones, ex-center worker claims" (Boston Herald)
"In aversion treatment fix, punishment key" (Boston Herald)
"Critics slam center, but some parents grateful" (Boston Herald)
"Centers shrinks legal? State investigates youth facility" (Boston Herald)
"State presses case vs. shrinks: 10 facing charges" (Boston Herald)
"Boy's new school doesn't use shock" (Newsday)
"Shocked boy's mom plans to sue for $10M" (Newsday)