Using Shock Therapy on Disabled Students Is Cruel Torture

Shock therapy: torture or treatment?
The United Nations calls it barbaric. And yet at a Massachusetts school, notorious for its use of aversive therapies on disabled students, shock therapy is a part of every day behavior management.

A recent court case, in which a family is asking for a videotape of their son  being abused at the school to be unsealed and viewed, has once again brought the center to the forefront of the news. His mother is calling it abusive torture. Her son, despondent for days after the incident, was a student at the school.

So why is it allowed to continue at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts?


To the UN, shock therapy as an aversive therapy tool to shape behavior is akin to torture. In fact, the UN has held conventions criticising the use of electro shock treatment of prisoners.

According to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, torture is defined as:

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. (Article 1)"

But according to the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), aversive therapies, including shock therapy, restraint, and withholding food are sometimes necessary in order to keep a student from harming themselves. So much so that the Center has lobbied against bills intended to severely limit (but unfortunately, not halt) the use of these and other aversive therapies along with the UN guidelines for torture.

My personal opinion can be summed up in a quote by Bill Federer (and variations can be attribute to everyone from Ghandi to Confucius):

"The greatness of America is in how it treats its weakest members: the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, the underprivileged, the unborn". ~Bill Federer

Folks. Shock treatment and aversive therapies are never, ever OK in the treatment and education of individuals with mental health disorders and special needs. It is somewhat ironic to teach a student not to harm themselves or others by HARMING THEM WITH AN ELECTRIC SHOCK. And despite the school's claim that it is a short, necessary shock that successfully halts problem behaviors in their tracks, I have a very difficult time believing that this treatment is necessary.

Why do I say this? I have a child with problem behaviors. Significantly profound behaviors, much like what is treated at JRC. That particular school was once recommended to me for my now 9-year-old. Once I found out their behavior management techniques I was disgusted and horrified, to put it mildly.There are other ways to modify behaviors. Significantly successful techniques, such as Applied Behavior Analysis and positive behavior support. Shock therapy? No thank you! I'm outraged it is still in use, and you should be, too.

Are you horrified shock treatment is still in use in schools?

Read More >