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Originally published March 10 2011

Electroshock discipline on students? School successfully lobbies Congress to keep it legal

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) For nearly 20 years, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JREC), a special needs school for children and adults in Canton, Mass., has been utilizing a controversial, "moderately painful" electric shock discipline technique on its students that many say is inhumane. JREC is the only school in the US that uses the technique, and legislation to ban it has repeatedly failed. Last year, JREC spent $100,000 lobbying Congress to block a piece of legislation that may have outlawed the practice, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filings indicate that the school has spent more than a million dollars lobbying for protection at the state level.

According to a recent report in The Boston Globe, JREC administrations as well as many of the students' parents insist that shock therapy is the only way to effectively restrain and discipline the most behaviorally-challenged children that would otherwise hurt themselves or others. Many parents actually went to Capitol Hill to defend the practice in private meetings with senators and staff, and the school hired Bracewell & Giuliani, a law firm headed by former Mayor of New York City and presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, to head up the efforts.

The electric shock technique involves attaching electrodes to the arms, legs, or torsos of students and administering two-second shocks of either 60 or 66 volts. The average shock current is between 15 and 41 milliamps, which is up to 20 times more powerful than the electric shock delivered by a police taser.

Edward D. Krenik, a top Washington lobbyist who headed the recent lobbying efforts on behalf of JREC, told lawmakers that without electric shock therapy and the other "unorthodox methods" employed by JREC, many children at the center would either be institutionalized or dead. But opponents say that shocking children in this way is torture, and that it should be stopped immediately.

"This is an inhumane form of discipline, and I'm particularly troubled by it when positive behavioral supports have been so successful," said Mass. Sen. John Kerry in a statement. "I understand that there are ongoing state and federal investigations, and I hope they result in an end to this archaic practice."

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