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Her greatest fear was that she would remain at JRC beyond her 21st birthday

June 8, 2010

More data from the New York State Department of Education review of the Judge Rotenberg Center:

JRC has a policy on modifying contingencies due to the special “pleading” of students. Part of the treatment program for students involves deliberately setting up unfair or mistaken directions or decelerative (application of a skin shock with a GED device) consequences for the students. The student is expected to handle these unfair situations successfully and not ‘plead’ or appeal to a psychologist or clinician regarding his/her treatment. In instances where the student “pleads” to the psychologist or clinician, there are consequences imposed on the student.

It was reported by a JRC staff member that one of the BRL episodes involved holding a student’s face still while staff person went for his mouth with a pen or pencil threatening to stab him in the mouth while repeatedly yelling “YOU WANT TO EAT THIS?” The goal was to aversively treat the student’s target behavior of putting sharp objects in the mouth.

It was reported that during a BRL, the student would still receive a GED for exhibiting an appropriate behavior, just less than for exhibiting a target behavior. For example, five GED applications would be given for a target behavior, such as mouthing towards the object, as opposed to one GED application for an appropriate behavior such as turning away from the object.

Students placed in the more segregated and restrictive settings (i.e., the small conference room) were not observed to receive instruction, even computer-based instruction, and a teacher is not available to provide instruction in that setting. The room is monitored by MHAs with high school diplomas and other nonteaching staff.

Students attend the school seven days per week from 9 AM to 4 PM; teachers are not present on the weekend days. Teachers interviewed by the team could not describe what the students did on the weekends at the school.

A student interviewed stated that she had entered JRC at the age of 19 with the expectation that she would receive vocational training while she resolved her emotional and behavioral problems. She had not received any vocational training and still remained in the most restrictive settings offered by JRC. This student wept as she asked the team to bring her back to New York.

Records and staff indicate that, once placed, very few students’ transition out of JRC to a less restrictive environment prior to aging-out.

A review of a student’s file indicated that the student was receiving Level III aversive interventions for “aggression”, but according to the teacher’s notes, the only aggressions exhibited by the student were in anticipation of the GED. The student was not otherwise aggressive.

There does not appear to be any measurement of, or treatment for, the possible collateral effects of punishment such as depression, anxiety, and/or social withdrawal.

Student interviews revealed reports of pervasive fears and anxieties related to the interventions used at JRC. Students verbally reported a lack of trust, fear, feeling upset/anxious and loneliness.

One student stated she felt depressed and fearful, stating very coherently her desire to leave the center. She is not permitted to initiate conversation with any member of the staff. She also expressed that she had no one to talk to about her feelings of depression and her desire to kill herself and told the interviewing team that she thought about killing herself everyday. Her greatest fear was that she would remain at JRC beyond her 21st birthday.

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