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premeditated, intentional, systematic, and brutal dehumanization of children

June 8, 2010

Findings from the NYSED review of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center:

There was very limited social interaction between the classroom staff and students except for 1:1 prompting (jargon) to computer tasks and/or the awarding or removal of tokens.

JRC does not promote the development of social skills for any of their students and in fact requires that the students not attempt social interactions with staff or classmates as part of their behavior programs. Questions to staff about programs for social skills development were always answered by descriptions of social opportunities that included recess as well as scheduled recreational outings. The recreational outings were with groups of students and provided no opportunities for interaction with members of the general community.

Several observations were made of the outdoor recess periods and lunch breaks. The recreation area was set up with swings and a wooden structure for climbing and walking across bridges and several plastic slides. The area was very well maintained and appropriate for children under seven or eight years old. However, the students during all observations appeared to be adolescents. Staff was attentive and providing appropriate supervision to students and the interactions between staff and students were positive, supportive and respectful. However, they tended to be helping interactions rather than conversations or play. During five observations involving a total of 59 students, there were no instances of students socializing with other students and only five instances observed of students socializing with staff.

Social interactions between students reportedly occur in the Big Reward Store where students go to select a reward for keeping to contracts. When questioned about friendships and social interactions among students, the students interviewed stated that they were unable to socialize in a natural way.

Opportunities to socialize with peers must be earned through compliance with behavioral contracts.

Students in classrooms were docile and compliant and did not attempt to socially engage, either verbally or with eye contact, anyone in the rooms. This was also apparent in the residences visited by the team. Staff indicated, on at least three occasions, that it was unsafe to allow students to socialize because in the past students had plotted against staff.

This is past mere child abuse. We know what happens when children are socially isolated for extended periods – the effects are well-documented in the scientific literature. With a normal, healthy child the best you can hope for is depression and some retardation of normal social development.

I want to call special attention to that last line in the quote:

Staff indicated, on at least three occasions, that it was unsafe to allow students to socialize because in the past students had plotted against staff.

I find this entirely sane and justified … on behalf of the students. This is the level of atrocity for which if nonviolent means fail to work, violence is justified in self defense and the defense of others. This is the level of atrocity for which if legal means do not work – and they have not in the past (the center is named after a judge who ruled in their favor) – extralegal means are justified. This is the level of atrocity that, if such a thing as a moral obligation exists, we are morally obligated to put an end to.

I in no way think that violent or other illegal methods are justified or likely to help. Rather, I mean that this is so beyond ordinary moral outrage that extreme methods understandable on the part of the students, who have essentially zero access to each other, let alone media and lawyers. This is already a place where self-injury and threatening to commit suicide is “normal” – the students going on hunger strike is not going to change anything — if it is even noticed.

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