In this week’s Voice cover story, staffer Jarrett Murphy writes about the Rotenberg Center, a Massachusetts educational facility that uses electric shocks on students who misbehave. As Murphy reports:
The only thing that sets these students apart from kids at any other school in Americaâ€”aside from their special-ed designationâ€”is the electric wires running from their backpacks to their wrists. Each wire connects to a silver-dollar-sized metal disk strapped with a cloth band to the studentâ€™s wrist, forearm, abdomen, thigh, or foot. Inside each studentâ€™s backpack is a battery and a generator, both about the size of a VHS cassette. Each generator is uniquely coded to a single keychain transmitter kept in a clear plastic box labeled with the studentâ€™s name. Staff members dressed neatly in ties and green aprons keep the boxes hooked to their belts, and their eyes trained on the studentsâ€™ behavior. They stand ready, if they witness a behavior theyâ€™ve been told to target, to flip open the box, press the button, and deliver a painful two-second electrical shock into the student at the end of the wire.
The school’s founder, Matthew Israel, says that the shocks don’t hurt much and that sometimes so-called aversive therapy is the only method that works. New York state inspectors, Murphy writes, say the school goes too far, administering shocks “for behaviors that are not aggressive, health dangerous, or destructive, such as nagging, swearing, and failing to keep a neat appearance.”
Just asking: Does shocking kids seem okay to you, under any circumstance?