EDITORIAL: Aversive shocks Abhorrent
The strong response among both existing and newly formed student groups on campus against the use of electric shock therapy on children at the Judge Rotenberg Center, a school for children with emotional or behavioral problems in Canton, Mass., serves as the most recent and commendable evidence of Brandeis student involvement in the local community. The Brandeis Democrats announced last week an initiative protesting controversial therapy techniques used at the Center, and students recently formed Massachusetts Students United Against the Judge Rotenberg Center, a new club to protest the therapy through initiatives such as letter-writing campaigns to local legislators. Around half of the Center's 230 students receive remote control-triggered shocks to the backs of their thighs in response to behavior deemed inappropriate by school staff. It is the only educational facility in the country where such disciplinary techniques are administered to students.
That this treatment is abhorrent and repulsive on a gut level is obvious. Even more worrisome, however, is the assertion in a recent expose' in Mother Jones magazine that little scientific evidence supports the therapy. Aversive shock treatment has been condoned in court on several occasions, most prominently in the mid-1980s by Judge Rotenberg, the center's namesake. But the Mother Jones piece appears to have spurred new legislative efforts to ban shock therapy for children in the Commonwealth, an action that 10 states have already taken.
We support these initiatives and encourage the Democrats and members of the new club as they lobby state politicians to end this abusive practice. That these students have taken on an issue that is real, local and important should be anything but a shock.