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Judge Rotenberg Educational Center

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC, formerly known as the Behavior Research Institute) is a non-government agency that operates in Canton, Massachusetts, providing educational services to children and adults with developmental disabilities and/or emotional/behavior disorders and respite services to their primary caregivers. JRC is currently approved by the New York State Education Department. The Center uses aversives in its treatment and behavioral interventions, a rarity in applied behavior analysis.


The center was founded as the Behavior Research Institute in 1971 by Matthew L. Israel, a psychologist who trained with B. F. Skinner[1] In 1994 the center changed its name to the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center "to honor the memory of the judge [who] helped to preserve [the] program from extinction at the hands of state licensing officials in the 1980’s."[1] It has 900 employees and annual revenues exceeding $56 million, charging $220,000 a year for each student.[2]

The Judge Rotenberg Center treatment goals include a near-zero rejection/expulsion policy, active treatment with a holistic, unified behavioral approach directed at health rather than normalization, minimal use of medication substituting behavioral rewards and punishment, video monitoring of staff and the option to use aversives.[1] The final item has provoked considerable controversy.

The use of aversives has led some to call for greater consumer protection from behavior modification, behavior therapy, and applied behavior analysis approaches. While in many areas, such as dentistry painful procedures are used. It is critical that such procedures be used as a last resort and only for life threatening behaviors. These types of issues are discussed formally by those interested in the Professional practice of behavior analysis and have led to calls for greater government regulations and controls.


The Center makes use of aversives as part of their intensive, 24/7 behavior modification program. Until the late 1980s, aversion therapy was administered in the form of spanking with a spatula, pinching the feet, and forced inhaling of ammonia.[2] Currently the Center administers 2-second electric skin shocks to residents using the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED), which was invented to administer the skin-shocks by remote control through electrodes worn against the skin.[3]

Concerns into the treatment regime prompted investigation by New York City Council[4] and an independent report was commissioned which was critical of both processes and oversight at the facility.[3] In October 2006, the Center (“JRC”) was fined for using the title of psychologist inappropriately[citation needed] In December, 2007, the Center was found by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to have been abusive towards residents, failing to protect their health, after two residents were shocked using a GED on the behest of a former student, posing as a staff member via telephone. Video surveillance revealed that one resident was restrained on a 4-point board despite the fact the individual was not approved for this particular “movement limitation” treatment. In response, the Center has instituted several reforms, including re-training current staff, appointing new supervisors, regularly reviewing video recordings of staff and instituting random spot checks of staff behavior, new call screening procedures and the suspension or cancellation of certain types of consequences (including the GED for certain residential units). The Center is also having its operations reviewed until December, 2008, with specific attention being paid to the use of GED to ensure they are only used for extremely dangerous and self-destructive behavior, and must also must show the treatments reduce those behaviors.[5]

Some parents of difficult children are highly supportive of the center's practices, especially[citation needed] as they can use the GED on home visits. Said one mother, "[All I have to do is show it to my son and...] he'll automatically comply to whatever my signal command may be, whether it is 'Put on your seatbelt,' or 'Hand me that apple,' or 'Sit appropriately and eat your food,'... It's made him a human being, a civilized human being."[2]


  1. ^ a b c Israel, Matthew. History and Basic Principles of JRC. Retrieved on 2007-12-22.
  2. ^ a b c Gonnerman, Jennifer. "School of Shock", Mother Jones Magazine, 20 August 2007. Retrieved on 2007-12-22. 
  3. ^ a b Kindlon, Rusty; Bandini, Susan; et al (9 June 2006). Observations and Findings of Out of State Program Visitation Judge Rotenberg Educational Center. New York State Education Department. Retrieved on 2007-10-30.
  4. ^ NYCC proceedings. Retrieved on 2007-12-22.
  5. ^ "School To Continue Electric Shock; Officials Give School One Year Extension",, 2007-12-23. Retrieved on 2007-12-25. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Judge_Rotenberg_Educational_Center". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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