Saturday, January 19, 2008

Gray blasts use of special ed school

Gray blasts use of special ed. school

Dec 11, 2007
By Bill Myers, The Examiner

Vincent C. Gray

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - District Council Chair Vincent C. Gray expressed anger that the city’s special education system continued to send children to a Massachusetts school that uses electric shocks as a form of discipline.

The Examiner reported Monday that city lawyers and bureaucrats referred two special education students to the Judge Rotenberg Center two weeks after schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee ordered the center cut off. Told of the referrals, Gray said, “It is an outrage.”

“This would not be tolerated in a program in the city,” Gray told The Examiner in an e-mail. “So why is this unethical and inhumane practice allowed to continue?”

At least 11 D.C. children were enrolled in Rotenberg this year. Rhee ordered her staff to stop sending students there, and to work on getting the other students out, after a series of news reports appeared in August detailing “aversive therapy,” like the electric shocks practiced at Rotenberg.

Rotenberg charges D.C. more than $227,000 per student per year for its services.

“This is yet another example of why we must bring our children home so that we know the services they are receiving and can closely monitor these programs,” Gray told The Examiner.
That might be easier said than done: Internal school e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that nine of the city’s students are still enrolled at Rotenberg because D.C. school officials haven’t been able to offer parents alternatives.

Four of the students are at least 18 years old, and most residential programs refuse to accept students that old, the e-mails show.

D.C. spends more than $210 million each year to ship about 2,400 students to “non-public” schools like Rotenberg. Critics have complained for years that the school system hasn’t bothered to check whether the schools are safe or effective.

Got a tip on special education? Call Bill Myers at 202-459-4956 or e-mail