Special Education

FDA Bans Use of Shock Therapy at School for Students With Special Needs

By Corey Mitchell — March 05, 2020 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of shock therapy at a school for students with autism, emotional disturbances, and intellectual disabilities.

The ban specifically affects the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Mass., which uses electrical stimulation devices to curb or stop aggressive and self-injurious behavior in students.

The FDA estimates that between 45 and 50 students are currently subjected to shock therapy, which involves administering electrical shocks through electrodes attached to the skin.

Risks tied to the use of the devices include: depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, pain, burns, and tissue damage. The agency also cautioned that “many people who are exposed to these devices have intellectual or developmental disabilities that make it difficult to communicate their pain.”

The FDA rule will remove such devices from the market entirely, but the agency did indicate that the ban specifically affects the Rotenberg center.

“Since ESDs were first marketed more than 20 years ago, we have gained a better understanding of the danger these devices present to public health,” said Dr. William Maisel, the director of the office of product evaluation and quality in the FDA’s center for devices and radiological health. “Through advancements in medical science, there are now more treatment options available to reduce or stop self-injurious or aggressive behavior, thus avoiding the substantial risk ESDs present.”

National Public Radio member station WGBH first reported news of the final rule on Wednesday.

With the ban, the Rotenberg Center, which serves children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 21, and any other individuals or organizations using the devices now have up to 180 days to comply, giving the school time to transition students to a different treatment plan. The FDA recommended that the school explore using positive behavioral support and medication as alternative approaches to curb unwanted behavior.

In a prepared statement shared with Education Week, the school said it plans to challenge the government ban in court. A parents’ group also defended the practice and said it too would fight the ban.

“The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) will continue to advocate for and will litigate to preserve this court-approved, life-saving treatment. FDA made a decision based on politics, not facts, to deny this,” the statement from the center reads. “JRC has exceeded all reporting requirements, and the school opted many years ago to install a 24 hour-per-day video monitoring system offering unprecedented oversight of the students and staff. Those tapes are also available for viewing by family members; family are welcome to visit—without notice—anytime they wish.”

The final rule follows a 2016 FDA proposal to ban electrical stimulation devices in schools. The decision to ban devices is rare: The agency has only banned two other medical devices since 1983.

Related Reading

FDA Proposal Would Ban Shock Devices at Residential School

School Using Shock Therapy Under Fire Yet Again

Court Upholds N.Y. Bar on ‘Aversive Interventions’ for Students

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Opinion Inclusive Teachers Must Be 'Asset-Based Believers'
Four veteran educators share tips on supporting students with learning differences as they return to classrooms during this pandemic year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education Opinion 20 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences This Year
Embed student voices and perspectives into the classroom is one piece of advice educators offer in this third pandemic-affected school year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education Schools Must Identify Students With Disabilities Despite Pandemic Hurdles, Ed. Dept. Says
Guidance stresses schools' responsibilities to those with disabilities, while noting that federal COVID aid can be used to address backlogs.
2 min read
School children in classroom with teacher, wearing face masks and raised hands
DigitalVision/Vectors/Getty
Special Education Attention Deficit Rates Skyrocket in High School. Mentoring Could Prevent an Academic Freefall
Twice as many students are diagnosed with ADHD in high school as in elementary school, yet their supports are fewer, a study says.
4 min read
Image of a child writing the letters "ADHD" on a chalkboard.
Getty