Merryl Tisch, Distinguished Torturer
In her capacity as the head of the Board of Regents' VESID (Vocational and Special Education for Individuals with Disabilities) Committee, Tisch bears responsibility for the infamous "emergency regulations" adopted by the Board of Regents in June 2006, which authorized aversive behavioral interventions, restraints, and seclusion to be used on students with disabilities. Wrightslaw listed the aversives authorized under these regulations as follows:
* noxious, painful, intrusive stimuli or activities intended to induce pain such as electric skin shock, ice applications, hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, hurling, strangling, shoving, deep muscle squeezes
* noxious, painful or intrusive spray, inhalant or tastes
* withholding sleep, shelter, bedding, bathroom facilities or clothing; withholding meals, limiting essential nutrition or hydration
* movement limitation used as a punishment, including but not limited to helmets and mechanical restraint devices
* placing a child unsupervised or unobserved in a room from which the student cannot exit without assistance
"Strangling" was not a typo… and it's no coincidence that "electric skin shock" was the first item listed. These regulations were passed after an investigation of the Judge Rotenberg Center was conducted in April and May of 2006 by the New York State Education Department. After the report describing the investigation's findings proved to be highly critical of the JRC's practices, including its use of shock devices and other aversives on children with disabilities, Merryl Tisch and other supporters of the JRC took "emergency" action to ensure that students from New York could legally continue to be sent there.
Thereafter, in September 2006 and again in October 2006, Tisch along with other Regents voted to extend the regulations. Although a public outcry led to the removal of the most egregious language, such as "strangling," from the regulations, New York still allows the use of unlimited restraint and seclusion as a result of Tisch's efforts. The head of the NYS Assembly Health Committee compared the situation to Abu Ghraib in a letter asking the Regents to do the right thing. His request, along with others from major civil rights and disabilities organizations, was rebuffed.
In short, if Tisch deserves any official recognition for her "distinguished" career in special education, a tribunal investigating her for crimes against humanity would be more appropriate for her "distinguished" accomplishments. Letters, e-mails, and telephone calls protesting this shameful choice for the award should be directed to:
Dr. Pola Rosen
Publisher and Editor in Chief
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065-5024