Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Merryl Tisch, Distinguished Torturer

Education Update magazine has made plans to host a second New York Citywide Special Education Conference on Saturday, February 28, 2009. The conference is also sponsored by Hunter College, NYU, and District 75. The agenda includes the presentation of a "Distinguished Leader in Special Education" award to Merryl Tisch, the vice chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents.

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
Education Update
695 Park Avenue
Suite E1509
New York, NY 10065-5024
Tel: 917-375-0497
Fax: 212-772-4769

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  • I wonder if there are any studies that show the percentage of parents that choose to home-school their children in New York State as opposed to other States that have rejected / not adopted these regulations?
    Best wishes

    By Blogger Maddy, at 7:12 PM  

  • That's absolutely despicable.

    By Blogger stopbeingstupid, at 8:52 AM  

  • n 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.

    Agreed. I'll send an E-mail.

    By Blogger Ed, at 7:04 PM  

  • I thought that your country's president said that the Uited States "will not do torture". You Americans need to make sure that this promise is applied generally, not only in reference to Guantanamo Bay.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 11:43 PM  

  • Lili Marlene, yes, I wrote a blog entry about that in 2007:

    This Is Not Who We Are

    By Blogger abfh, at 8:33 AM  

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