FDA meets on school shock device, warns of violations

FOX UNDERCOVER - The devices used by a controversial Canton school to administers painful electric shocks to its disabled students for treatment was the subject of a meeting today held by US Food and Drug Administration regulators who say the Judge Rotenberg Center is using unapproved and illegal machines.

The meeting also drew a handful of protestors to the FDA's Maryland campus.

"We started the protest to remind JRC and the public that there are still people who are actively and vocally trying to end the practices that are being condoned at the JRC," said protestor Lydia Brown. "The use of any kind of electric shock device on any person as punishment is torture."

The meeting and protest are just the latest development in a series of actions against JRC since video of former student Andre McCollins being restrained and shocked for hours was played in court.

The video, first aired by FOX Undercover, went viral, prompting petitions and protests to stop the shocks.

Critics call it torture, but the center says the device is only used with court approval to stop destructive behavior like self-mutilation.

Now the latest trouble is coming from the FDA, the agency which originally approved the device known as the Graduated Electronic Decelerator, or GED, in 1995.

Since then, the JRC made the devices stronger. In a warning letter issued this past December, the FDA says the new devices were not approved and so are being used in violation of federal law.

The FDA won't discuss what happened at the meeting, saying the issue is still under investigation. But a spokesperson says continued violation can lead to the FDA seizing the devices, seeking an injunction to stop their use and issuing fines.

JRC's troubles don't end with the FDA.

The center is still being investigated by the Justice Department and has drawn the scrutiny of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

And Massachusetts State Sen. Brian A. Joyce, D-Milton, a long-time critic of JRC, has written to the FDA asking them to ban the shocks all together. He is also planning on again filing legislation to ban the use of shocks and other aversive treatments in Massachusetts.

In a statement, JRC does not take a position as to whether the devices are in violation, but says, "The FDA's position is important to JRC. JRC continues to work closely with the FDA to address the issues identified in the warning letter; and JRC will continue to address any and all of the agency's concerns."

The statement goes on to say the GED has been lifesaving for students for whom all other treatments have failed.