A non-for-profit group for people with disabilities, armed with federal investigative powers, has published shocking findings on alleged abuse within Middleborough, MA a school for children and young adults with special needs.
On the outside, the Chamberlain International School has a colonial charm and is lapped by leafy green trees and surrounded by gardens of manicured bushes and bright flowers.
However, the report, authored by the Disability Law Center in Boston, paints a gloomier image of the school. The organisation found that the students of Chamberlain International School were subject to verbal abuse and inadequate supervision and attempts at self-harm were ignored.
The children who attend the school, which has been in operation since 1976, live on campus are aged between 11 and 22 years old and have a range of diagnoses including severe depression and anxiety, autism and a past of self-harm, reports Shannon Dooling of WBUR.
Stanley Eichner, the Chamberlain Schools litigation director, explained:
"In each of the areas where neglect was found, it wasn't a one-off kind of event, wasn't just one bad situationâ¦ It was the cumulative effect of seeing a problem repeated with different students at different times that caused us to make our neglect or abuse finding."
Sadly, the school has a history of alleged abuse and police have previously responded to over 400 calls for requests for service at the Chamberlain school, with a quarter of those calls reporting runaways, according the The Eye.
The investigation by the Law Centre took 15 months to complete and includes evidence gathered from interviews with parents, current and former students and school staff.
Both the Law Center and the Chamberlain School offered contrasting explanations of the school environment and the results of the investigation and representatives of each have threatened litigation.
Roderick MacLeish, a lawyer for the Chamberlain school, refutes the interview undertaken by the Law Centre. MacLeish stated that the school is an open facility, and "if a child decides to leave the school property, they are not stopped from doing so."
"Virtually all of these kids have showed suicidal ideation before going to Chamberlain. What this school does is provide a therapeutic community for them and turns them around."
There are also competing stories between the parents of the children who attend the school with several indicating that it is a home away from home. Shea, a past student claims, "It was a toxic environment."
Reports of abuse and neglect of students enrolled in special needs schools are becoming an increasing concern in the state of Massachusetts. Since March of this year, 17 people have been charged following claims of emotional and physical abuse, which were investigated at the Eagleton School in Great Barrington, reports The Eye.
The Eye also reports that this is not the first time that the Law Centre has filed reports relating to the mistreatment of students within special needs schools, with the Center submitting reports on both the Evergreen School in Milford and the Peck School in Holyoke.
A review of documents by WBUR and The Eye, released by the Department of Early Education and Care, identify that the school has been non compliant with state regulations 33 times.
Currently, the schools licensing is in good standing and the Department is continuing their reviews of the report.