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Massachusetts school for disabled gets green light to continue shocking students

Critics call the practice barbaric, but parents of severely disabled students at the school say the shocks are a life-saving treatment and the only thing that works.

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A victory for the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, the only school in the country that shocks its students with electricity. It's located in Canton, Massachusetts, about an hour's drive from Boston.

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the school can keep using the devices after the court overturned the Food and Drug Administration's ban on Electrical Stimulation Devices.

Video of a student being shocked at the Rotenberg Center after refusing to take off his coat became public during a civil trial and outrage over the video eventually led to the FDA banning the shock devices.

Critics call the practice barbaric, but parents of severely disabled students at the school say the shocks are a life-saving treatment and the only thing that works.

The FDA first proposed banning the devices back in 2016 and published the final rule banning them last year, although the ban had not gone into effect.

In its 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals wrote, "...the FDA lacks the statutory authority to ban a medical device for a particular use."

In a statement, the Judge Rotenberg Center said:

"The (Graduated Electronic Decelerator) is a treatment of last resort, and its recipients are at risk of grievous bodily harm, or even death, without it. With the treatment, these residents can continue to participate in enriching experiences, enjoy visits with their families and, most importantly, live in safety and freedom from self-injurious and aggressive behaviors."

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center Parents Association also released a statement:

"We are grateful for the careful deliberation and the decision reached by the court and these judges. We have and will continue to fight to keep our loved ones safe and alive and to retain access to this life saving treatment of last resort. There is no other treatment for our loved ones, and we will not stand by as they are mechanically or chemically restrained."

According to the FDA, between 45 and 50 students at the Judge Rotenberg Center were receiving electric shocks before the ban.

The FDA declined to comment on the ruling.