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ABOUT TOWN: Teen Incites Weekend Riot at Judge Rotenberg Home in Stoughton

Welcome to "About Town with Mark Snyder," a column that will keep you up to the minute with what's what, who's who and what's going on around town. If you see or hear something we could use here, let us know by sending an e-mail to pmpco@aol.com.

WEEKEND RIOT AT JUDGE ROTENBERG HOME IN TOWN: Another day, another incident at a Judge Rotenberg facility.

On Saturday, say that a teenager incited a riot at the JRC house at 1115 Park Street in Stoughton, located right next to the town-owned Cedar Hill Golf Course.

Stoughton Police Executive Officer Robert Devine tells About Town that the incident occurred at 11:30 a.m. on August 4.

17-year-old Jakob Moran of Brooklyn, New York was arrested. He was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and inciting a riot.

An additional juvenile will also be summonsed to court for assault and battery charges, according to XO Devine.

According to local sources, two staff members were injured, but neither sought medical assistance.

A pattern of troubling incidents?

The Judge Rotenberg Center, founded by Dr. Matthew Israel, is a Canton-based school for special-needs children with developmental, emotional or behavior disorders. It is headquartered at 240 Turnpike Street in Canton. It has been in the spotlight over the past decade for the . The Center owns group homes in local communities, including the one on Park Street in Stoughton. 

This particular house has seen similar occurrences to the August 4 incident, as have some of their other properties around town. On Saturday, November 7, 2011, an incident was reported to the Stoughton Police Department at 8:25 p.m. at this same Judge Rotenberg Center “group home” on Park Street.

Following this November 2011 incident, XO Devine explained that when police arrived three residents of the house - a 20 year old and two 16 year olds - had barricaded themselves in a room.

Devine said, “They had assaulted staff and were throwing things at them. The staff called police. Officer McNamara was charged with trying to talk them out of the room. They were uncooperative and threatened to attack police if they came in after them. When Canton Canine Officer Scott Brown and his dog Bosco arrived on scene, the three heard the dog and surrendered.”  

The 20-year-old young adult, Eyheen Fountain, and the two juveniles (who were not named by police) were charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (dishes and frying pans), vandalizing property and assault and battery. The three were all placed under arrest. Fountain was arraigned that same morning and released back to the Park Street home. The juveniles were due later in the week at juvenile court.

In that November 7 incident, there were staff members with injuries like cuts, bruises and busted lips, according to Devine.

Devine said that the quick call to police on November 7 night was “a marked departure from the JRC’s past policies and procedures.” 

Devine estimated there are at least seven JRC homes in Stoughton.

He added, “By the time we’re notified, they are already set up and running. It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from them - maybe nine months to a year. Previous to that, we had a stretch two years ago when we got called every week, with a large volume of calls. We voiced our displeasure and met with their management. We made our recommendations, and they instituted many of them. We had a lull until the November 7, 2011 call.”   

This particular JRC group home is located almost diagonally across the street from . Following the November 2011 incident, Walsh told About Town “I wasn’t aware of any problems at the Rotenberg house. No one called me or came to my door. But, I’ve never had a problem there. You’d never know they were there. I’ve never witnessed or heard anything unusual. I see the white van when it goes back and forth.”  

Following the November 2011 incident, JRC Attorney Mike Flammia responded to a call for more information about security precautions in the homes, as well as how the safety of staff and neighbors are protected.

He told me, “All the houses are fully equipped with security. They are fully secure. None of the students got out Saturday night.” He said if a student does get out, they let neighbors know. He also said that, “The students receive excellent treatment there. They have behavioral problems and the staff is trained on how to handle students. They go through weeks and months of training on how to respond. They have equipment to prepare them for situations. They are trained in how to react to crisis situations. They are trained on how to restrain the student or to call 911--which is what they did here.”

When I asked how many JRC homes were in Stoughton, Flammia said he didn’t know. When I asked why neighbors are no longer notified of these homes, he said, “You can’t discriminate against group homes. You can’t prevent them. It’s illegal. These children are entitled to their education and to live wherever JRC purchases homes. There’s no need for neighbors to be concerned in terms of safety or anything else.”

I have written extensively about this company in the past. Dr. Israel () once dodged me for weeks to evade conversing about what went on behind closed doors in their facilities, a half dozen years ago.

At the time, they gave me a “tour” of the Canton school, which was carefully scripted. When a “student” tried to talk to me, they yanked him away. I know that I have spoken to parents of students in this program, and they have praised it. Many told me it was their “last straw” for their children, and their family. They just couldn’t do anything more for them. One told me that the JRC was “a blessing” for their family.

But, Stoughton seems to have more of these homes than any other town. It may be good for the students, but I don’t see how it can be good for the neighborhood, no matter how you spin it.

***

Bob Ross August 06, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I am curious as to why you think it is bad for the neighborhood that these homes exist in? In the article you mention Cynthia Walsh says she has never had a problem and barely knew there were ever any issues until she was notified. By contrast the family across the street from me has a member that has been ill over the years and we know about it by all the firetrucks and ambulances that show up 3-5 times a year. Should we run them out of town as well? This seems to be more interuptive of our neighborhood than 3 young men having an incident within the confines of their group home which other than a police log would go unnoticed. The home has had issues in the past, the home worked with police to make changes and they seemed to have worked. These are not animals that should be tagged and released in the Maine North Woods, they are boys that have mental health issues that can be corrected one way or another or at the very least helped.
Steve August 07, 2012 at 10:43 AM
Well said Bob. My in laws have a JRC house next door in Cabton. You would never know other than the JRC on the mailbox. While I agree it is weird they won't let you see parts of their school, I have worked with people with special needs like this and they can lie to get attention especially to someone who is looking for a reason to bad mouth the people helping them. These kids live in a very structured life to help them. I understand why the staff would pull a student away from talking to you. It could be the student trying to act out.
Ryan S August 07, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Very well said and I agree 100%
Longtime Resident August 07, 2012 at 03:16 PM
We used to have a group home next door to us many years ago. My kids were little and I was a bit worried about their safety but was told by the town that they had no info on who lived there - no one was required to report anything to anyone. We never had a problem in all the years they were there. They were certainly better neighbors than the dealers who moved in later (who are thankfully long gone).
Bee August 10, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Let me say that I lived in that home. It looks diffrent they took off the second floor but we haf 6-8 people kick down our door while we all were screaming for help till i could hide and use my phone. None of they neighbors heard anything the house is set back next to golf course
Shain Neumeier August 11, 2012 at 04:56 AM
So wait, by the last line in your article, the problem isn't that disabled youth are being tortured in your own backyard (and I have read reports by state investigatory agencies and other credible sources about JRC and its sister facility going back to the 80's - what happens at this place is in fact torture, and is not treatment by any stretch of the imagination), but that one of these kids might one day escape their abusers and that it might possibly affect their (presumptively neurotypical) neighbors? That's missing the point, in a really disturbing and ableist way.
Shain Neumeier August 11, 2012 at 05:00 AM
A mentality like that allows for (the continued) abuse of institutionalized persons, because allows staff and the outside world to very conveniently dismiss just about any complaint by such a person, by virtue of them being in an institution in the first place, about abuse or neglect. Also, there can be structure without coercion and without abuse, but this is not what's happening at the JRC and its facilities, as numerous governmental and other reports have confirmed.
John Adams August 11, 2012 at 07:44 AM
Parent testimonials are worthless. Every abusive treatment center has plenty of them. Something is up with JRC, and the comment trolls here prove they have something to hide. You're right to follow this story.
Stoughton Fan August 15, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I live across the street from a JRC home. My wife and I worked very hard to find and afford a home where we could feel that our young children could be safe. So while I appreciate the folks who want to be empathetic to the youth in these houses, that have sever disorders, they are allowed to move right in and we have no say whatsoever. An attorney acting as a spokeperson for the JRC was quoted in the Snyder article above as saying "There’s no need for neighbors to be concerned in terms of safety or anything else.” Really? The particular house I am referencing here, has had violent youths living there. One example was a very large resident beating up a supervisor in front of the house and five other residents trying to keep him off. These homes are charged no real estate taxes and yet I lost count on how many fire, police, and ambulance vehicles have responded to calls to that house, all at no charge. As quoted in the article in Snyder's Stoughton from August 6th, "It (Judge Rotenberg Educational Center ) has 900 employees and annual revenues exceeding $56 million, charging $220,000 a year for each student". So while the JRC is taking in millions in revenue from this state or others, sponsors/parents or other entities on behalf of these these kids, many of whom are here from NY, my wife and I were left to never allow our young daughter to walk or ride her bike alone in the neighborhood. Where are our rights as taxpayers in this situation?
Casey Fortier September 17, 2012 at 02:27 AM
It's funny how everyone has their "opinions" on the Judge Rotenberg Center, but don't have a clue what exactly goes on in their. I can say from experience that I know what goes on in that school, and the things that I witnessed and went through as a student at the Judge Rotenberg Center. After I left the Judge Rotenberg Center, I spent nine weeks in and psychiatric ward to help me with the PTSD that I was going through. This school had incidents of sexual assaults in the school, and yet nothing was done! This school deserves to be closed down! And don't try to tell me that you live near them, and that you don't hear them, because I know you guys were able to hear us, and knew what was going on in the houses!!

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