Unregulated boarding school for autistic kids sounds more like a prison

Shrub Oak International School is a "specialized" "boarding school" in New York state that opened in 2018, ostensibly with the goal of providing services to students with disabilities. The student body is composed of about 100 students from 13 US states, most of whom have autism, if not other special needs. Tuition is more than half a million dollars per year for those students who require a dedicated aide.

Based on this new reporting from ProPublica, most of that tuition money is paid for by state education departments. Which I suppose is how the school — which has no government oversight nor licensing — is able to to function as a complete disaster. Human rights violations are reportedly widespread.

From the new report, which was co-published by the Connecticut Mirror:

In Connecticut, education officials visited Shrub Oak International School and alerted districts that a state watchdog group determined there were ongoing "serious safety concerns" at the unregulated for-profit private school. Separately, the state's Department of Developmental Services, which serves residents with intellectual disabilities and autism, has decided to stop sending more students there, an agency spokesperson told ProPublica. That agency described the facility as looking "more akin to a penal institution than an educational campus."


Disability Rights Connecticut noted that, during one of its visits, a student was forced to sleep on the linoleum floor with no bed, "covered in a blanket that appeared to be similar to a moving pad." The organization also said Shrub Oak used a practice called "hold and close," which involves placing a student in a padded room, closing the door and holding it shut. That method of managing student behavior would be illegal in many states, including Connecticut.

There are some pretty brutal anecdotes throughout the rest of the investigation — the kind of horror stories that sadly wouldn't have been uncommon throughout the mid-20th century, but that you would have hoped this ugly world would have moved past by now.

Three States Have Warned Against Sending Students to an Unregulated Boarding School for Youth With Autism [Jennifer Smith Richards and Jodi S. Cohen / ProPublica & The Connecticut Mirror]