Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Shrub Oak

In The Politics of Autismdiscuss the use of restraint and seclusion, along with cases of abuse.  In America's complex system for dealing with autism, oversight is uneven, and people on the spectrum can fall through the cracks.

Jennifer Smith Richards and Jodi S. Cohen at Pro Publica report on  Shrub Oak International School, an expensive private residential facility in Westchester County, New York:

No state agency oversees Shrub Oak, which enrolls a range of students with autism including those whom other schools declined to serve and who have severe behavioral challenges and complex medical needs. The private, for-profit school chose not to seek approval from New York’s Education Department.

That means it has gotten no meaningful oversight and state officials have had no authority over the school — over who works there, whether money is spent properly and if the curriculum and services are appropriate for students with disabilities.

Even without New York’s approval, Shrub Oak receives public money from school districts across the country that pay tuition for the students they send there.

Shrub Oak opened in 2018 with grand promises: beautiful dorms, an indoor therapy pool, an equestrian stable, a restaurant-quality kitchen, sophisticated security, round-the-clock care and cutting-edge education for students with autism from around the world.

Some of those promises never materialized. A ProPublica investigation — based on records from school districts, court documents and interviews with nearly 30 families and just as many workers — also found accusations of possible abuse and neglect: unexplained black eyes and bruises on students’ bodies, medication mix-ups, urine-soaked mattresses and deficient staffing. Many parents and workers, armed with confidential documents and photos of student injuries, described their futile efforts to get authorities to intervene.


Shrub Oak is among the most expensive therapeutic boarding schools in America. Tuition for residential students is $316,400 this school year. Many students require a dedicated aide for 16 hours a day, bringing the total to $573,200. Shrub Oak currently enrolls about 85 students, ages 7 to 23, from 13 states and Puerto Rico.

Though the school touts its expertise with students who need constant care, police records detail young people swallowing aluminum foil, plexiglass, diapers and their own feces; putting their heads or fists through windows; and running away as recently as late March.