Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says his office is reviewing a report alleging abuse and neglect at the Chamberlain International School for special education students in Middleborough.
In an interview with New England Public Radio, Baker said “we take seriously any concerns people have with respect to anybody who’s being served in one of those schools and we’ll certainly review the report with a fine toothed comb.” At the same time, the governor said his understanding was that the report dealt with many years of “data and information and allegations,” and he didn’t want to draw any conclusions.
Baker was referring to a report issued Monday by the Disability Law Center, whose findings included a failure by Chamberlain to prevent suicide attempts and runaways, numerous instances of abuse in the form of staff threats and “mental and emotional harassment” of students, and inadequate actions against bullying. The school, whose tuition and fees top $100,000 a year, enrolls about 114 students with disorders including anxiety, autism, depression and schizophrenia.
Chamberlain yesterday criticized the report as “a flawed, self-serving and biased document at odds with the reasoned determinations of responsible state agencies.” Sarah Norfleet, the school’s chief administrative officer, called on the state to “disavow the DLC as a source for responsible investigations.”
The report came at the same time an investigation by The Eye and WBUR public radio showed a history of allegations of abuse and neglect at the school that state agencies say they found evidence to support. Among them, a student with a history of running away jumped into the nearby Taunton River last November and had to be rescued, and a teenage girl died in 1999 in a speeding car driven by a Chamberlain staff member.
DLC litigation director Stan Eichner said Wednesday that no details in the center’s report were older than six years old. “DLC conducted this investigation with no motive or agenda, but rather followed where the evidence led us,’’ he said.