BOSTON >> An advocacy organization for people with disabilities has released a report alleging a school for children and young adults with psychiatric issues has failed to prevent and properly respond to student suicide attempts and other acts of self-harm.

The Disability Law Center's report on the Chamberlain International School in Middleboro, released on Monday, says the school also has failed to investigate and stop bullying and says some staff members have verbally harassed students.

The school's chief administrative officer, Sarah Norfleet, said the investigation by the law center was "designed to discredit and defame the school and put it out of business."

"The idea that our school is neglectful and abusive is in complete contrast to the experience of the vast majority of our students and parents," Norfleet said.

Chamberlain has been operating since 1976 as a nonprofit day and residential private school serving about 100 students with educational and psychiatric needs.

The law center, in its report, said it interviewed current and former students, parents and school staff during a 15-month investigation. It cited seven students who had attempted to kill or harm themselves, including one student who ingested bleach and others who found broken glass and other sharp objects to cut themselves.


Advertisement

Lawyer Eric MacLeish, who represents the school, said many of the students expressed suicidal thoughts and had multiple psychiatric hospitalizations before arriving there.

"Virtually all of these kids have showed suicidal ideation before going to Chamberlain," he said. "What this school does is provide a therapeutic community for them and turns them around."

Chamberlain is licensed by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Early Education and Care. In a joint statement issued Monday, those agencies said they required Chamberlain to take corrective action "in instances where it was found to be out of compliance with regulations or policies." They said the school's approval status and group care licenses are in good standing.

The agencies said their staff will continue to review the law center's report.