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2010 Alums Snag Investigative Reporting Honor for Exposé on Controversial School

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

A story by four 2010 graduates that revealed how a controversial Massachusetts boarding school relies heavily on students and public funds from New York City was a finalist in the Student category of the annual Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) Awards.

The story by Lisa Riordan Seville, Hannah Rappleye, Teresa Tomassoni, and Khristina Narizhnaya was produced in the Investigative Reporting class taught by Andrew Lehren and Brian Hamman of The New York Times. It appeared on the CUNY J-School’s 219 Magazine website in August 2011.

The report disclosed that about 90% of the students at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in suburban Boston came from New York and that the city paid nearly $32.5 million to the school during fiscal year 2011.

The Rotenberg Center uses a controversial method for controlling violent and disruptive behaviors that includes electrical shocks. Most states have stopped sending students to the school. But despite a New York State Department of Education investigation that identified a wide range of problems at the institution, the story found that New York remains its best customer.

In another IRE Award category, Broadcast Video – Large, ’07 alumna Angela Hill was part of the ABC News investigative team that won the top prize for “20/20 Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed.” The report, which coincided with the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, found that hundreds of volunteers had been raped around the world, and that the agency had a practice of “hushing things up” and blaming the victim.”