The investigation will seek to determine whether the JRC's practices violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people because of their disabilities by any government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private businesses that serve the public.
The initial letter of complaint that Nancy Weiss sent to the Justice Department (and also to the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office on Disability within HHS, and to committees within both houses of the U.S. Congress whose areas of focus include education, and also to three international human-rights organizations: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights) spoke of the electrical shocks meted out to students every day at the Judge Rotenberg Center in broad terms as human rights violations; the language specific to the Americans with Disabilities Act and nondiscrimination appeared later, after the Justice Department responded that it may not have jurisdiction to enforce human-rights laws in a private facility, since the relevant law --- the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act --- applies only state-run institutions.
The logic in making this a claim of discrimination goes as follows:
(Quoted from Nancy Weiss's letter to the co-signers and other supporters of her September 2009 letter of complaint).
I suggested to [the Department of Justice] that they consider jurisdiction under the ADA on the basis that people with disabilities are being treated in ways that are neither legal nor would be tolerated if applied to people who do not have disabilities ... .
There's no way of knowing how long the investigation will take, but I am enormously glad the federal authorities are at least looking into it. What goes on at that "school" is nightmarish, and no living thing ought to be subjected to such treatment.