Political observers like The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan have argued that one of the most dangerous elements of the Bush administration's torture policies was the risk that a "torture mentality" would take hold in American society.
Those who seek evidence for that theory need look no further than Great Falls, Montana, where two teacher's aides have been charged with using water torture on a middle school student.
Julie Ann Parrish and Kristina Marie Kallies face one count each of felony abuse after allegations that they forced a 13-year-old autistic boy's head under water after he fell asleep in class. They also stand accused of "forcing him to sit in his soiled pants for hours and making him eat his own vomit when he got sick," reports KTLA in Los Angeles.
"If the teachers thought Garrett was being lazy or falling asleep at his desk, they forcibly took my son to the kitchen sink in the room and forced his head under the water while he was screaming for his mother," Tifonie Schilling, mother of the alleged victim, told ABC News. "And if he had an accident in his pants he was made to sit in it all day. They would taunt him and say, 'You stink like a baby.'"
"They were waterboarding my son," Schilling said.
According to the Associated Press, police in Great Falls are working to bring Kallies, one of the accused, back to Montana to stand trial. She is believed to be in Texas. Parrish, the other defendant, has already had her first court date and has been released on $5,000 bail.
Both Kallies and Parrish denied the charges during a school investigation. According to court documents, the teacher's aides say they only "splashed water" on the child's face and neck, and never let him sit in his own waste for more than a few minutes.
But Tifonie Schilling told ABC she received a letter from a teacher's aide with whom she was friendly warning her of the duo's behavior towards her son. Schilling pulled her son from Great Falls' North Middle School, where the abuse allegedly took place, in April, 2009.
The alleged victim, Garrett Schilling, now 14, suffers from Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that is the leading cause of autism.
The attorney representing Schilling says he has received more complaints from other parents about abuse within the school district, some of it having to do with the same two teacher's aides.
"I have about 14 other families who have kids who have been subjected, in one way or another, to different schools in the district," attorney Randy Tarum told ABC. "The abuse comes in varying degrees, and not every child says they were tortured."