Dec 10, 2018, Texas Public Radio: School Where Student With Autism Died Violated State Regulations, Officials Say http://www.tpr.org/post/school-where-student-autism-died-violated-state-regulations-officials-say A school in California where a student on the autism spectrum died last week after being physically restrained violated several state regulations, according to findings from a preliminary investigation by the state's Department of Education. On Nov. 28, 13-year-old Max Benson was restrained by a staff member at his small private school in El Dorado Hills, Calif. While he was being restrained, Max lost consciousness. The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office was called to Guiding Hands School (GHS), where a teacher was performing CPR on the boy. He was then taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to a statement from the Sheriff's Office. Two days later, the Sheriff's Office learned that he had died. The statement said Max, who was reported as six feet tall and weighing 280 pounds, "became violent," and was restrained in an effort to protect his classmates and the school's staff. But, according to a California Department of Education letter released to The Sacramento Bee, the restraint was applied "for longer than was necessary" with "an amount of force which is not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances." The letter said the restraint was used as an "emergency intervention" in response to "predictable behavior," which is a violation of state regulations. "Current evidence supports a finding GHS staff's actions were harmful to the health, welfare and safety of an individual with exceptional needs," according to the letter. The state suspended the school's certification on Dec. 5, one week after the incident occurred. The year-long suspension allows the school to stay open, but stops it from accepting new students. The Department of Education hasn't completed its investigation into the incident yet, but its letter says the school is likely to face "required corrective actions."… Guiding Hands School provides special education services to students with exceptional needs. That means it's supposed to work with each student within the boundaries of an "individualized education program" designed just for them…. Like many students with disabilities, Max Benson had his own "behavior intervention plan." But, according to the California Department of Education's preliminary investigation, the staff at Guiding Hands School didn't follow it. Other parents at the school have been interviewed by The Sacramento Bee about their own children's experiences with being restrained. One parent – Cherilyn Caler – told The Sacramento Bee that her son, who is on the autism spectrum, witnessed Max being restrained for kicking a wall…. And it's not just California. In 2009, NPR reported findings from the investigatory arm of congress that showed a large number of schools were using potentially dangerous methods to discipline children, including restraints and seclusion. Often time, these practices were used on students with disabilities in special education classes. In California and in Texas alone, there were more than 33,000 cases of restraints and seclusion used in the 2007-2008 school year, according to the report. In some cases, the report found, children even died when large adults pinned them down to try to calm them down, but accidentally suffocated them instead. One child, a 7-year old girl from Wisconsin, died after being restrained because she was fidgeting and blowing bubbles in her milk. In 2014, NPR and ProPublica looked at data from the U.S. Department of Education and found that children in public schools — most of them students with disabilities — were being restrained much more than had previously been understood. According to the analysis, children were secluded or restrained at least 267,000 times in the 2011-2012 school year.
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