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School Found in Violation of California State Policies Following Autistic Student Max Benson's Death


A preliminary investigation into the death of Max Benson, a 13-year-old on the autism spectrum who died after being forcibly restrained at school, found that the school’s actions violated multiple state regulations. The California Department of Education (CDE)’s preliminary report and Benson’s name were made public on Tuesday by local news station FOX40.

Benson was restrained at Guiding Hands School, a private school in El Dorado, California, on Nov. 28 when he became unresponsive. He died a day later in the hospital. A source told The Sacramento Bee Benson was held face down for nearly an hour.

In a letter to one of the school’s administrators, CDE stated the school’s staff restrained the boy “with an amount of force which is not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.” The staff’s actions were “harmful to the health, welfare, and safety of an individual with exceptional needs.”

According to the letter. Benson was restrained for a behavior he was known to exhibit. Methods for managing that behavior were outlined in his behavior intervention plan, but were not followed. The CDE cited the school for failing to comply with the student’s individualized education program, a federal document.

As a result of the investigation, Guiding Hands School’s certification has been suspended, forbidding them from enrolling new students. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office has also opened an investigation into the incident.

Some parents have unenrolled their children from the school after the incident and have begun protesting in front of the CDE building — demanding the school be shut down.

“[CDE] act like they did a real big thing by stopping new students from coming but that does nothing to protect the vulnerable children that are already there, and that’s unacceptable,” Melissa Lasater, a parent who has pulled her son out, told FOX40.

Restraint and seclusion are common practices in schools, especially when it comes to students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education found that 71 percent of students who were restrained and 66 percent of students who were secluded had disabilities, despite being only 12 percent of the general student population.

The Keeping All Students Safe Act was recently introduced by the U.S. Senate, which aims to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. “It’s barbaric for schools to confine students alone in locked rooms or to use abusive methods to restrain little children,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “Treating school kids this way should not be tolerated in America. Period.”

Photos via Twitter