A 13-Year-Old Autistic Student Died After Being Physically Restrained At School

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A 13-year-old autistic student at a Northern California school died last week after becoming unresponsive while being physically restrained by a staff member, authorities said Thursday.

The student had become violent and needed to be restrained by staff at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills “to prevent the injury of staff and students” on Nov. 28, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Prencipe said in a statement.

While he was being restrained, the student became unresponsive, Prencipe said. A teacher began CPR until paramedics arrived.

The boy, who was described as being 6 feet tall, 280 pounds, and “suffering from severe autism,” was transported to Mercy Hospital of Folsom in critical condition. He was later transferred to University of California, Davis.

Prencipe said the sheriff’s office was informed on Nov. 30 that the student had died.

The department is continuing to investigate the incident, but Prencipe said at this time there is no evidence of foul play or criminal intent.

In a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News, Guiding Hands spokesperson Scott Rose confirmed the death of the student, saying that “there was an incident on campus involving a student in which staff needed to utilize a nationally recognized behavior management protocol to address the situation.”

“After the incident, an emergency ensued and staff immediately alerted paramedics. We have since been informed, the student has passed away,” Rose said. “We are devastated by this loss and remain committed to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.”

Rose declined to comment further on the incident, but told BuzzFeed News in an email that faculty and staff undergo training on “de-escalation techniques” each year and said “there are occasional situations in which students are placed in a neutral position.”

Prencipe told the Sacramento Bee the department has been called to respond to Guiding Hands School 27 times in 2018 for a variety of reasons including ringing alarms and mental health related concerns.

Guiding Hands is a private K-12 school founded in 1993. Last year, 137 students were enrolled at the school, according to the California Department of Education.

The state has suspended the school’s certification as it continues its own investigation of the incident, Fox 40 reported.

“As soon as the department heard of this incident, on November 28, CDE began an investigation, and as of December 5, CDE has suspended Guiding Hands School’s certification,” the Department of Education said in a statement.

The department described Guiding Hands as a private school that educational agencies contract with to serve students with disabilities who need a “more restrictive environment.” As a result of the suspension, the school won’t be able to accept additional students.

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