Local authorities are now investigating the death of the 13-year-old boy.
An autistic student died after he stopped breathing while being restrained by staff, an incident now under investigation by local police.
The incident took place at the Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, California, where authorities say the 13-year-old was put in what was known as a “prone restraint” for close to an hour. As the Sacramento Bee reported, the boy stopped breathing at some point while he was restrained.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said the student, who was severely autistic, became violent and had to be placed in the restraint after attacking staff members. After the boy became unresponsive, school officials administered CPR and called 911. He was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.
It was not immediately clear what caused the boy’s death. In the call to authorities, school officials said the 13-year-old was six-feet-tall and weighed 280 pounds.
“As soon as this was happening we sent down deputies, as well as detectives down,” El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Prencipe told Fox 40. “Started interviewing everybody that was a witness to it and started getting the investigation going. It is still an active investigation that we’re doing.”
School officials notified families of the boy’s death in a letter, saying that staff had utilized a “nationally recognized behavior management protocol to address the situation.” The letter noted that school officials are fully cooperating with investigators.
As the boy’s death is being investigated, the California Department of Education suspended the school’s certification and they will not be allowed to accept any new students.
As the Sacramento Bee reported, this is not the first time the school has gotten into trouble for its use of restraints.
“Guiding Hands School has been sued before for restraining a student. In 2002 and 2003, the school staff forcibly restrained another teenage student, Tracee Lamerson, multiple times, according to court records,” the report noted. “In 2004, Lamerson’s mother, Deborah Lamerson, sued Guiding Hands, and Sacramento City Unified School District, which contracted with the school at the time to provide services for special needs students. SCUSD spokesman Alex Barrios said the district no longer has a relationship with Guiding Hands.”
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department said officers had been called to the school a total of 27 times in 2018, for incidents ranging from alarms to mental health crises.
Police said they are not treating the investigation into the boy’s death as a criminal investigation. School officials have not named the student who died.
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