By Angela Greenwood

EL DORADO HILLS (CBS13) — For 25 years, Guiding Hands School has offered private education to students with special needs, but last week tragedy struck.

A special education student died just days after being restrained in the classroom.  It happened at the Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, a private school that’s been open for decades.  Authorities are still trying to figure out what led to the teen’s death.

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Principe said, “It’s a heartbreaking situation for a lot of people involved, that’s for sure.”

According to the authorities, a 13-year-old boy who suffered from severe autism, stood 5 feet and 4 inches tall and weighed 160-170 pounds. The teen was restrained by staff at school after becoming violent.

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But while being restrained, he reportedly became unresponsive. Deputies say a teacher performed CPR, but the boy died two days later at UC Davis.

David Gaines is the founder of Sacramento Autistic Spectrum and Special Needs Alliance.

“I know this kind of stuff happens and it’s unfortunate,” said Dave Gaines.

Gaines is also on the autism spectrum and says school staff members are trained on safe ways to restrain students in violent situations.

“I think there are situations where restraint is appropriate people have the right to be protected,” said Gaines.

In a statement released Wednesday by Guiding Hands, school officials say during the incident “…staff needed to utilize a nationally recognized behavior management protocol to address the situation.”

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Gaines said, “There’s never anything such as striking, kicking, hitting choking [during restraint]. Those things to my knowledge are never permitted.”

Gaines says each case is different but a typical restraint would involve immobilizing someone by restraining their hands or other parts of their body and using objects in the environment like a wall or floor to minimize movement.

“You’re really looking at protecting the students as well as protecting other people,” Gaines said.

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s office is still investigating the incident but, at this time, they don’t suspect foul play.

“I hope the truth comes out and we know the facts,” said Gaines. ”This could have been an inappropriate situation in which somebody did something wrong, or it could be a very unfortunate, tragic accident.”

The California Department of Education is also investigating the incident and has suspended the school’s certification, which means it can not enroll any new students at this time.

*Guiding Hands School’s spokesperson Scott Rose issued an updated statement about restraint training Friday saying:

“Guiding Hands School faculty and staff receives intensive training on an annual basis that focuses on

de-escalation techniques. A number of approaches are utilized depending on the situation including

finding quiet spaces, breathing techniques, going for a walk, counting, physical exercise, on-site

counselors and therapists. There is also an occupational therapy room that has workout equipment and

toys to channel behaviors. In the rare instances in which de-escalation techniques are not effective,

faculty and staff are trained in and utilize a recognized protocol for restraint. At no time are any physical

devices or mechanical restraints utilized.”


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