By Angela Greenwood


EL DORADO HILLS (CBS13) — The tragic death of a teen with autism after being restrained inside a classroom is now forcing dozens of other special needs students to find new schools.

The California State Department of Education has revoked certification for the Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills after 13-year-old Max Benson died in November. School officials say they will close Friday.

“I was happy. I was like good, it’s about time,” said mother Melissa Lasater. “One day is too many.”

Relief from a mother who pulled her son with autism out of Guiding Hands School just one day after learning of Max’s death.

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Laseter also rallied for Guiding Hand’s closure in December, worried about the students who remained enrolled there.

“At least now they’re in a situation where they don’t have to worry about being suffocated to death at school,” said Laseter.

As of Friday, the Department of Education is revoking Guiding Hands’ certification, claiming it used an emergency restraint on Max improperly, with excessive force and for too long.

Now, local educational agencies will not be allowed to use special education funding to pay for students to attend the school. But not all families are happy with the closure.

In a video on Facebook, a senior student at Guiding Hands named Bailey Hanes shares her positive experience, saying the school is like her home and she wants it to stay open. She’s just one of 120 students who will have to find new schools. Guiding hands contracted with 29 school districts in the area, including Sacramento City and Elk Grove Unified, which tell CBS13 all of those students will start new schools on Friday.

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“The complaints have been made about this school for years,” said attorney Seth Goldstein.

Goldstein is representing Max’s family and has already filed a legal claim against the State Department of Education, Guiding Hands and the Davis Unified School District which placed Max in the Guiding Hands School.

“Our hope is that his death will be the catalyst if you will for some real change.”

For now, Goldstein says the family is happy that no other tragedies will happen at the school.

“We’re glad now that children there will be safe,” said Goldstein.

Guiding Hands School opened in 1993. It will not be able to apply for certification again for the next two years. School officials say they plan to appeal the state’s decision.

Angela Greenwood

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