We are not sure why, but we’ve noticed a rise in appalling school stories lately…
We covered a story from May 2018 in which daycare staff tightly taped one girl’s shoes to her feet. In November 2018, there was the school assistant who “accidentally” served preschoolers Pine-Sol instead of apple juice.
On November 28, 2018, tragedy struck again.
Max Benson, a 13-year-old student attending Guiding Hands school (a private school for individuals with special needs) for a few months, was physically restrained.
One day later, on November 29, Max Benson died.
According to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office statement, Max “became violent and needed to be restrained by school staff, to prevent the injury of staff and students.” (1)
“While restraining the student, he became unresponsive,” the statement continued. “A teacher began CPR until medical aid arrived. The student was transported to Mercy Folsom in critical condition and later to UC Davis. On November 30, 2018, EDSO was informed that the student had passed away.”
Unfortunately, there are conflicting reports about what really happened.
Numerous investigations are currently underway to determine exactly what led to and caused Max’s death.
Max was reported as suffering from severe autism, being six feet tall, and weighing 280 pounds. (1)
However, a couple of reports reveal the contrary.
Max was a big kid for his age. But the Benson family’s child abuse attorney, Seth Goldstein, believes this was completely avoidable.
“Whenever a disciplinary matter or an action is taken to correct behavior, it was to be reasonable under the circumstances. If it’s unreasonable or unwarranted, it’s an offense,” said Goldstein. (3) “[Max] was not an unmanageable child in any sense of that term in terms of that size.”
“If they were holding him down,” Goldstein told CBS (4), “and, of course, if that inhibited his ability to breathe – or the fact that he hyperventilated because of the behavior that he was experiencing and was being restrained – again, that’s inappropriate.”
Immediately on November 28, the California Department of Education (CDE) investigated Max Benson’s death at Guiding Hands. (5)
In an email statement to BuzzFeed News, the CDE confirmed that they have “suspended Guiding Hands School’s certification” which prohibits them from enrolling new students. (6)
Melissa Lasater, a parent who pulled her 13-year-old son from Guiding Hands School, was appalled at how the school has handled the Max Benson’s death.
“[The 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,” Lasater told FOX40. (7)
According to two parents whose children witnessed Max be physically restrained, these actions were apparently taken because he had kicked a wall. (4)
While we don’t have details of the full story, the CDE’s report stated that, instead of using the methods outlined in Max’s Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP), they used “emergency intervention.” (7)
What’s so heartbreaking is that even though he had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and BIP, extreme measures were taken to solve a non-extreme situation. In context, their actions were not only “harmful to health, welfare, and safety of an individual with exceptional needs” (7) – they were fatal.
The Ausitm Site Blog reported that, as of December 13, Guiding Hands is still open. This could change, however. (2)
People have been protesting in front of the CDE that Guiding Hands be shut down. Until then, the investigations into Max Benson’s unfortunate and avoidable death will continue.
Find out more in the video below, courtesy of CBS Sacramento:
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