Autistic Boy Dies After School Forcibly Restrains Him

Autistic Boy Dies After School Forcibly Restrains Him December 7, 2018

Extremely disheartening news is coming out of California involving the death of a 13-year-old autistic boy. The boy died after being physically restrained at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado, California. Following the death of the child, the California Department of Education suspended the school’s license. The death of the child calls into question the use of physical force when dealing with troubling behavior.

According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, the incident happened last week. Staff at Guiding Hand School, a school for children with disabilities, used the “prone restraint” on the child after he became violent.

The prone restraint is a controversial technique that is used to subdue individuals that are acting violently. Individuals are placed face down and are unable to move.

Police say the child became unresponsive after an hour in the restraint. When the child became unresponsive, the staff attempted CPR and called for medical assistance.

When paramedics arrived, authorities transferred him to a local hospital. The hospital transferred the child to UC Davis Medical Center. While under care at UC Davis, the child died from his injuries. Authorities did not say when he died but found out about the death on November 30th.

Staff said the boy was severely autistic and acting violently. While media outlets say the child was 13 years old and 6 feet tall and weighed 280 lbs., The mother of the child said online that her son was only 5’4 and turned 13 only 2 weeks ago.

According to the school’s website, Guiding Hands provides special education and services to children with special needs. The school serves grades K-12, and there are 167 students enrolled. There is only 16 staff at the facility.

In the report from the Sacramento Bee, they point out that Guiding Hands doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to using the restraint. Another student, Tracee Lamerson, was physically restrained multiple times between 2002-2003.

In 2004, Lamerson’s mother, Deborah Lamerson, sued the school and Sacramento City Unified School District for using the restraints on her daughter.

When the Bee interviewed Tracee and her mother about the events that transpired, the details they provided were disturbing.

Tracee said that she had broken her arm on the bus ride to school in the morning. When she arrived at school, she asked to call her mother to get medical help. However, she says the school would not allow her to call her mother.

When the school refused to help her, Tracee became agitated and upset. Instead of helping the girl, the staff physically restrained her. While in the restraint, Tracee vomited from being unable to breathe. After she vomited, staff told her to clean up the mess.

Details of the lawsuit ruling are not public. However, the school became a private institution shortly after the lawsuit settled.

Prone restraint is a technique used to immobilize a child following violent or unruly behavior. In the method, a child lays on the floor with their face down.

Trained staff force a child to the floor. Once the child is on the ground, the staff, typically 2-3 adults, hold down the child’s arms and feet to stop them from moving.

Critics of the restraint argue the technique impacts the child’s ability to breathe correctly. When staff executes the method incorrectly, children are at risk of respiratory failure. Additionally, advocates for children with disabilities say there are more effective methods to disengage a child than physical restraint.

Numerous states ban physical restraint of students in school. However, the “prone restraint” is legal in some parts of California.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education released policies on the use of physical restraint in schools. The Department took specific issue with the use of the prone position.

In the document the U.S. Department of Education said:

“Prone (i.e., lying face down) restraints or other restraints that restrict breathing should never be used because they can cause serious injury or death.

Breathing can also be restricted if loose clothing becomes entangled or tightened or if the child’s face is covered by a staff member’s body part (e.g., hand, arm, or torso) or through pressure to the abdomen or chest.”

Despite recommendations by the Department of Education, the technique is still used and legal in numerous states across the country. Twenty-two states in the country allow educators to use restraints in emergencies.

Based on the information provided by the U.S. Department of Education on the dangers associated with the prone restraint, states around the country are choosing to disregard the recommendations by using the dangerous technique.

Today a family in California is grieving the loss of their beloved son.

His only crime was having a disability that made communication difficult. The death of the young boy should serve as a wake-up call to legislatures around the country that the physical restraint of children in schools should not be allowed.

More Coverage: School Violated Several Regulations in Autistic Teen’s Death

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • GRH

    Wonder if Betsy DeVos provides extra funding for this type school to cover costs of litigation?

  • this is not a public school

  • Jim Jones

    “Guiding Hands School”.

    Oh dear. How unfortunate.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    Police say the child became unresponsive after an hour in the restraint.

    An hour?
    They had this kid trussed up for an hour? WTF?

  • yep. horrible isn’t it?

  • persephone

    It’s absolutely unacceptable. But too many people, including judges, unfortunately, blame the victims. I don’t see how anyone could breathe properly when restrained like that.

    ETA: If you have a strong stomach, look up the Judge Rotenberg Centre.

  • persephone

    If she could, she would.

  • Betsy supports schools that are charter schools, and other types of private schools, maybe one like this gawdawful “?school.”

  • inotech

    In 1998, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimated that 3 individuals with special needs die every week in US schools and Institutions due to abusive practices like restraint and seclusion. The deaths are overwhelmingly among children. The Hartford Courant, which had requested the study, concluded that the actual toll could be three to ten times higher than estimated (http://www.charlydmiller.com/LIB05/1998hartfordcourant11.html).

    In 1998, the rate of autism was 1 in 600 and is now currently estimated by the CDC to be 1 in 30, or 1 in 24 boys. Furthermore, autism is not the only behavioral or mental disability that’s risen since 1998. The rate of pediatric bipolar disorder shot up 23 fold and other diagnoses have seen spikes. Since the Government Accountability Office found in 2009 that nothing has been done in intervening years to curb the use of deadly restraints and seclusion practices on children in US schools and institutions, and since there’s no federal database keeping data on the numbers of deaths due to restraint and seclusion and schools and institutions aren’t required to report, it seems the current death toll needs an update. I suspect the reason there have been no updates is because the figure would be astounding. For some simple math, the present rate could be over 3,000 deaths per year just among students with autism.

    Teachers and aides involved in deadly incidents involving “therapeutic” restraint and seclusion rarely lose their jobs and are frequently transferred to other schools or institutions. These deaths are almost never reported as murder or manslaughter but are reported by coroners as “cardiac insufficiency” so the public is left in the dark.

    To put things in perspective, the Nazi T4 euthanasia program murdered some 5,000 disabled children between 1939 and 1945 (less than 1,000 per year). Methods of killing involved deliberate misuse of various “therapeutic” approaches like barbiturate overdose and restraint until finally the gas chamber was invented for the purpose. The German film “Snow in August” depicts the early phase of the T4 child killing program. Under Nazi rule, cause of death was always reported to surviving family as “cardiac insufficiency” or “respiratory insufficiency.”

    What makes the T4 program so astonishing is that it was systematic and deliberate and, what’s more, wiped out almost an entire disabled population in Western Europe, but this is relative to the fact that rates of disability were vastly lower at the time than they are now. What this means is that, while the US may be killing a smaller percentage of its disabled minor children than were murdered in Nazi Germany, and while the deaths are not systematic and planned, it’s possible that our annual body count may be much higher.

    For those who claim restraint and seclusion are “necessary” to reign in dangerous disabled students, the Government Accountability Office also reported in 2009 that the vast majority of deaths occurring from restraint and seclusion were in response to students being “disruptive” but not posing any danger to themselves or others. https://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/2009/05/examining-the-abusive-and-dead.shtml

  • Yannis Zacharopoulos

    judjes have to be judje when they fail..
    police has to be fired when they fail..
    politicians have to be jailed when they fail..

  • Phyllis White

    By looking at the picture, the boy does not look like he’s 280 lbs. I think they should have a different position of restraining so he could have breathed better. He needs more compassionate caregivers. He’s not a prisoner, he’s a boy.

  • Capt Stormfield

    I’m pretty sure that’s a stock photo illustrating the technique.

  • Mimc

    Exactly what I was going to say. I can’t imagine any situation were restraining a kid for an hour would be necessary.

  • She-Ra Princess of Power

    He wasn’t put in this restraint for nothing. They only use this method when the kid is really violent and posing a danger to others. Believe me, they know the risk of being sued, its a last resort. What are they supposed to do, let themselves be stabbed or something? A 5’4 kid can do a lot of damage in a rage. Obviously nobody commenting here has the slightest experience with special needs kids.

  • HematitePersuasion

    Restrained in a position known to be dangerous for over an hour, and you claim this is the victim’s fault?

    And where (and how?) did you decide he had a weapon to ‘stab’ with? Any other exculpatory details you would like to invent?

  • She-Ra Princess of Power

    My head is still attached. You morons who jump to the defense of this violent kid who is facing the consequences anyone else would, can go deal with someone like him and not use restraints and get your own knocked off. Not that there’d be much if a loss for you.

  • kiwicupcake

    You do not only seem to take the school’s claims at face value, you even add an imaginary weapon to the scenario. Have you considered the possibility that school officials might have blown things out of proportion in an attempt to justify their actions? For all we know, the kid merely talked back to a teacher with a fragile ego. As long as restraining is legal, it will be abused without legitimate reason.
    Besides, even and especially if the kid was a danger to others, the school should have called experts in for help, such as law enforcement or psychiatric emergency services. People who are trained and qualified to handle violent individuals without harming them in the process. I know this description doesn’t necessarily describe police officers in the US, but that’s a different problem.

  • Raging Bee

    Yeah, and cops never shoot unarmed minors without good solid reasons, right?