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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