13-Year-Old Autistic Boy Died After He Was Physically Restrained at School

A 13-year-old autistic boy died in late November after he was physically restrained by school officials, according to a Friday report from BuzzFeed News. On November 28, the student became violent, requiring staff at Guiding Hands School to restrain him to “prevent the injury of staff and students,” the El Dorado County sheriff said. The Fresno Bee reports that the boy was held in a prone restraint—which means he was restrained face-down—for almost an hour. That type of restraint has been banned in some other states, and it’s considered a “hazardous and potentially lethal restraint position” by the group Disability Rights California. A teacher tried performing CPR, and the boy was rushed to the hospital but did not survive. The sheriff added that while an investigation continues, “there appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent.”

The state, however, suspended the school’s certification while it conducts its own investigation. This will prevent the school, which is designed to help children with severe disabilities, from accepting more students. A spokesperson for the school decried the boy’s death. “After the incident, an emergency ensued and staff immediately alerted paramedics. We have since been informed, the student has passed away,” she said. “We are devastated by this loss and remain committed to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.” This is not the first time the school has faced criticism for restraining students, the Bee notes. In 2004, one mother sued after school officials allegedly forcefully restrained her daughter, who had broken her arm earlier in the day, and forced her to clean up after herself when she vomited while being held down.