NorCal School Where Student With Autism Died After Being Restrained Will Close

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Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills is seen in a Google Maps Street View image from June 2016.

Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills is seen in a Google Maps Street View image from June 2016.

An El Dorado Hills school at the center of an investigation over the death of a 13-year-old autistic student announced this week that it plans to close its doors permanently on Friday.

Guiding Hands School, a private school that has served students with disabilities since 1993, made headlines when a student, identified as Max Benson, died after being placed in a face-down restraint by school staff in November. The California Department of Education said the boy was held down for an hour and 45 minutes, according to Sacramento Superior Court records.

El Dorado County Sheriff’s officials said the boy turned violent and had to be restrained by staff to prevent other people from getting hurt. During the restraint, Max stopped breathing and a teacher began CPR until paramedics arrived. He was taken to a Folsom hospital, then to a UC Davis hospital, where he died.

The incident sparked an investigation by sheriff’s officials and the Department of Education. The Sheriff’s Department found no evidence of foul play, but the Education Department suspended the school’s state certification in December, barring it from accepting new students. In January, the department revoked the certification, which meant public districts no longer could use special education funds to pay for students to attend the school.

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