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Guiding Hands School: How a student’s death led to its closure after 25 years

Max Benson, 13, died after being restrained by school staff.

EL DORADO HILLS, Calif. — The Guiding Hands School (GHS) in El Dorado Hills, California will close its doors on Friday after serving 25 years as a school for special needs students in the Sacramento region.

The school has been surrounded in turmoil over the last three months, after a child with autism died after a staff member restrained him in late November 2018.


GHS was a private school attended by 130 students with special needs, from 22 public school districts across the Sacramento region.

November 28, 2018: 

Guiding Hands staff say Max Benson, 13, became violent at school and they restrained him. He later died at the hospital, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department. 

Benson’s death was felt by his community and caught national attention.

December 5, 2018: 
One week after Benson's death, the California Board of Education suspended the certification of GHS. The school was allowed to continue to operate, but could no longer accept new students.

In a suspension letter, the California Board of Education (CBOE) cited the school for multiple violations of state law in regards to the use of restraints on students.

The CBOE found that the emergency intervention technique used was with excessive force, for too long, and used when other intervention techniques were available.

December 16, 2018:
Dozens of community members attended a candle-light vigil honoring Max Benson.

Child abuse attorney Seth Goldstein, who is representing the teen’s family, then vowed to shut the school down and end restraint practices in California.

January 9, 2019: 
The California Board of Education announced it would revoke the GHS certification. Public school districts with students at GHS were left scrambling to find schools to transfer their students to.

Some parents and students speak out in favor of GHS, pleading with the CBOE to allow the school to continue to operate.

January 11, 2019: 
The attorney representing the Guiding Hands School, Cynthia Lawrence, filed for a temporary restraining order to allow the school to stay open.

The attorney argued that the CBOE acted prematurely by revoking the school’s certification before completing its investigation.

A Sacramento judge ruled to allow the school to keep its doors open temporarily.

January 17, 2019: 
GHS announces that it will retire its certification and closes its doors for good on January 25, 2019.

In a statement, the officials there said the decision would allow another school to take over the property, rehire former staff, and allow former students to return.

While the GHS was allowed by court order to keep its certification temporarily, the order did not give public school districts enough assurance that the school would remain open.

Public school districts began seeking other options to relocate their students to other schools.

January 25, 2019: 
Guiding Hands School closes after 25 years working with special needs students.

School districts and parents who had students at the school are now looking for new schools to place their children.

Others are hopeful that Guiding Hands will be bought out by another school and a similar school will function in its place.


WATCH MORE: Guiding Hands School loses certification after student dies

The California Board of Education has stripped Guiding Hands School of its certification after Max Benson, a 13-year-old child with autism, died after being restrained by staff.

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