Months after Student’s Death, El Dorado Hills Specialty School Will be Shut Down

EL DORADO HILLS -- Months after a special needs student died after he was restrained the El Dorado Hills school where he attended is being shut down by the state.

Thirteen-year-old Max Benson died in November hours after he was restrained by school staff at Guiding Hands School Inc.

"Dear Department of Education, I want the school to stay open because I made a lot of friends here," said 18-year-old special needs student Bailey Hanes.

In her message, Hanes spoke about her school, Guiding Hands.

"When I was in middle school here I had a lot of tantrums in room 17. But I got better now," she said in her video statement.

"To call to close down Guiding Hands I think is the wrong thing to do," said her father, Chad.

For the Hanes, Guiding Hands was a godsend.

"She knows how to spend money, count back money. She has a bank account. I mean all these things were not possible previous to this," Chad Hanes told FOX40.

After his daughter attended the school for six years, the tragedy involving Benson did make the Hanes family pause.

"We still feel that it is a very tragic incident that occurred and wouldn’t wish it on anyone," Chad Hanes said.

But, ultimately, they decided to keep sending Bailey to the school.

"I mean, I trust Guiding Hands like a family," her father said. "They literally are family to us."

This week, the California Department of Education revoked Guiding Hand’s certification, citing a violation of four rules in restraining Benson.

"They were so in violation of all of these state regulations. They were doing punishment completely incorrectly," said Dr. Jennie Singer.

Singer is a criminal justice professor at Sacramento State and a licensed psychologist. Her son, Leo, was friends with Benson.

"My son was heartbroken and was scared because he had been restrained himself," Singer said.

She’s been calling on the state to shut down Guiding Hands since Benson’s death.

"To me it seems like justice that they should not be allowed to be near children," Singer told FOX40.

Several school districts who have special needs students attending Guiding Hands told FOX40 they’re working with families to place those kids elsewhere.

But Bailey Hanes is in Guiding Hand’s day program for adults with special needs. They don't not know where she’ll go after this.

"We’re asking the exact same question, what do we do?" Chad Hanes said. "Like I said, there’s not just programs out there that you can just drop your kid off and do the same thing that Guiding Hands is doing."

Attorney’s for Guiding Hands did release a statement to FOX40, which says:

"We intend to appeal the CDE’s revocation which is premature, subjective and not reflective of our school and its mission, but absent court intervention sadly for our students and their parents the school is unable to remain open as we go through the appeal process.  The safety and security of our students, staff and teachers remain our highest priorities."

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