Davis Enterprise: California bill outlawing student restraints advances after Davis mom's testimony

The California Senate Education Committee unanimously advanced legislation this week that would prohibit the prone restraint of students, after hearing from a Davis parent whose son died as a result of the practice in 2018.

Senate Bill 483, authored by Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, would ban K-12 schools from physically or mechanically restraining students in a face-down position. The bill now advances to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Now is the time to eliminate prone restraint from our classrooms forever,” Cortese, a member of the Education Committee, said in a news release. “The trauma caused by prone restraint can last a lifetime. We can end this archaic practice now.”

A hearing on the bill Wednesday included testimony from Stacia Langley of Davis. Her 13-year-old son Max Benson, who had autism, died in November 2018 after being placed in a prone restraint at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills.

“I am here to express my strong support for SB 483 because my son Max cannot,” Langley told committee members. “It is impossible to adequately describe what it's like to lose a child, especially when you know they died a slow, painful and terrifying death at the hands of someone who was supposed to educate and care for him.”

“Max was a bright and hilarious kid. He could do more than light up a room; he lit up our entire lives,” Langley added. “Every member of our family struggles daily with the darkness created by his absence. The toll of that grief weighs heavily both on our everyday lives and on our hopes and aspirations.”

Previously a student at Birch Lane Elementary School, Max began attending the private Guiding Hands School for special-needs students after the Davis Joint Unified School District determined his educational needs could not be met locally.

Emergency personnel responded to the now-shuttered campus on Nov. 28, 2018, after receiving reports that Max became unresponsive after being restrained in a prone position during what school officials initially described as a "violent episode," but which turned out to be spitting. 

A teacher performed CPR on Max until a medical crew arrived on scene and transported him to Mercy Folsom Hospital. He died two days later at the UC Davis Medical Center.

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