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Bus driver's quick thinking likely stopped child abduction, police say

A quick-thinking bus driver helped prevent a potential child abduction in Georgia, according to Atlanta's WSB-TV.

Investigators in Jefferson said a brother and sister were about to get off their school bus Wednesday afternoon along Jett Roberts Road when an older, balding, white man in a gray, four-door car called out to the children to come get into his car. 

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The bus driver, not recognizing the car, spoke with the man through the bus window and asked the children if they knew the man, police said.

The driver kept the children on the bus and called their mother, authorities said. The children’s mother said she didn’t send anyone to pick them up or know anyone matching the description, according to police.

That’s when the car drove off.

Officers said they were not able to get a good view of the suspect’s vehicle from the bus cameras. Police said they are warning others to be on the lookout for the man. They will also be stepping up patrols in the area.

School where 13-year-old with autism died after being restrained violated state rules

As a grieving California couple shares photos of their 13-year-old son with autism, who died last month after being restrained by teachers, other parents have begun pulling their children from the inclusive private K-12 school where it took place. 

The parents of Max Benson, a student at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, shared photos of their son with Fox 40 in Sacramento to show his sweet demeanor, the news station said. The family, from Davis, is also fighting back at Guiding Hands, which a preliminary investigation by the state shows violated multiple rules in its handling of the boy. 

Max was allegedly placed in a prone restraint, face-down on the floor, Nov. 28 after school officials said he became violent. The El Dorado Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the incident, said in a news release that Max was 6 feet tall and weighed about 280 pounds. 

An attorney for Max’s family, Seth Goldstein, disputed the claims of the boy’s height and weight, saying that Max was 5 feet, 4 inches tall. At most, he weighed 230 pounds, Goldstein said.

“He was not an unmanageable child in any sense of that term, in terms of that size,” Goldstein told The Sacramento Bee

The Bee previously reported that sources said Max was held in the prone restraint position for about an hour before he became unresponsive. 

“A teacher began CPR until medical aid arrived,” a news release from the Sheriff’s Office said. “The student was transported to Mercy Folsom in critical condition and later to UC Davis (Medical Center).”

Max died two days later. 

“At this time, there appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent,” investigators said in the release.

Cherilyn Caler, whose own 13-year-old son witnessed the restraint used on Max, said the teacher and an aide restrained the boy, who had been a student there for just a few months, because he kicked a wall, the Bee reported. A second parent who asked to remain anonymous backed Caler’s account. 

Caler told the newspaper her son, who is also on the autism spectrum, told her Max became unresponsive, at which point those restraining him told him to stop pretending to be asleep. After about 30 minutes, they realized he wasn’t pretending, she said.

Caler has since removed her son from the school, the Bee reported

>> Related story: Teen with autism dies after being restrained at school

A Dec. 5 letter from the California Department of Education states that staff members at Guiding Hills violated multiple state rules when trying to get Max under control. The Department of Education’s own preliminary investigation found that the staff used an emergency intervention to stop predictable, or non-emergency, behavior.

It also found that an emergency intervention was used as a substitute for Max’s behavioral intervention plan, or BIP, which is designed to change, replace, modify or eliminate a targeted behavior. The intervention was also used for longer than necessary and it was used with an amount of force that was “not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.”

The school staff’s actions also failed to take into account Max’s individualized education program, or IEP, which required specific intervention strategies that were not used, the letter says. 

Guiding Hands School’s certification has been suspended until the end of 2019, according to the letter. The school can continue to serve current students but cannot accept new pupils. 

“The (California Department of Education) is continuing to conduct its investigation into the actions of (Guiding Hands),” the letter reads. It is likely required corrective actions will be issued by the CDE resulting from this investigation.”

All corrective actions would have to be completed for the school to regain its certification.

Caler is not the only parent who has pulled their child out of Guiding Hands, which had an enrollment of 137 this school year, according to state records

Melissa Lasater told Fox 40 that she was appalled at how the school handled Max’s death. 

“When they were bringing the chaplains from class to class, instead of just letting the chaplains say, ‘We’re here for you,’ the staff also shared their message: ‘Just so you know, we didn’t kill anyone,’” Lasater told the news station

Lasater said her own 13-year-old son, who knew Max, did not realize his classmate died until his death made the news about a week later. 

“He immediately started to, like, cry and started to process, like, ‘Who’s been missing the last few days, who could it be?’” Lasater said. “And then his face just dropped and he’s, like, ‘Mom, mom, it was Max. They killed Max.’ And then he was petrified.”

Lasater said the school had used restraints on her son in the past, sometimes leaving him with bruises. In the wake of Max’s death, she initially revoked her permission for the school to use any force on her son. 

Ultimately, she chose to pull him from the school.

“They’re all still there with the same staff, who are trained in the same techniques, who are going to use them the same way. They use them as punishment,” Lasater told Fox 40.

Other parents and students tell stories of physical restraint being used as punishment. 

Josh Greenfield, 23, was a student at Guiding Hands until 2013, the Bee reported. Greenfield told the newspaper he was restrained twice during his time there and found the experiences frightening. 

The restraints were excessive and were done for dubious reasons, according to the former student. He told the Bee he was once placed in a prone restraint because he ignored a teacher calling his name in a hallway. 

Melanie Stark, of Elk Grove, pulled her 9-year-old son from Guiding Hands Thursday, the Bee reported. She also has a pending complaint with the Department of Education regarding the use of restraints in the school. 

Stark said her son was restrained on his first day at the school in September. She said a teacher’s aide wrapped her arms and legs around the boy so he could not get up from his desk. 

The reasoning was to keep him seated and guide him through the activity he was working on, she said. 

“That was too aggressive and it was happening about four times a week,” Stark told the Bee

Rebecca St. Clair, of Folsom, told the newspaper her son was put in a prone restraint two years ago. In that incident, staff members rolled him inside a gym mat and put their weight on the mat to keep him still. 

Despite being upset by the incident, it was not until the week before Max’s death, when she personally witnessed a student being rolled inside a mat that she realized how “alarming and unsettling” the practice is, the Bee reported

“I tried to assure myself that this was based on trust. I really trusted the teachers,” St. Clair told the newspaper. “That trust has been broken. I thought they were so careful. I feel so wrong about that now.”

Lasater and others protested outside the California Department of Education Monday, demanding that Guiding Hands be shut down. One of those protesting was Katie Kaufman, a former student there. 

According to CBS Sacramento, Kaufman said she also was restrained multiple times at the school.

“They always use the one where you throw the person on the floor in a body slam,” Kaufman told the news station. “It was a matter of time. Someone dies, and they finally start listening.”

Quadriplegic student walks across stage for college diploma

A Florida International University student, a quadriplegic after a diving accident three years ago, walked across the stage Sunday to receive his diploma with the help of an exoskeleton, WLPG reported. 

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Aldo Amenta, 28, an international student from Venezuela, severed his spinal cord in a diving accident when he jumped into the shallow end of a pool in November 2015, WTVJ reported. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and plans to pursue a master’s degree, WPLG reported.

"It was an amazing experience," said Amenta, who normally uses a wheelchair. "For me it was a milestone to accomplish. Being able to cross the stage walking is something that's really meaningful."

Amenta said his walk across the stage took many hours of practice with the exoskeleton, and was the culmination of taking classes while undergoing three years of aggressive therapy, WTVJ reported.

"Even if you find yourself in a really dark place, there's always a little light that will shine your way through to succeed,” Amenta told CBS News. “So just follow that."

KKK costumes worn during high school play anger parents

A high school play in which three students wore Ku Klux Klan costumes has angered parents, KNXV reported.

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The play “The Foreigner” was performed Friday during an assembly at the Arizona State University Preparatory Academy’s Phoenix campus, the television station reported. Parents told KNXV that the school never notified them or students not in the drama department that the controversial costumes would be part of the production.

"Three students dressed as the KKK walked down the middle of the assembly as part of a play," one parent, who asked for anonymity at his daughter's request, told the television station. "They were in hooded robes."

“The Foreigner” is a comedy that includes the Klansmen in its script. However, the parent said the characters could have been portrayed without a full KKK outfit, KNXV reported.

The Klansmen are part of the scripted, comedy play, but this parent said there was a better way to portray it.

"We can talk about racial prejudice, we can talk about the insensitivity, but to have our children put on the robes and assume the characters, it's wrong,” he told the television station. “There is no justification for it."

A school spokesman said in a statement that the play “portrays an image of members of Klansmen in a brief scene toward the end in which they are made fun of and driven away.”

“We apologize if anyone was caught by surprise with the appearance of these characters,” the spokesman said. “We are confident that a fair reading of the text of the play, and a fair interpretation of the intentions of students who performed it, reveals no endorsement of bigotry.”

'Does Nikolas Cruz deserve to die?': Broward school pulls quiz about Parkland shooter 

A reading comprehension quiz that a Broward County high school teacher distributed to ninth-grade students Friday has drawn criticism because the subject matter references the mass shooting at a Florida school where 17 people died last February.

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The assignment, titled "Does Nikolas Cruz Deserve to Die?" included an article about capital punishment published Oct. 8 in The New York Times Upfront Magazine.

The current events magazine, which is published by Scholastic Inc. in partnership with The New York Times, is geared toward high school students.

Nikolas Cruz allegedly killed 17 people and injured 17 others on Valentine's Day at the nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Coral Glades High School posted the following statement on its website:

"Coral Glades High School administration was unaware that an assignment, which included insensitive content concerning Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had been distributed to students today. The material was from a subscription-based publication, used as a curriculum resource. The school’s leadership has pulled the assignment, is instituting an approved review process of all such materials and regrets that this incident occurred. Broward County Public Schools is working with the publisher to make them aware of our concerns." 

The Scholastic Corporation released the following statement:

"(The New York Times Upfront) is a current events magazine published by Scholastic for students in grades 9 through 12, created to provide balanced, age-appropriate information that can be used as teaching resources in the classroom. Each issue of the magazine is accompanied by a teacher's guide, and contains information designed to help inform classroom discussions and activities. The Oct. 8, 2018, issue of (The New York Times Upfront) contained an article about capital punishment with a headline that referenced the perpetrator of the tragic Parkland shootings. A quiz in the accompanying teacher's guide also mentioned the perpetrator by name. The article and the quiz were intended only to provide a platform for meaningful conversations around the history, civics and social impact of the death penalty. We deeply regret if the use of this real life example added in any way to the ongoing suffering of the students, families and educators of the Parkland community."

Teen with autism dies after being restrained at school 

A 13-year-old boy with autism who school officials allege became violent died last week after he was restrained by a teacher. 

The El Dorado Sheriff’s Office is investigating the Nov. 28 incident at Guiding Hands School, an inclusive private K-12 school in El Dorado Hills. A news release from the Sheriff’s Office said the boy, who was 6 feet tall and weighed about 280 pounds, was being restrained for the safety of staff members and other students when he became unresponsive. 

“A teacher began CPR until medical aid arrived,” the news release said. “The student was transported to Mercy Folsom in critical condition and later to UC Davis (Medical Center).”

He died two days later. 

“At this time, there appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent,” investigators said in the release

Detectives are conducting a full investigation of what happened, officials said. 

>> Read more trending news

The Sacramento Bee reported that the California Department of Education has suspended the school’s certification while it conducts its own investigation. The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office is also looking into what happened.

The Bee reported that a source familiar with the incident said a teacher placed the boy in what is called a “prone restraint,” a restraint move that immobilizes a person in a face-down position. The boy was held in that position for about an hour before he became unresponsive, the newspaper said. 

A lawyer with Disability Rights California told the Bee that the restraint position is legal in California, under some circumstances, but risky. 

“(Restraints) can cause trauma and death and, more importantly, there are better ways to respond to behavior, particularly disability behavior,” attorney Candis Bowles told the newspaper. “It’s not inconsistent that they used an approved restraint technique and this happened, but it might not have been implemented correctly and, obviously it wasn’t, because he died.”

2002 study on prone restraint by the advocacy group found that the prone restraint was potentially lethal because, even when done correctly, it puts a person at risk of asphyxiation. A 2007 report on restraint in California schools had similar findings.

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Principe told the Bee the agency’s investigation into the teacher’s actions is not considered a criminal matter. 

The suspension of the school’s certification means it cannot accept new students until the matter is resolved, a Department of Education spokesman said.

“In the meantime, the department is continuing its investigation to see if further action is necessary,” Bill Ainsworth told the Bee.

The school issued a written statement through public relations firm Runyon Saltzman.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the very difficult news that a beloved member of our school community has passed away,” the statement read. “Out of respect for the family, and the ongoing investigation, we are unable to share full details at this time.”

According to state records, Guiding Hands has a total enrollment of 137 this school year. The school’s website said that classes are open to students ages 2 to 21. 

“Our small class size and 1:5 staff to student ratio mean our students will always be our primary focus,” the website reads

The Bee reported that the school was previously sued by the mother of another teenage student who was restrained multiple times during the 2002-2003 school year. In 2004, Deborah Lamerson sued the school, which at the time had a contract to handle services for special needs students in the Sacramento school district.

The lawsuit stated that in one incident, school staff members restrained Lamerson’s daughter, Tracee, after the girl, who has developmental delays caused by Williams syndrome, became agitated because she was not allowed to call her mother after a fall on the bus to school that morning. Tracee Lamerson’s arm was broken in the fall.

The girl, then about 13 years old, was placed in a four-point restraint move and, while being held down, vomited. The Bee reported that the lawsuit claims she was forced to clean up the mess. 

“I was so afraid to go back,” Tracee Lamerson, now 29, told the newspaper Thursday. “I don’t like that they are still open and that they can restrain anyone.”

It was not immediately clear if the Lamersons’ lawsuit has been resolved. The Bee reported that Guiding Hands is no longer affiliated with Sacramento’s schools. 

'Grinch' crossing guard keeps kids safe at Utah intersection

This Grinch is more cuddly than a cactus and much more charming than an eel.

>> Read more trending news 

A crossing guard in Utah is dressing up like the grumpy character created by Dr. Seuss to guide students across a Layton highway, KSL reported.

Karen Caldwell usually dons a holiday costume to get kids in the Christmas spirit, and despite the Grinch’s foul reputation, she has been a hit with students and parents.

“Every season or holiday she will dress up, either as the Grinch or Mrs. Claus or a reindeer. She has been a turkey, she has been the Easter bunny,” Ericka Madsen, a parent, told KSL.

Caldwell lives in the neighborhood where she works as a crossing guard, and her aim is to make the intersection safer for children heading for school.

“Nobody wants to hit the Grinch, so people do slow down,” Caldwell told KSL.

In a more serious vein, parents have come to trust their children to Caldwell.

“I don’t have to worry about crossing this dangerous street with Karen here, she makes sure that everyone gets where they need to be and with a smile and a lot of cheer with her costumes,” parent Kristin Wynder told KSL.

Elementary school bus driver collapses behind wheel with students on board

It was a scary moment for parents and students after their bus driver collapsed behind the wheel in Atkinson, New Hampshire.

>> Read more trending news 

For Jesse Silva, the after-school drop-off for his third-grade son is pleasantly routine, but Tuesday, there was a slight deviation.

"The bus stopped maybe 10 feet early," Silva said.

With five boys on the bus, Silva figured the driver was pausing until they all sat down.

"Then it looked like she bent over to pick something up," he said.

In fact, what Silva didn't know, but the kids on the bus did, is that the driver had collapsed.

"At that point, one of the kids knocked on the window and said ‘Help.’"

Silva helped by opening the emergency exit door in the rear of the bus as a neighbor called the police.

"We started getting calls for a medical emergency on a school bus right down the street," Atkinson police Chief Timothy Crowley said. "We found the bus driver had collapsed on the floor of the bus."

Crowley credits two of the students, one in third grade, one in fourth, for stepping up to help in the emergency, both by calming down the others and possibly preventing the bus from rolling.

"I think they deserve a lot of credit for getting involved because a lot of people wouldn't do that," Crowley said.

First Student, the bus driver's employer, says she remains in the hospital and called her a dedicated team member for more than 20 years. The company thanked everyone who came to her assistance. 

Designated driver dies after crash with impaired suspect, police say

A 20-year-old New Jersey college student, acting as a designated driver for classmates, was killed early Sunday in a head-on crash that police believe involved an impaired driver, WPVI reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Michael Sot, a sophomore at The College of New Jersey, was driving his 2007 Dodge Charger near Ewing Township around 2 a.m. when his car was hit by a 2018 Kia Optima that crossed a double line, driven by David Lamar, 22, the North Jersey Record reported. Eight people were injured, including five students. Sot was critically injured at the scene and died at a hospital.

Lamar was charged with seven counts of assault by auto, and police said he was impaired at the time of the crash, WPVI reported.

The other students identified by The College of New Jersey are Danielle DeFlores, Matthew DeGenova, Anthony Galante and Ryan Moore, the television station reported.

Jenna Passero, who is Moore’s boyfriend, also was injured in the crash, the North Jersey Record reported. She suffered a laceration on her liver, three broken ribs, a bruised lung and a sprained ankle, the newspaper reported. She said Moore is in critical condition.

Sot’s younger brother, Jon Sot, said his brother was “an amazing role model.

“Mike was being responsible just as he always was. I am proud to be his brother. He is now an inspiration to everyone." Sot told WPVI

The College of New Jersey President Kathryn Foster issued a statement, saying Michael Sot’s death was “heartbreaking.”

"Michael was an outstanding student, and a trusted and caring friend with a bright future ahead of him,” Foster said. “The TCNJ community is keeping his family, friends, and loved ones in its thoughts during this tremendously difficult time.”

Teacher accused of cutting Native American student's hair, making racist comment

A New Mexico teacher accused of cutting a Native American student's hair and making a racist comment is no longer employed with the Albuquerque school district, officials said.

According to The Associated Press, Albuquerque Public Schools "severed" its relationship with the Cibola High School teacher, a district spokeswoman said. It wasn't immediately clear whether the employee quit or was terminated.

>> Read more trending news 

On Halloween, the teacher reportedly called one Navajo student, who was wearing a Little Red Riding Hood costume, a "bloody Indian" and cut another Native American student's braid, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye denounced the teacher's alleged actions and urged the district to provide its employees with cultural sensitivity training.

Read more here or here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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