A teacher, two administrators, and a California private school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of an autistic student who was allegedly restrained face down for nearly two hours last year, authorities said on Tuesday. Max Benson, 13, died on Nov. 28, 2018, a day after he was held in a “prone restraint” position at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, authorities said. The boy was kept face down on his stomach until he vomited and passed out. The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday evening charges were filed against the school, its former executive director, Cindy Keller, ex-principal Staranne Meyers, and special-ed teacher Kimberly Wohlwend.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said at the time that Benson, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor, was restrained because he “had become violent. At one point, he “became unresponsive” and was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, where he later died, authorities said. Prosecutors said the private school for special needs children lost its state certification and eventually shut down in the wake of the incident, which prompted a lengthy criminal investigation into the school’s practices. Earlier this week, Benson’s family and parents of other children who attended the institution filed a lawsuit against the school and employees—including Keller, Meyers, and Wohlwend—over the use of restraints.