School staff to be charged with manslaughter in death of boy with autism

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(KTXL/CNN) – Three school employees will be charged with manslaughter nearly one year after a 13-year-old boy with autism died after being restrained at his school in Northern California.

KTXL reports Max Benson became unresponsive at Guiding Hands School, a former private school in El Dorado Hills, California, after a special education teacher restrained him in a face-down position for nearly two hours.

Paramedics rushed him to U.C. Davis Medical Center and he died two days later.

“He went to school alive and healthy and he never made it home alive again,” said Karen Hirch, a family friend. “I want people never to forget what an amazing child he was and what a big loss it is. The world lost a really incredible person.”

The death put Guiding Hands School Inc., the company that owned and operated the school, under the microscope, and the California State Department of Education opened an investigation.

One month after the incident, they determined staff members used an unnecessary and unreasonable amount of force.

The school had its certification suspended and later closed.

“This case stands out because it resulted in a death and everything about it was unnecessary and improper,” said Seth Goldstein, the family’s attorney.

El Doraco County detectives opened a criminal investigation in the months that followed, which resulted with the company and three of its former staff members facing felony charges for involuntary manslaughter in connection with Max’s death.

Among facing charges are Max’s special education teacher Kimberly Wohlwend, his principal Staranne Meyers and the schools executive director Cindy Keller.

“Nothing is going to bring max back but to have those people who caused his death held accountable for what they did,” Hirsch said.

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