The boy with autism had died last year after being restrained face down on the floor for almost two hours.
Three former staff members of a now-shuttered Northern California private school have been reportedly charged with involuntary manslaughter following the death of a 13-year-old boy with autism in 2018.
Prosecutors allege that the employees of the school restrained the helpless boy for over an hour using a banned method which resulted in his demise. On Tuesday, the El Dorado County District Attorney revealed that the executive director and site administrator of the alternative school, Cindy Keller, the principal, Staranne Meyers, and special education teacher, Kimberly Wohlwend, faces these charges in the death of Max Benson, reports NBC News.
Guiding Hands School Inc., the entity which owned the now-closed school situated in El Dorado Hills, will also be charged with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter, according to CNN.
The defendants are scheduled for an arraignment on Wednesday. The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office disclosed how the young boy was ruthlessly restrained on November 28, 2018, after he suddenly became violent.
According to The Sacramento Bee, Benson was restrained face down for an hour and 45 minutes, after which he vomited and became unresponsive. He was then admitted to the University of California Davis Medical Center, in Sacramento, where he was pronounced dead a day later on November 28, 2018.
Three former employees of a shuttered Northern California alternative school each face an involuntary manslaughter charge after a 2018 incident in which a student with autism died after being restrained, a prosecutor says https://t.co/bXSZoC9nBs— CNN (@CNN) 13 November 2019
At the time, the state Department of Education said in a statement that the staff members used "an amount of force which is not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances," as per the newspaper.
Even the sheriff's office reportedly said that there was no "foul play or criminal intent" involved in the demise of the child. However, the district attorney later revealed that the prone restraint of Max resulted in his death. This controversial method of pinning a person face down on the floor with their limbs restricted by at least two people are banned in several schools in the state.
thanks for tagging me. This was tragic and it's hard to hear that the school is still denying responsibility, even after charges have been filed. CA did just get an anti-restraint/isolation law passed, which is progress. Here's another article about Max.https://t.co/CpLeSNKdy0— Autist Making Way (@AutistMakingWay) 14 November 2019
Guiding Hands School, which catered to students with disabilities claimed their staffers used "a nationally recognized behavior management protocol" during the incident, which was criticized by the Department of Education, reports CNN.
In a statement to CNN affiliate KCRA in December, the school said it was not providing any details out of respect for the family and the ongoing investigation. They also didn't provide any information about what prompted them to restrain the boy. The prosecutor's office noted that it was the special education teacher, Wohlwend who used a "prone restraint" on the teenager.
MUST have monitored CCTV in all school classrooms. So much abuse and bullying being ignored, now a child has died. 😪 pic.twitter.com/8togtoIQlq— SCHOOL KIDS RIGHTS (@EdmJbg) 15 November 2019
In January, the school founded in 1993 was closed, explaining its "decision to surrender our certification is in the best interest of and for the benefit of our students, their parents, and our staff."
But before the school renounced its certification, the California Department of Education had already suspended and then revoked their certification due to "numerous investigations."
Following the investigation in December, the department said, "Current evidence supports a finding that GHS staff's actions were harmful to the health, welfare, and safety of an individual with exceptional needs."
This makes me sick! These days we ought 2b much more educated about autism in an effort to treat patients on the autism spectrum more effectively & humanely! 💔🥺— AquariusinAZ (@AquariusinAZ) 14 November 2019
3 school staff members to be charged in the restraining death of California boy with autismhttps://t.co/J1olVWVQIk
"Revoking a school's certification is an action that the CDE takes very seriously, and it is not done without careful consideration and justification," said State Superintendent Tony Thurmond in January.
"Guiding Hands' refusal to take responsibility for its actions is disheartening. It would be an injustice to the families we serve if we did not do everything within our authority to ensure that students are placed in an environment where their safety is the number one priority of those who have been entrusted with their care."