He was restrained after an aggressive reaction and spitting on another student.
Trigger Warning: The following story contains details of child abuse and ableism that might be disturbing to readers.
A grand jury accused a defunct California special needs school, as well as three of its former workers, on charges relating to the 2018 death of a 13-year-old child with autism. According to a spokeswoman for the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, the Guiding Hands School, Inc., as a company, was indicted on a single count of involuntary manslaughter coming from an event that killed Max Benson on July 15, per PEOPLE. Cindy Keller, the former executive director of the El Dorado Hills-based school; Starrane Meyers, the school's former administrator; and Kimberly Wohlwend, a special education teacher, are accused of restraining Max when he got aggressive.
A criminal grand jury has indicted an El Dorado County private school and three of its staffers in the death of Max Benson, a 13-year-old student with autism who suffered fatal brain damage after being held face-down in a prone restraint. https://t.co/Pnekct0Vko #endseclusion pic.twitter.com/paIUsDbtP0— The Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint (@endseclusion) July 22, 2022
The indictment came nearly three years after the school and the three women were charged with involuntary manslaughter on a felony count. The defendants have not entered any guilty plea until now. According to investigators, Max was restrained inside the school on Nov. 28, 2018, and had his face crushed against the floor for one hour. Max passed away two days later.
He faced brain damage after being restrained by two teachers face-down for about two hours, reports The Sacramento Bee. Max allegedly became unconscious while confined, according to investigators. He was revived by CPR done by a teacher at the school, and he was taken to UC Davis Medical Center.
In remarks issued a few months after Max's death, school attorneys stated that de-escalation tactics were occasionally required to guarantee the safety and security of children, staff and instructors. Max was held by school officials after reportedly spitting on a student. According to court filings, he was unconscious when he left the school in an ambulance after vomiting and urinating on himself.
Guiding Hands School, Inc. was a privately run, publicly supported school that specialized in providing educational services to children who had needs that could not be satisfied in a public school context. The California Department of Education suspended Guiding Hands School, Inc.'s certification was canceled about a week after Max's death, and the school was eventually shuttered.
The school had been in existence for almost 25 years. Today, at the same place, a new school has opened. The family's civil action claimed that staff personnel did not take any efforts to guarantee Max was freed from the hold, nor did they check on his medical condition. He passed out 25 minutes before paramedics got to the school.
Cover Image Source: Youtube/CBS Sacramento