It was a school specifically designed for kids with special needs. But prosecutors say employee actions robbed this student of his life.
On November 28, 2018, Max Benson’s mother sent her son to school, alive, happy and healthy.
That same day, the boy, who was on the autism spectrum, was rushed to the hospital in an unresponsive condition.
He died two days later.
Prosecutors in the case say it’s because of the actions school employees took to restrain the teen. Now almost a year later, three school employees as well as the company that owned and operated the facility where the incident took place are facing charges related to Max’s death.
Sources report that three school employees are currently facing felony manslaughter charges stemming from the death of Max Benson. On that date in 2018, news reports claimed that “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.”
Guiding Hands was a school specifically created for students with special needs – although some news reports published the initial story with conflicting information about the nature of the situation and the methods used on the teen.
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. https://t.co/LVPU5Fse67
— WMBB News 13 (@WMBBTV) November 13, 2019
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office commented on the situation back when had originally taken place.
“[Max] became violent and needed to be restrained by school staff, to prevent the injury of staff and students,” the sheriff’s office said. “While restraining the student, he became unresponsive. A teacher began CPR until medical aid arrived. The student was transported to Mercy Folsom in critical condition and later to UC Davis. On November 30, 2018, EDSO was informed that the student had passed away.”
At the time of the initial incident and instigations, Fox news 40 reported that a “California Department of Education report states the use of restraint was not in accordance with Benson’s behavior intervention plan.”
In January of 2019 the Guiding Hands School, Inc. closed its doors, but not after releasing a formal statement.
An excerpt from the statement reads; “Though GHS categorically denies the allegations asserted by the CDE in its premature Notice of Revocation, the decision to surrender our certification is in the best interest of and for the benefit of our students, their parents, and our staff.” It goes on to state further,“This commendation by the CDE specifically recognized the occasional necessary use of physical restraint in exceptional circumstances to protect students and staff. GHS used a nationally recognized and CDE-approved behavioral management program, Handle with Care.”
(Except for that whole part where a 13-year-old teenage with autism died due to that particular behavioral management program?)
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One month after the incident, the California State Department of Education conducted an investigation of the school and methods used on Max, and it was determined that staff members involved used an unnecessary and unreasonable amount of force. The report also indicated that multiple state regulations were violated at the time of the incident.
In the months that followed the incident, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s office conducted an investigation into the employees that were involved in the incident. As a result of this investigation, formal charges have now been filed against the three employees in connection with Benson’s death.
JUST IN: Under scrutiny after boy’s death, Guiding Hands School announces closure this week https://t.co/9i3j711LQT
— The Sacramento Bee (@sacbee_news) January 22, 2019
Those staff members that are facing charges are: special education teacher Kimberly Wohlwend, then-Principal Staranne Meyers as well as the school’s executive director, Cindy Keller. Guiding Hands School, Inc. is also facing a count of felony involuntary manslaughter.
The Benson family, though still rocked by the tragedy of losing Max, feels that these charges are one step closer to getting justice for their son, and a promise that this will never again happen to another child. A Benson family friend spoke with news reporters this week.
“Nothing is going to bring Max back but to have those people who caused his death held accountable for what they did. To not have this happen to another child,” said Karen Hirsch.
As reported by Fox News 40, “The three defendants were booked and released from jail, according to the sheriff’s office. They will be arraigned in El Dorado County court Wednesday. According to the DA, if convicted, the women could face up to four years in jail.”
The Benson family attorney Seth Goldstein stated, “This case stands out because it resulted in a death and it was unnecessary and improper.”
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