Late last week, law enforcement officials in California announced that they were charging three school employees with manslaughter following the death of a boy with autism last year. 13-year-old Max Benson died on November 30, 2018, two days after he was restrained by staff at Guiding Hands School, Inc. in El Dorado Hills, a school for special needs children.

The three educators involved in the incident, Principal Staranne Meyers, special education teacher Kimberly Wohlwend, and executive director Cindy Keller, were all charged with involuntary manslaughter in Max’s death by the El Dorado County District Attorney. Guiding Hands School, Inc. is itself also being charged with felony involuntary manslaughter in the case.

The three women told law enforcement officers last year that they restrained Max after he became violent. Police allege that Max was restrained with his face to the floor for over an hour and soon became unresponsive. The 13-year-old child was revived after a teacher performed CPR and was immediately transported to UC Davis Medical Center. In their initial investigation, police found that Max had been restrained for longer than necessary and that Meyers, Wohlwend, and Keller used more face than was needed in subduing Max.

Shortly after the child's death, the California Department of Education suspended Guiding Hands School, Inc., ordering that the school be shutdown beginning on December 28, 2018. Guiding Hands School, Inc. had been in operation for over 25 years and prided itself on educating kids that could not be taught in traditional public institutions. A new school for children with disabilities and learning difficulties has since opened in the facilities once used by Guiding Hands School, Inc.

Meyers, Wohlwend, and Keller were booked and released from jail on November 10. Seth Goldstein, an attorney representing Max’s family, told ABC 10 that his parents are pleased that their son will get justice. Max's mother, Stacia Langley, says that her grief is endless and that she still cries for her son. A candlelight vigil will be held for Max on the steps of the district attorney’s officer on November 20.

What do you think of Max’s case? Do you think that teachers and school administrators need better training in how to treat upset children with special needs?

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