California school facing charges after death of autistic student

Three ex-employees of a now-closed California school, along with the school itself, have been charged with manslaughter in the case of an autistic student who died after staff restrained him in a manner that violated state rules, according to CBS News.

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday announced the charges against principal Staranne Meyers, special education teacher Kimberly Wohlwend and executive director and site administrator Cindy Keller, as well as Guiding Hands School, Inc., itself, of felony involuntary manslaughter in the November 2018 death of Max Benson.

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The charges were filed “after a lengthy, multi-agency investigation into the facts and circumstances that led to the death of [Benson],” the DA’s office said in a statement.

Benson, 13, was restrained after staff said he became violent, with staff putting him in a face-down position for nearly an hour, with staff noticing at some point that he had become unresponsive. He died two days later on Nov. 30.

The state Department of Education suspended the school’s certification in the wake of Benson’s death, leading to its closure.

The school said at the time that staff members used “a nationally recognized behavior management protocol” and police in December said there “appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent."