Prosecutors have filed involuntary manslaughter charges against three staffers at a Northern California private school where a 13-year-old student with autism died after being restrained.
Cindy Keller, executive director and site administrator at the now-shuttered Guiding Hands School, Staranne Meyers, the principal and Kimberly Wohlwend, a special education teacher, are charged in relation to the death of Max Benson, the El Dorado County District Attorney said Tuesday.
Guiding Hands School, Inc., the entity which owned and operated the school, will also be charged with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.
Max became unresponsive while in the restraint hold on Nov. 28, 2018, and died a day later at UC Davis Medical Center. Max was restrained face down for one hour and 45 minutes, The Sacramento Bee reported. The state Department of Education said in 2018 the school staff used “an amount of force which is not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances," according to the newspaper. The private school served students with disabilities.
The prone restraint of Max by Wohlwend resulted in his death, the district attorney said. Prone restraints, in which a person is pinned face down on the floor with limbs held immobile by at least two people, are controversial and banned for use in schools in several states.
In December 2018, the California Department of Education suspended the certification of Guiding Hands School, Inc., and the school was subsequently closed.