Three former employees at a now-shuttered private school in California are facing charges in connection with the death of a 13-year-old special-needs student, prosecutors said.
The student diagnosed with severe autism — identified by KXTV as Max Benson — died in November 2018 at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, where he was placed face-down in a prone restraint by a special education teacher, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Police said the teacher, Kimberly Wohlwend, claimed Max spat on a classmate and became violent prior to being held down. CPR was administered to the teen, but he died at a hospital two days later, ABC News reports.
Max was restrained for one hour and 45 minutes, until he was unresponsive, according to court documents cited by the Sacramento Bee.
“I haven’t done much except just cry,” the teen’s mother, Stacia Langley, told the newspaper of her past year.
Wohlwend is expected to be arraigned Wednesday on felony involuntary manslaughter charges, as well as the school’s executive director, Cindy Keller, and its principal, Staranne Meyers, prosecutors said.
The school, a California corporation, will also be charged with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter in connection to the teen’s death.
“We are relieved that justice will be served with the charging of those responsible for his death,” an attorney representing Max’s family, Seth Goldstein, told KXTV.
Investigators found sufficient evidence that staffers at the school restrained the teen “for longer than was necessary” and used more than reasonable force during the incident.
A week later, the California Department of Education suspended the school’s certification. It subsequently closed in January, KXTV reports.
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