A 13-year-old boy with autism died after vomiting and urinating on himself as he was pinned down by teachers for nearly two hours, according to his family.
Max Benson died in November 2018 after he was restrained when he reportedly became violent at the now-closed private Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, California.
The teen had allegedly spat on a classmate before he was restrained face down, according to a civil lawsuit filed by his family and cited by KCRA.
He was unresponsive when paramedics arrived at the scene, and was pronounced dead at the hospital two days later, according to officials.
Former principal Staranne Meyers, site administrator Cindy Keller and teacher Kimberly Wohlwend were charged with involuntary manslaughter this month.
The defunct school was also indicted for involuntary manslaughter, per court documents.
Wohlwend allegedly restrained Benson for an hour and 45 minutes while staffers allegedly aided in a “take down maneuver” and held his legs down, according to allegations made in the civil case filed by Benson’s family.
Benson eventually became unresponsive during the restraint and that’s when one of the teachers performed life-saving measures, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
Allegations from the civil case filed in 2019 by the Benson Family against the Guiding Hands School and several employees including Wohlwend, Principal Staranne Meyers, and site administrator Cindy Keller, have claimed that the school responded too late.
It was claimed that it took “25 minutes after Max was rendered unconscious” for an ambulance to be called.
Once the ambulance came, Benson was found unconscious after vomiting and urinating on himself, according to court documents obtained by WDTN.
The school’s lawyers released statements in the following months saying that de-escalation techniques were necessary in some cases to ensure the safety of the school’s students, faculty, and staff.
Although, in 2018, the California Department of Education wrote in a preliminary investigation that school staff used “an amount of force which is not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.”
The Department of Education took away the school’s certification in early January, prompting the school to close on January 25.
After almost four years, the school reportedly was charged with involuntary manslaughter on July 15, according to the district attorney’s office.
The three former educators charged pleaded not guilty in this new criminal case.
They also pleaded not guilty in the civil case brought against them back in November of 2019.
There hasn’t been an outcome in the civil case as it has been stalled and Wohlwend, Meyers, and Keller were released on bail on the condition they would not teach or work at a daycare as they awaited trial.
Those charged in the criminal case will appear in court on September 2 for a trial-setting conference.
“We are relieved that justice will be served with the charging of those responsible for his death,” Seth Goldstein, the Benson family’s lawyer said.