Three School Staff Members Charged Over Autistic Student's Death

Three former staff members of a now-closed special needs school in California have been charged in connection with the death of a 13-year-old boy who was autistic. Max Benson died in November 2018 after staff members at Guiding Hands School restrained him following a violent outburst.

Cindy Keller, the school’s executive director, Staranne Meyers, the school's principal, and Kimberly Wohlwend, a special-education teacher, were each charged with felony involuntary manslaughter.

Officials say that Max died after staff members bound his arms and restrained him face down for nearly two hours. He became unresponsive while being restrained and died at the hospital the following day.

The California Department of Education launched an investigation and determined that staff members used “an amount of force which is not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances." The school was stripped of its certification and forced to close.

All three women pleaded not guilty. Wohlwend was granted supervised release while Keller and Meyers are out on conditional release. Their next court appearance will be on January 7.

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