Last year at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado, California, autistic student Max Benson died after staff members put him in face-down restraint for more than an hour. This year, the state withdrew the school's certification, and it closed. On Tuesday, the El Dorado County District Attorney's office announced that it would file charges in relation to the November 28, 2018, death.
Guiding Hands School, Inc., a California corporation, the entity which owned and operated the school, will be charged with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter. In addition to the corporation, the school’s Executive Director and Site Administrator, Cindy Keller, the school principal, Staranne Meyers, and Kimberly Wohlwend, a credentialed special education teacher working at the school, are also being charged with felony involuntary manslaughter in violation of Penal Code section 192(b) in relation to the student’s death.
All defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the charge on November 13, 2019. This charge is based on the November 28, 2018, prone restraint of a minor student by Kimberly Wohlwend that resulted in that student’s death.
This case is being filed after a lengthy, multi-agency investigation into the facts and circumstances that led to the death of this student, who is being identified as “M.B.” in the Complaint because he is a minor-aged victim.
Guiding Hands School, Inc. is a privately operated, publicly funded school specializing in providing educational services for students with needs so exceptional that they cannot be met in a public school setting. On December 5, 2018, The California Department of Education suspended the certification of Guiding Hands School, Inc., and the school was subsequently closed.At KOVR in Sacramento, Julie Watts reports that the teacher who allegedly held the student down was still teaching at another school until this week: