School workers charged with manslaughter after autistic student dies

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Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, Calif., is pictured in a Google Street View image from 2016. (Google Maps Street View)

A Northern California school and three of its employees have been charged after an autistic student died as a result of being restrained.

Guiding Hands School, a former private school in El Dorado Hills, California, and three of its ex-employees were charged with felony involuntary manslaughter on Tuesday, nearly a year after 13-year-old Max Benson died while in the school’s care, authorities said.

The school’s executive director, principal and a special education teacher were each charged with manslaughter in connection to the student’s death, according to the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.

PHOTO: Guiding Hands executive director, principal and a special education teacher have been charged with felony involuntary manslaughter for the death of a 13-year-old autistic student in their care at the since-closed El Dorado Hills, Calif., school.
Guiding Hands’ executive director, principal and a special education teacher have been charged with felony involuntary manslaughter for the death of a 13-year-old autistic student in their care at the since-closed El Dorado Hills, Calif., school.more +

Max, who was diagnosed with severe autism, died on Nov. 28, 2018, after he was placed in a prone restraint by the teacher, who claimed he spat on a classmate and became violent, according to police.

The student, who was described as being 6 feet tall and 280 pounds, became unresponsive while being restrained. A teacher then began administering CPR until a medic arrived.

He was transported to Mercy Hospital of Folsom in critical condition and later to UC Davis Medical Center, where he died two days later, police said.

Founded in 1993, the private school offered education to students ages 2 to 21 in small class sizes from kindergarten through 12th grade, according to its website.

The California Department of Education later suspended the school’s certification in the wake of the child’s death and it shuttered for good in January, Sacramento ABC affiliate KXTV reported.

An inspection report from the California Department of Education found sufficient evidence that Guiding Hands staff restrained Benson “for longer than was necessary” and used more than reasonable force, according to KXTV.

A spokesperson for Guiding Hands did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment late Tuesday.

The three individuals charged will appear for an arraignment on Nov. 13.

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