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School, staff charged in death of special-needs student who died after being restrained

Max Benson, 13, died after being restrained at Guiding Hands School on Nov. 28, 2018.

EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. — A school corporation and several of its employees will be charged in a special-needs student's death, the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.

Max Benson, 13, died after being restrained at Guiding Hands School Inc., in El Dorado Hills on Nov. 28, 2018.

The school, a California corporation, will be charged with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter, according to the district attorney's office.

Guiding Hands' Executive Director Cindy Keller, Principal Staranne Meyers, and Special Education Teacher Kimberly Wohlwend will also be charged with felony involuntary manslaughter for Benson's death.

Their arraignments are scheduled for Wednesday.

"We are relieved that justice will be served with the charging of those responsible for his death," said Attorney Seth Goldstein on behalf of Benson's family.

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. The agency stripped the school of its certification in early January. 

The school surrendered its Nonpublic Schools Certification after the tragic incident. Guiding Hands School closed for good Jan. 25.

A candlelight vigil is being held Sunday at 2 p.m. outside the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office.



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WATCH ALSO: Embroiled since student's death, Guiding Hands School closes for good

The Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills closed its doors on Friday, after serving 25 years as a school for special needs students in the Sacramento region. The school has been surrounded in turmoil over the last three months, after a child with autism died after a staff member restrained him in late November 2018.

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