EL DORADO HILLS (CBS13) – Around 30 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in front of Guiding Hands school in El Dorado Hills, Saturday, to remember the life of Max Benson.

Benson, who had autism, died on November 29th, a day after he was forcibly restrained by staff at the school.

With the lighting of each candle came a flood of emotions from people who attended.

“I’ve just never known a family to have loved each other the way this family loved each other,” said a parent who had tears in her eyes as she addressed the group.

Other friends and loved ones took time to share what they remember most about Max.

“Like Max, my son loved dogs, and loved to talk about dogs,” said organizer Katie Jackson as she read aloud a note from another parent who couldn’t attend. “This gave my son great opportunities to be social, which was incredibly difficult most of the time,” Jackson read.

Max Benson was 13-years-old. He had autism. Max died just a day after he was restrained by staff at Guiding Hands school in El Dorado Hills. A preliminary investigation by the California Department of Education found the school violated multiple state rules in Max‘s death.

The family’s attorney says they’re waiting on findings from the coroner, sheriff’s department, and DA’s office as they consider legal action against the school.

“That’s what we’re investigating. We haven’t determined where that’s going to go yet, but there’s a possibility that there is some liability,” said attorney, Seth Goldstein.

Meanwhile, other parents of children with autism stood united in their support of Max’s family.

“This is devastating. We’re angry and we’re broken over it,” said Robin Stoddard who also has a child with autism.

Others said they hoped lessons were learned that will prevent such tragedies from happening again.

“I can’t imagine if something like that happened to our son. And it terrifies me because I can see something like that happening, and it scares me,” said another mom speaking out to the group.

Benson’s family was not in attendance.

  1. So much love to this family. We Autistics are murdered by caregivers/others and never held accountable. Across the nation and world autistics are harmed by the people who are supposed to be supporting them. Only, with us, somehow with autistic murder, it’s our fault. The public shows compassion typically to the person who did it — schools are horrible place for autistics. And so much abuse is experienced by so many of us — when it this going to stop? HOLD this school and person criminally at fault.

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