EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — Felony charges were announced Tuesday from the El Dorado County District Attorney against three people in the death of a student with autism.

Each will face one count of involuntary manslaughter for the 2018 death of Max Benson. Last November, the 13-year-old Guiding Hands School student was reportedly physically restrained by a staff member after becoming violent. He died two days later.

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According to a report from the California Department of Education in 2018, school staff used “an amount of force which is not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.” At some point while being restrained, Max became unresponsive.


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Investigators say Max died after being held face-down by staff for nearly two hours, which violates state law.

California law says school staff may not place a pupil face down with their hands behind their back or use restraint longer than necessary to address a clear and present danger.

There are also a variety of other restrictions that, based on reports, the school may have violated. When the state suspended the school’s credentials following Max’s death, they said the use of force did violate multiple state regulators.

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At the time, the Department of Education already had several on-going investigations into the school, including for abuse of physical restraint of a different student.

Julie Watts