By Julie Watts

EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — New details have been released about the moments leading up to the death of a special needs student.

The family of Max Benson filed a civil lawsuit against Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills after he died after being restrained by staff. On Wednesday, three school employees were charged in connection to his death.

The joint civil suit, filed last week by Max’s family and another family from the school, provides more details into the allegation of what led up to Max’s death.

Court documents also allege the school had previously injured other students with similar controversial-prone restraints.

State law restricts when and how long school staff can hold a child in behavioral restraints. The state determined the school did violate that law.


The civil suit alleges Max was injured as teachers performed a “takedown maneuver” holding his hands behind his back, dropping him to his knees, and rolling him to the prone position. It was allegedly in response to Max spitting on another student, something he was known to do as a result of his disability.

The suit alleges teacher Kimberly Wohlwend held his upper body while teacher Betty Morgan held his legs, and claims he vomited and urinated on himself while he was restrained for nearly two hours.

It goes on to say it took the school nurse 10 minutes to respond after staff called for help and waited “25 minutes after Max was rendered unconscious” to call paramedics while he aspirated and went into cardiac arrest.

The civil suit also names several school districts and counties, along with the state, noting the teacher involved is still credentialed and employed as a special education teacher in Pollock Pines, now more than a year later. The state credentialing agency cannot confirm or deny whether they are investigating this teacher.

Julie Watts

  1. Dave Altier says:

    The Internet Archive shows that this Guiding Hands School in California was an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) institution. Positive Behavioral Supports is the version of ABA that’s not supposed to punish. Remember. Never believe what at ABAer claims is true. Always judge them by their actions.

    They said, “”A full-time Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) collaborates with teachers to develop positive behavioral supports. Our school uses both group classroom and individual reward systems for learning appropriate social behaviors. All staff are trained in positive behavioral techniques to ensure consistent behavior within all school environments and among staff. School-wide behavioral expectations promote student success in our academic environment.”

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