An arraignment will take place today for three women involved in using banned restraining techniques causing a student’s death.
Almost a year ago, on November 28, 13-year-old Max Benson—who was autistic as well as suffering from the effects of a brain tumor—was struggling in the classroom and became violent.
His teacher, Kimberly Wohlwend, used a prone restraint on the student. It put him lying on the floor facedown with her holding him down from behind. Wohlwend traded off with other employees to keep him in this position for almost two hours, only stopping once Benson vomited and passed out.
The teacher and fellow onlookers waited 25 minutes before calling an ambulance. Benson was given CPR and taken to the UC Davis Medical Center.
Two days later, on November 30, Benson died in the hospital. He had been declared brain-dead after cardiac arrest and multiple organ failure.
thats the worst ive heard so sorry it makes me sick
— marlenekiefer (@marlenekiefer) November 13, 2019
Benson began attending the school after being diagnosed with the brain tumor. The school was aware of his diagnosis, as well as his health concerns and behavioral issues.
After Benson’s death, multiple other families came forward, reporting that their children had also been victims of the banned restraints at the school.
This is outrageous and breaks my heart.
— shortlist (@kbjane08) November 14, 2019
As a result, Guiding Hands School lost its certification and was closed by California state authorities. The school did not reopen, but another educational program has used the building since then.
Kimberly Wohlwend, the school executive director Cindy Keller and the school principal Staranne Meyers, will each be facing charges for their involvement in Benson’s death by inappropriate physical restraints and failure to act once it became clear Benson was in crisis.
This is so fking appalling. I hope they are held responsible. Not only was this a form of torture it’s completely irresponsible and unforgivable to wait 25 minutes to call for emergency services.
— Kymberlyn (@LadyKymberlyn) November 14, 2019
The district attorney’s office stated:
“This case is being filed after a lengthy, multi-agency investigation into the facts and circumstances that led to the death of this student.”
The lawsuit against the three former employees includes multiple offenses, including evidence that they used restraining techniques on Benson repeatedly throughout his time at the school, including one restraint that lasted for over an hour just one week before his death.
Even though ik kids w autism can be uncontrollable at times that still doesn’t give them the right the restrain them; calling the parents should be the first step in these situations bc they’re the only one’s who can calm the kid????
— Davianca S. Smith (@daviancasmith) November 13, 2019
With the school already closed and without certification, Benson’s fellow students are undoubtedly attending new schools, let’s hope with better protocols in place for situations that arise in the school.
And this is why at my school/facility restrains were discouraged and we got the # down by bring UKERU training in. This happened at a Philadelphia school, child restrained over iPad. He tragically died. Alternatives to restrains must be taught.
— Jordyn (@JordynRose86) November 13, 2019
Hopefully, Benson’s family will get some closure. But nothing can ever return what they lost.