A 13-year-old autistic boy, who died after being restrained in a specialty school in Northern California last month, has been identified by family members as Max Benson. According to a KTLA news report, Benson died Nov. 28, days after he was hospitalized after losing consciousness while being restrained by a staff member on campus. A California Department of Education report stated that the use of restraint was in violation of a number of state laws and not in accordance with the teen’s behavior intervention plan.
We offer our deepest condolences to Max Benson’s family members. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Allegations of Excessive Force
Investigators also found that staff’s actions were “harmful to the health, welfare and safety of an individual with exceptional needs” and that Benson required intervention strategies that were not used. Melissa Lasater, a parent at the school, said she is appalled at how Guiding Hands School Inc. handled the death of a student. She said the school brought chaplains from class to class, but instead of letting students feel supported, they were trying to let everyone know that they did not cause Benson’s death.
Lasater said the manner in which staff members handled the situation was wrong. They held the child down to a point where he was not breathing. That’s on the school, she said. Lasater also said her 13-year-old son knew Benson. She said her son was also restrained sometimes at Guiding Hands and often came home with bruises.
His whole forehead was once completely cut from a rug burn, she said. After Benson’s death, Lasater said she pulled her son from the school. She has been organizing protests outside the Department of Education building in Sacramento calling on the state to shutter the school. The state department has already suspended the school’s license, which means they cannot enroll any new students.
Potential Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Schools that take in special needs children have a responsibility to use intervention strategies that are safe and effective. In this case, the state has determined that the school did not employ the strategies that were right for this teen. In such cases, family members of deceased victims may have a wrongful death lawsuit against the school. Such lawsuits in addition to holding the institution accountable may also help prevent such violations from occurring in the future. An experienced California wrongful death lawyer will be able to guide families in the right direction.