Three former employees of a now-closed California school were charged this week in the Nov. 2018 death of a 13-year-old student with autism. He died after being restrained while in the school’s care, prosecutors say.
While authorities did not initially evidence of “foul play or criminal charges,” at the conclusion of their investigation, the El Dorado County District Attorney announced charges of felony involuntary manslaughter for the school’s former principal Staranne Meyers, special education teacher Kimberly Wohlwend and executive director Cindy Keller in a statement on Tuesday.
Guiding Hands School, Inc., the California company that owned and operated the school, which served children with special needs, also face charges of felony involuntary manslaughter. Last December, after the incident, the California Department of Education “suspended the certification of Guiding Hands School, Inc.,” leading to the school’s permanent closure, authorities said.
Wohlwend and Keller did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment on Thursday. Attempts to reach Meyers were unsuccessful.
A press release from the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office last December had said that the student had become “violent and needed to be restrained by school staff,” and that he became “unresponsive” while being restrained. The boy was restrained — face down — for almost two hours, the Sacramento Bee reported. A teacher tried to revive the boy by administering CPR, the release said.
The school had released a statement last year sharing the “very difficult news” of the student’s death, but said that “out of respect for the family, and the on-going investigation” that they could not share details, KCRA 3 reported.
The District Attorney’s office, which identifies the boy as M.B. because he is a minor, said the charges come “after a lengthy, multi-agency investigation into the facts and circumstances” that led to the student’s death.
In a letter to one of the three charged employees, the California Department of Education had previously stated that the school had violated state law. “Current evidence supports a finding that GHS staff’s actions were harmful to the health, welfare and safety of an individual with exceptional needs,” the agency said.
Staci Langley, the child’s mother told the Sacramento Bee this month that it had been the “worst year” of her life, and that she hadn’t done much “except cry.” She said her son had a “big personality,” was funny and “full of life.”
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