Name: Max Benson.
Died: November 28, 2018.
Age at death: 13.
Cause of death: Malpractice (Restraint-related).
Location: El Dorado Hills, California, USA.
Max liked dogs, numbers, and rocks. He had a strong sense of justice. He had a twin brother and an older brother.
Max’s mother remembers him as smart and verbal. He went to a special-needs school because he “had behaviors”.
Max died because he was restrained, face-down, by staff at his school for over an hour. Face-down restraints are dangerous and potentially fatal, and have been responsible for the deaths of many disabled children, but are still practiced in schools.
Face-down restraint was common, a daily occurrence at the school Max attended, where children could be restrained as punishment for an offense as little as trying to remove a staff member’s hand from their own when they were grabbed. One student, a girl named Tracee, had had her arm broken in restraint, and later that day was forced to clean up after herself because she vomited while she was restrained; the girl’s mother sued the school. The outcome of that lawsuit wasn’t public, but soon after it was settled, the school became a private school. Another student, Katie Kaufman, who had gone there from sixth to eighth grade, said it was normal to be body-slammed to the ground. She was restrained simply for getting upset and cursing; her mother eventually transferred her to another school.
The state found that the school had broken several state rules by using prone restraint as a punishment for predictable behavior rather than as an emergency measure to prevent injury, by using much more force than was either necessary or reasonable, by continuing the restraint much longer than necessary, and not following Max’s behavior plan.
The school tried to defend itself with claims that Max was “280 pounds and 6 feet tall” and that he had “severe autism” and was dangerous (he was 5’3″ and 180 pounds at the previous January doctor’s appointment). Then they claimed that they had done their best to resuscitate the boy (in fact, they waited 30 minutes); then they insisted that they were “devastated by the loss”. Other parents didn’t buy it and started removing their own children from the school and demanding a shutdown.
The school has announced it will be closing, but the terms of the agreement do not prohibit another school from buying the property, rehiring former staff, and opening the school again. The teacher who helped pin Max down is still working as a special education teacher.
A teacher, principal, administrator and the school itself were all charged with involuntary manslaughter.
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