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School Employees Charged After Special Needs Student's Death Enter Not Guilty Pleas

PLACERVILLE (CBS13) – The three El Dorado County educators facing felony charges in the death of a special needs student have pleaded not guilty.

Max Benson was a 13-year-old boy with autism. Nearly a year ago, he died after being restrained by staff members at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills.

On Tuesday, the El Dorado County District Attorney announced they would be filing charges against three people school employees.

RELATED: Family, Friends Seeking Justice 1 Year After Death Of 13-Year-Old With Autism

The three were arraigned in court on Wednesday: former Guiding Hands Executive Director Cindy Keller, Principal Staranne Myers, and teacher Kimberly Wohlwend.

Kyle McKoy is a former Guiding Hands special education teacher.

"We were using restraints there were approved by (the) state. We had done thought numerous extensive trainings and how to use those restraints," McKoy said

All three women were charged with involuntary manslaughter. They all entered a plea of not guilty in court on Wednesday.

Max's mother was also at the hearing and left quickly without answering any questions from the media. None of the defendants talked after court Wednesday, but an attorney for Keller and Meyers did.

"It is always a tragedy when there is a loss of life especially such a young life and a student. These two women have dedicated literally their entire lives to helping, educating, encouraging and working with special needs students," said attorney Linda Parisi.  

The state argues that the amount of force used against the 13-year-old boy was unreasonable and reckless.

READ: Candlelight Vigil Being Held Sunday For Max Benson

The corporation that owned the Guiding Hands School is also facing a manslaughter charge.

The defendants are expected back in court on January 7.

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