Public Hearing Set to Raise Questions of Ethics, Accountability, Use of Taxpayer Dollars and Impact on Students and Their Families
The story of police entrapment of a 17-year-old autistic student at Chaparral High School, along with other vulnerable special needs students, has generated national attention.
Late last year, an officer from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department posed as a high school student and pretended to befriend a socially isolated autistic teenager, immediately urging the student to sell him his prescription medication. The student refused but was later persuaded to buy a small amount of marijuana.
“He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock,” father Doug Snodgrass told ABC News. The parents were “thrilled” when their son — who had recently enrolled at Chaparral, has Asperger’s and other disabilities and struggles socially — appeared to have instantly made a new friend named Daniel.
“Daniel” turned out to be an undercover cop with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department who “hounded” the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy marijuana, and under pressure, he finally found half a joint for his new “friend.”
Catherine Snodgrass said the “the kids at school, because he was such an obvious narc, they would call him Deputy Dan,” reports Adam Martin at MSN News. But their autistic son didn’t pick up on that.
In total, the autistic 17-year-old and 21 other students implicated in the undercover sting were arrested and charged with drug related crimes.
The kid was given 20 hours of community service and informal probation, but he was also expelled. Since being allowed back in school, Snodgrass said his son has been “bullied” via suspensions and threats of expulsion. “Our son was cleared of the criminal charge, but the school continues to try and expel him,” Snodgrass said.
“Sending police and informants to entrap high-school students is sick,” said Tony Newman, director of media relations with the Drug Policy Alliance. “We see cops seducing 18-year-olds to fall in love with them or befriending lonely kids and then tricking them into getting them small amounts of marijuana so they can stick them with felonies.”
The behavior in this case points to troubling trends in drug enforcement, according to Stephen Downing, a retired deputy chief of police in the Los Angeles Police Department. “It is evidence of just how far we have gone, and how callous we have become, in treating our children with the care and dignity they should be entitled.”
A community hearing will be held Monday, August 12, at the Community Recreation Center in Temecula, California, in response to a controversial recent drug sting. The Temecula Valley Unified School District authorized an undercover police operation which resulted in the arrest of 22 high school students, a number of whom are autistic or have special needs.
A panel of parents, community leaders and experts will speak and take questions from the audience about the devastating impact of the arrests and propose humane and effective alternative strategies to prevent teen drug abuse.
The public hearing, “Accountability in our Schools: Is TVUSD Using Our Tax Dollars to Help of Harm Children and Families?” will bring attention the impact of these arrests on the students and their families, as well as address the issue of Temecula Valley Unified School District’s use of taxpayer funds to fuel undercover cop stings.
Among those speaking include Stephen Downing, Deputy Chief of Policy, LAPD (retired), Diane Goldstein, Lieutenant Commander of Redondo Beach Police Department (retired) and Lynne Lyman of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Who: A panel of community leaders, nationally recognized experts and parents
What: A Public Hearing “Accountability in our Schools”
When: Monday August 12, 2013, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.
Where: Community Recreation Center (CRC) 30875 Rancho Vista Road, Temecula, California