Society

California Parents Sue School District After Autistic Son Set Up In Drug Arrest

| by Khier Casino

Doug and Catherine Snodgrass of California are suing their son’s school for allowing undercover police officers to set up the special-needs student for a drug arrest, AlterNet reported in May.

Opposing Views reported in August that Snodgrass, 17, suffers from autism, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s, and several anxiety disorders.

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He was falsely befriended by a police officer who asked the boy multiple times to provide him drugs. More than three weeks later, 60 text messages and being repeatedly tracked down by the officer, the student bought half a joint from a homeless man he then handed to his new friend “Daniel,” who had given him $20 weeks earlier.

The officer stopped further contact after the boy did it one more time, then refused to buy anymore for the officer. The student was arrested in school shortly after in front of classmates as part of an operation that arrested a total of 22 students, including children with disabilities.

“Our son is permanently scarred from the abuse he suffered. Right now, our focus is on him, and our entire family,” said Catherine and Doug Snodgrass, who are suing the Temecula Valley Unified School District, Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Michael Hubbard and Director of Special Education Kimberly Velez for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other charges. They hope that this suit will send a message to schools nationwide that these raids will not be tolerated, according to The Weed Blog.

Deputy Chief Stephen Downing (Ret.) commented: “What we have witnessed here is the polar opposite of good policing and an example of how the drug war skews the priorities of law enforcement officers. There was no crime here until the police coerced a special needs student into committing one. They didn’t lessen the amount of drugs available and they didn’t provide help to any students who may have had a legitimate problem. Instead, they diminished the life prospects of everyone they came into contact with. As a parent, as a retired police officer, as a human being, this outrages me.” He is a member of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials who are against the drug war.

In 2005, the LAPD cancelled using undercover sting in schools after a review suggested police were seeking out disabled children and that operations were not effective at keeping drugs out of schools. According to a study done by the Department of Justice, such operations do little to affect the supply of drugs.

“Sending police and informants to entrap high-school students is sick,” said Tony Newman, director of media relations at 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. We often hear that we need to fight the drug war to protect the kids. As these despicable examples show, more often the drug war is ruining young people’s lives and doing way more harm than good.”