In August of 2012, a special needs high school student in Temecula, California was beginning his senior year of high school.
At the same time, the Temecula County Police Department was planning a drug sting for the school. The department sent an undercover officer to the school guised as a student.
At Chaparral High school, the officer befriended the special needs student, whose last name is Snodgrass. His first name is being withheld from reports at his parent’s request.
Snodgrass, 17-years-old, suffers from autism, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s, and several anxiety disorders.
In an effort to blend in at the school, the officer staged a friendship with Snodgrass. The two began hanging out at school and texting after school. But what looked like a staged friendship soon became a part of the officer’s drug sting operation.
After several weeks, the officer tried to get Snodgrass to sell him some of his prescription medications. Snodgrass refused, but the officer wasn’t finished with him yet. Since Snodgrass wouldn’t sell him prescription meds, the officer started pressuring him to find marijuana.
According to court documents, Snodgrass found some marijuana for the officer after three weeks of searching. He brought him a half-smoked joint that homeless man gave him. Soon after, the officer asked Snodgrass to find him more marijuana. Eventually, the 17-year-old did. Court records show that Snodgrass again received a joint from a homeless man and brought it to the officer.
Then, in December of that year, Temecula County police arrested Snodgrass. Officers came into his classroom, arrested him, interrogated him, and held him for two days without allowing him to contact his parents.
“Our son went to school the morning of Dec. 11 and he didn’t show up at home after school, because he was arrested in his classroom,” Snodgrass’ father said. “Police went into his classroom armed, and handcuffed our son. We were not notified by anyone, and he was held for two days, and we were not able to see him.”
Snodgrass and 21 other students were charged with drug-related crimes.
Snodgrass’ family protested the criminal charges, and eventually they were dropped. Chaparral High School administrators tried to expel Snodgrass as well, and only after a lengthy battle with the school district was the family able to convince the school to allow their son to stay. As a result of the ordeal, Snodgrass is now three months behind in school.
“I can’t underscore how very outraged we are at the school district for allowing this to go on and for their mishandling of this,” Snodgrass’ father said. “We believe that the intent to not have dealers in schools is really a great thing and we really agree with that, but this is not the right way to go about that. Our son was not the right person to target.”
In order to raise awareness about what happened to their son, the family is holding a public hearing at the local community center. The hearing is titled “Accountability in our Schools: Is TVUSD Using Our Tax Dollars to Help of Harm Children and Families?” and will draw attention to the damage that taxpayer funded programs like the Temecula drug sting bring to children and their families.