The Story

At 8:30 a.m. on December 11th, 2012, armed police officers rushed into Jesse Snodgrass’s classroom at Chaparral High School in Temecula, CA. He was handcuffed in front of his classmates, taken away, medically probed, interrogated without a lawyer, booked, and then locked up.

Jesse is our son, and he has autism. We knew nothing about this until we called the school that afternoon at 3:45, after Jesse had not returned home. We were not allowed to see him until two days later, in court, and the look in his eyes will forever haunt us.

In August 2012, he transferred to a new school after we moved. We were amazed that he immediately made a new friend named Daniel who was in his art class. To the other students, Daniel became known as Deputy Dan, because, to them, he was clearly an undercover cop.

Jesse was an easy target for Deputy Dan. Diagnosed with autism at age 5, he also has bipolar, Tourette’s, and anxiety disorders. Autism is a disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication. He has tremendous difficulty making friends.

Deputy Dan asked Jesse to sell him his prescription medicine, but since we keep it locked away, he refused. On the second day of school, Deputy Dan gave Jesse $20, with a demand to get him marijuana, and began to text him around the clock. During this time Jesse received 60 text messages from Deputy Dan. On the fourth day of school, after art class, under constant pressure, Jesse burned himself badly and was sent to the school nurse. He is self-injurious which was noted in his student records. Three weeks later, desperate to keep his new friend, he provided Deputy Dan with about a half-joint of marijuana.

The majority of Deputy Dan’s busts at Chaparral High were special education students. Deputy Dan’s stated goal was to identify and purchase illegal drugs from persons dealing on the high school campus.

Jesse Snodgrass is not a drug dealer.

In January of 2013, a criminal judge saw extenuating circumstances, and Jesse’s case has been dismissed. Still, the Temecula Valley Unified School District moved to permanently expel him. Only three people in the school district knew about the undercover operation while it was occurring. Those people are Robert Brown, a member of the board of ed who was the board president at that time, Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Michael Hubbard, and Superintendent Timothy Ritter, who according to sworn testimony, is the person who authorized the operation. We met with Mr. Hubbard in his office where he was informing us of the expulsion process, and we told him that our son’s civil rights had been violated. We asked him to do the right thing and simply allow our son to return to school. He refused.

We then took the school district to a due process hearing, and a Judge ordered Jesse reinstated to his school. In a harshly-worded decision she wrote, “Even though Hubbard knew Student was a special needs student, he knew Student was targeted in the undercover operation and that Student was going to be arrested, District did nothing.

Jesse returned to school in March but the district still attempted to expel him by filing an appeal of the judge’s ruling to try and expel him again. This was confusing because…our son was scheduled to graduate in December 2013, and the appeal process would not have be completed until after his graduation, but how can you expel a student that has already graduated? This expensive appeal was funded by our tax dollars. Have we lost valuable teachers and programs to pay for these types of questionable decisions?

On October 30, 2013 we filed a lawsuit against the Temecula Valley Unified School District, Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Michael Hubbard and Director of Special Education Kimberly Velez. We believe that by making our son’s story public, and by holding the school district accountable through highly visible legal action, we have the opportunity to make what happened in Temecula so well known that when school districts are approached by law enforcement, offering to bring undercover drug stings to their campuses, school administrators will think twice.

Jesse has now graduated high school and has received his diploma.

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7 comments for “The Story

  1. November 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    As a parent of a special needs child I am astounded that the school permitted such a corrupt endeavor.

    If you are going to send undercover cops into the public schools you should set up an office for the Public Defenders office each child can use each time they are talked off a legal cliff.

    I am not sure how you sleep at night.

  2. fred byrnes
    November 9, 2013 at 7:16 am

    A truly heartbreaking story. May God bless your son and help him through this difficult time.

  3. Diane Whisler
    December 8, 2013 at 2:51 am

    The people responsible for what happened to your son should be fired and have no business around children. The thought that peoples’ hard earned tax dollars are used for this kind of despicable treatment of children and we actually pay these peoples salaries is just too much. They obviously have no regard for the well being of children and what their twisted ideas do to them. They’re a disgrace to the education system and as human beings. They need to be sent down the road.

    • Robert Siebert
      March 10, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Couldn’t put it any better.

  4. Steve J
    March 13, 2014 at 3:53 am

    This is just a horrific case of mindless, power grabbing bureaucracy doing whatever they want. Having an adult son with severe NLD, an autism spectrum disorder, I totally understand the inability of these people to catch social clues that are obvious to 99% of the other people. I hope the school and the police are humiliated and embarrassed. They are the ones with no social conscious

  5. steph
    June 23, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I am so sorry for what Jesse and his parents have gone through. I also have a child (15yr old boy) that was treated unfairly in TVUSD. My son is not special ed but the vice principal at Great oak high as well as Mr. Hubbard have expelled my son with absolutely no evidence against him. We weren’t even allowed to defend him. They said he was guilty of having alcohol in a gatorade bottle and giving it to other students. He was checked by police officer he was not under the influence nor did he have alcohol in his possession.He has a 3.6 GPA, plays multiple sports and has been in trouble only once in his life for taking hall passes. This vice principal threatened one of the students who wrote a statement saying he had the alcohol, that if he didn’t say that my son had the alcohol he would get in trouble. We have a statement that this occurred and gave it to Mr. Hubbard and the panel of three school board members and they dismissed it. A child has no chance in this school district special ed or not. If they want a kid out they will make sure, whatever it takes, so they are not proven wrong. We need help from someone who knows the law and wants to stand up for whats right. My son is back in school at Temecula high school on a suspended expulsion with probation. He cannot play sports until Dec. He has lost all faith in the school system and their punishment for him is to keep him out of the thing he loves the most, sports. Also, he was told at the beginning of all this that if he admitted to having the alcohol he would get a 5day suspension then be back at Great oak high. He would of been able to play football this coming year. Because he would not admit to something he didn’t do he has been expelled. We have just started the appeal process. This is so unfair and an abuse of power. Someone please help. Stephanie

  6. Thomas Holz
    July 22, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Was a bar complaint filed against the Dep. D.A., Blaine Hopp?

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