Last month, one year and one day after several armed police officers rushed into our autistic son’s classroom at Chaparral High School in Temecula, CA, handcuffed him in front of his classmates, took him away, medically probed him, interrogated him without a lawyer, booked him, and then locked him up, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department did it again, this time, about 20 miles down the road. It was in a different school, but the details and results were strikingly similar.
The Press Enterprise has now been confirmed that the similarities are even more sickening than we first knew.
A 15-year-old Menifee special-education student, one of 25 teens arrested in an undercover school drug bust, is spending Christmas in juvenile hall.
The Paloma Valley High School freshman is charged with a felony after selling a single Vicodin pain pill for $3 to a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy who posed as a student all semester, the boy’s mother said.
Monique Gallo said her son suffers from learning disabilities and reads at a third-grade level. He used the $3 to buy snacks at school, she said.
But because her son was on probation, the judge ordered him to stay in juvenile hall through the holidays, Gallo said. She said he got in trouble for fighting at his middle school last year. Gallo said she and her ex-husband can’t afford a private attorney for their son.
To the point of the student being on probation for fighting at his middle school last year, the Riverside Sheriff’s department appears to have a sometimes uncomfortably cozy relationship with some school administrations, and in many cases, handles discipline issues that would normally be handled by school districts. However, zero tolerance policies become a convenient enabler of these relationships. And to quote retired Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing, “A red flag should go up anytime a person in a position of responsibility utters the words ‘zero tolerance,’ because that means they do not have the confidence to make a decision in their discipline, they do not have the compassion to see differences between situations, and they do not have the administrative or managerial skills to make the kind of decisions that create a thriving institution.”
Special education students have notoriously bulked up discipline records which typically become active in middle school, where the environment is a virtual Petri dish for bullying. Factor in an age where students are going through awkward and noticeable physical and emotional transformations, a suddenly unstructured class schedule with hourly changes, and minimally supervised Physical Education and lunch period environments with very large numbers of students, a lack of support and counseling service, and the most vulnerable become immediate targets. Feeling helpless and frequently with limited means of expression, they are pushed to their last available defense and physically fight back against their bullies. And each time they fight back, they are disciplined and face suspensions, as their discipline record grows thicker.
Here is How You Can Help
We recently 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.
Our legal expenses in this effort are significant, so your donation to the Snodgrass Legal Fund will be appreciated.
Also, sign the petition to permanently end undercover drug stings in schools.
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An abuser relies on the secrecy of their behavior for empowerment. Once their abusive behavior is exposed, their ability to continue abusing is threatened.
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