The family of a mentally disabled California boy who was tricked into buying pot for an overzealous narc, then arrested and kicked out of school by iron-fisted officials, have sued the school district even as it continues to try to expel him despite a court order.
Last year, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department launched an ill-conceived crackdown on drug dealing in the Temecula Valley Unified School District. The department sent an undercover narc into the school, á la a sad version of 21 Jump Street.
Undercover Cop Wants Pot?
The narc wasn’t very good at his job, as most students nicknamed him “Deputy Dan” and word quickly spread he was an undercover cop. But not everyone caught on, including a lonely student with autism, Tourettes syndrome and multiple anxiety disorders (which, thanks to the arrest, now include post-traumatic stress disorder).
The boy, whose family has requested that he remain anonymous, was inundated with texts from Deputy Dan, who pleaded with him to buy pot. The boy didn’t smoke, had no connections, and had no clue how to go about finding weed.
Nonetheless, Deputy Dan flooded the student with more than 60 text messages and pressured him continuously to find marijuana. To the boy, socially isolated by his conditions, Dan seemed to be his only friend. He went along not because he bought, sold or used pot but because he wanted to help his friend and didn’t know any better.
In the end, the boy scored half a joint off a homeless person and gave it to Deputy Dan. As far as the police were concerned, that was enough to earn them an arrest and a coveted statistic.
Why Did They Do This?
Like most police departments, the Riverside Sheriff’s office is more concerned with boosting its numbers than with the legitimacy of its arrests. Twenty-two students were busted, and the boy was held for 48 hours before his parents were allowed to see him.
“This has been devastating to our family,” Doug Snodgrass, the boy’s father, told Reason magazine. “It’s exhausting, but when your child gets harmed like this, you really don’t think twice about it. It’s not a matter of getting even. He is messed up by this and what happened is wrong. We feel an obligation to restore him in every way possible.”
Effects On The Boy’s Life
Following the arrest, the boy was expelled from high school under a zero-tolerance policy.
He has since been found not guilty in court due to extenuating circumstances, and a judge ordered the school to readmit him. School district officials didn’t accept that ruling, however, and are appealing – despite the fact the boy will graduate before the appeal is decided.
Meanwhile, the boy is left with his family to cope with the trauma police and school officials inflicted on him. His family said he’s receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, along with his other conditions.
But he was relatively lucky. Other special-needs students were caught up in the sting, and none of them was returned to school. One served a year in jail. Neither school officials nor the sheriff’s department have bothered to explain their actions.