A California family claims school officials and police targeted and set up their special-needs high school-aged son in an undercover sting at Temecula, California's Chaparral High School. Doug Snodgrass, the father of the unnamed boy, says the move has left his son shattered and unable to trust anyone.
A frame from the ABC news report.
In a lawsuit filed against the district, Snodgrass says says the school "participated with local authorities in an undercover drug sting that intentionally targeted and discriminated against their son" likely due to past behavioral issues at his former school.
After transferring to a new school earlier this year where he knew nobody, the unnamed Snodgrass boy finally met a friend named Daniel in an art class. The two hit it off and hanging with his Daniel was something the student looked forward to about his day. A few days after getting to know each other, Daniel asked the unnamed student if he could find $20 worth of pot.
According to Doug Snodgrass, his son - who clearly isn't a drug dealer - then spent three weeks trying to find pot to impress his new friend and eventually only came up with a half-joint he bought off some homeless dude.
A few weeks later, Daniel pressured young Snodgrass to sell his prescription medication, sending him more than 60 texts. The boy refused, but didn't seem to think anything was wrong with the situation. His parents say his inability to tell that something was out of the ordinary is due in part to his autism, bipolar disorder, Tourette's syndrome and other anxiety issues he battles.
So in December, after merely hooking what he thought was a friend up with a half-smoked doobie, the Snodgrass's son was arrested along with 21 other students at two Temecula high schools for allegedly dealing drugs.
"Police went into his classroom armed, and handcuffed our son," Doug Snodgrass told ABC news. "We were not notified by anyone, and he was held for two days, and we were not able to see him," although he said they got his medication to him the first night he was in detention through a nurse."
Thankfully the judge saw at least a little bit of bullshit in the charges, and allowed the boy to complete informal probation and 20 hours of community service in exchange for the court having "no finding of guilt".
"Within three days of the officer's requests, [the] student burned himself due to his anxiety," the Judge said. "Ultimately, the student was persuaded to buy marijuana for someone he thought was a friend who desperately needed this drug and brought it to school for him."
He's been back at his high school since March, but his parents say the school is making it a nightmare for their son to continue his education.
In April, the boy was suspended for ten days. His parents say it was directly related to the marijuana charge of which their son was found not guilty. Because of that, his father says the boy won't graduate on time.
"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," he told ABC News. "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."
The story has, deservedly, attracted some national attention.
"Sending police and informants to entrap high-school students is sick," says 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."
Even police officials are calling the move a low-blow. Stephen Downing, a retired cop and captain with the Los Angeles Police Department, called the moves callous.
"Do we ever hear of an undercover operation like this conducted in an exclusive private school, or on a university campus, or on the stages of a movie studio in Hollywood? No, we don't. Why? Because those people would complain, get lawyers and make life miserable for the status quo."
View the original ABC News report below.