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Autistic TVUSD Student Wrongly Accused In Massive Drug Bust, Father Says

An expulsion hearing for the student is scheduled through Friday at the Temecula Valley Unified School District headquarters.

A hearing to decide whether a special needs student should be expelled from the Temecula Valley Unified School District for his alleged knowledge of drugs on campus is ongoing this week.

Doug Snodgrass alleges his autistic son, “who is significantly learning disabled and on a regimen of prescription medications for a number of psychiatric disorders,” was mistreated when he was arrested at school the morning of Dec. 11 and taken away for interrogation by Riverside County sheriff’s investigators.

“We knew nothing about the arrest until around 3:45 p.m., after he didn't arrive home from school. After a series of frantic phone calls to the school, I spoke to the school's principal who then informed me of the arrest, with very few details, and a recommendation to contact the sheriff's department for more details.

"During the time that had elapsed between his arrest, and our learning of the arrest, our son had been interrogated, without having been allowed to contact us. And of course, he had no attorney present,” Snodgrass writes in his online blog.

It wasn’t until three days after his son’s arrest – when the boy was scheduled to appear in court – that Snodgrass was allowed to see him, he said.

Snodgrass’s son’s arrest was part of a sting in which 22 students at two Temecula high schools were snared on Dec. 11 in connection with an undercover drug operation.

The arrests were made at the completion of a "long-term investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Investigations Bureau into allegations that juvenile students were selling illicit drugs on the campuses" of Temecula Valley and Chaparral high schools, said sheriff's Deputy Albert Martinez.

"During the course of this investigation deputies seized various illegal narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin, LSD and illegal prescription drugs," Martinez said.

Twenty minors and two adult students were taken into custody, Martinez said.

Snodgrass contends his special needs son was used as a pawn by law enforcement during the investigation. Prior to the arrest, a “student” by the name of “Daniel” had befriended the boy and become his school buddy, which Snodgrass said was a relief because his son had few friends given he was a new kid in the district.

After the arrest, Snodgrass says he discovered Daniel was an undercover cop.

Snodgrass maintains a judge ruled his son's case will be dismissed after six months with no finding of guilt, however the school expulsion is scheduled to proceed pending the outcome of this week’s hearing at district headquarters that is slated to last through Feb. 21.

As for the arrest of Snodgrass’s son, TVUSD spokeswoman Melanie Norton released this statement Monday:

"TVUSD continues to carry out our mission to educate students in safe schools. We acted in the best interest of our students in this situation. We followed the law as well as district policy in working with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.”

There will be more on this story following the hearing this week.

Louison Bobet March 19, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Let's not overlook the fact that there were 21 other students arrested in this case that are probably not autistic. They are not ging to announce their presence because the whole point of this exercise is to get drugs off pour campusus and out of the reach of thousands of students. Unfortuntae circumstances for the special needs student but kudos to the Temecula/county Sheriff's Dept for keeping the other 99% out of harms way.
Virginia Cotts Rn Bsn March 19, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Louison, There's a whole lot more since this was published. The other students were not special ed. The point was not that the UC's should announced their presence (??) but that the specific student should have been given very different treatment. The judge has since ruled against the Temecula school and sheriffs for the poor way this case was handled. The parents won the case to stop the school from expelling their son. These types of UC operations have NOT been successful. Zero tolerance policies have been found counter productive since 2001. My previous comment on this is above. Easy to find from the blue hyperlinks to the articles. The other students also got probation from the judge. If you think this operation is "keeping the other 99% out of harms way", it is not. A lot of drug dealing and use occurs off school grounds, at homes or other places. Also, many of the other students had Identified the UC - called him Deputy Dan. This operation has FAIL all over it.
Brenda March 19, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Lets not overlook the fact that it WAS THE FATHER who released his spec. ed. sons name right? Not the police, not the school, not the Patch, but the father. I would NOT Have ever done THAT, EVER as he can be assured now that his son will be picked on and bullied if not beat up. Sometimes parent speak before they think about things, and I am just as guilty as others, and have had it backfire and find out my child was involved in something I didnt think they could be. Thank god it just wasnt anything serious like drug sales.
Christina March 26, 2013 at 03:28 AM
No, he wouldn't be in a "special needs school." Really? You could be that uninformed? The majority of children with disabilities attend regular classes and a lot of them succesfully complete AP courses. The kind of sorting system you talk about is immoral and illegal. A "special needs school"....wow. That's a good one... Brenda, you're obviously very uneducated.
Rachel Marie October 10, 2013 at 06:16 PM
How did this article leave out one of the most important details? The kid was pressured by the undercover cop to go out and find pot for HIM. It wasn't a case of the kid does drugs and offered it --- this cop put this child in danger -- he went out and bought a joint from a homeless man because of this situation -- to give to his only 'friend'!

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