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.

Brenda February 09, 2013 at 08:39 AM
Adrian, its a good chance the UC did not realize this teenager was autistic. In reading Michaels and your posts over the months, on many diverse subjects, I would have never guessed in a million years either of you "place on the autistic spectrum". In a large undercover investigation like this with none, or very few of the staff knowing it was going on there would be no opportunity for the UC to know this information about the kid. The only information the UC would have had is that he was involved with the drug movement somehow, make his acquaintance and see if you can learn anything further about others. I guess why he got a slap on the wrist and told to be good for a year. DADDIO here screaming at them that he was autistic," they used him, the kid didnt understand", and so on, and they decided to just keep it that the kid was a CI and end of story. He is functional enough to be in high school, is allowed to go to and from school by himself, obviously does not have a record of anger and fighting problems, which alot of autistic children do, functions on a high level and should be charged right along with the others. If he did not meet certain standards he would NOT be able to be in regular HS. Maybe I could say he doesnt know wrong from right. I find that hard to believe thou at this point or he would have a long school record of problems.
REZ10 February 09, 2013 at 09:56 AM
@ Andrew Calman; "Snodgrass maintains a judge ruled his son's case will be dismissed after six months with no finding of guilt..." These charges are not dropped. This is what typically happens in the juvenile court system after they comply with court ordered classes/courses. You'll notice that this is what the father says. Reality is that they weren't dropped. They are suspended providing the individual complies with court ordered conditions. Failure to comply, results in reinstating the original charges. Again, if you're going to debate a topic have a little information instead of typing in the heat of the moment. Step away from the keyboard...(deep breath)...now go to Google and do some research...or call a friend with more knowledge than you.
J. C. February 09, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Michael, your parents have obviously taught you some things well... like you can't use your autism as an excuse. That is true. You said that you have Asperger's, which is a very mild form of autism. Obviously, you function in the world just fine, and you, personally, can not use your autism as an excuse. I know some adults with Asperger's and you can't tell that they are different in any way. But I am going to suggest to you, that your parents have not taught you some things that are pretty important. You apparently don't understand that there is an autism spectrum, and someone with a more severe autism is not the same as someone with Asperger's. A severely autistic person is not at all the same as you. Some people are so severely autistic that they can not speak or interact with others at all. So please, do not suggest that you are an expert on somebody else. You are definitely not an expert on autism. I would suggest, that if you really want to learn something, your parents take you to meet some kids who are severely autistic.
J. C. February 09, 2013 at 04:18 PM
When you have kids of your own, what if you have an autistic child? What if that child is more severely affected than you? Are you going to expect that child to be just like you, when maybe that isn't possible? Kids with autism, especially when they are undiagnosed, are often bullied by peers and abused by the adults around them. You are lucky to have good parents who know that you have Asperger's. But I think that now would be a great time for you to learn that childhood can be terrible for some with autism. Also, you don't know that the boy who was arrested deserved to be. You don't know what his parents have taught him, or whether they've punished him in any way. We do know that he spent time in jail already, so he has been punished. Another thing you need to know is that police don't always do the right thing--- sometimes they don't use good judgement, just like anybody else. That might be why this judge dropped the charges against this boy. One last thing... when I was in High School everybody knew who had the drugs in school, and I mean EVERYBODY. If my school expelled every student who knew where to get a joint, there wouldn't have been anybody left. This student was new, and probably completely out of the loop, because he didn't know who to buy from in school... if he had been involved with drugs, he would have known who to go to, but instead, he saw a homeless man smoking a joint, and bought what was left of it. Sometimes facts are evidence of innocence.
Michael February 09, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Yes, J.C. I know that there are different severities. But what about the girl in day care with Down syndrome who pulled the fire alarm, should she have not gotten in trouble. Your severity has nothing to do with what you know rough from wrong. You still know right from wrong no matter what. Autism or not, Down syndrome or not, severe or mild autism, right from wrong doesn't change.
Brenda February 09, 2013 at 08:26 PM
JC, -ALOT of "regular, normal run of the mill" kids are bullied by peers and abused by adults who do not have any mental or medical condition. -Childhood is AND can be terrible for ALL kids at one time or another whether you are popular or not. Making friends, keeping friends, fitting in is the most horrible experience for most of them through the years. Some who are autistic(often in their own world)may not even be affected by this as much as kids not afflicted. -You are right that police do not always do the right thing, like most humans we make mistakes, or act on information that was given to us that was not accurate. -The Judge didn't drop the charges, they are technically still there in case he gets in trouble in the next year, something strange like that. -If this teenager was/is that autistic he would be in a special school because he would show all the worse sides of autism, anger, pain to himself and others, in his own world etc. This boy walks to and from school alone, attends a "normal" highschool and appears to make friends just fine from some of the posts here who know him. I believe he knows wrong from right and if he didnt he would have a well worn sheet of the school dealing with his disorder. From what has been discribed this boy shows minimal autism and functions fine in a "regular, normal scheduled school" atmosphere and is able to also function on his own without supervision.
Brenda February 09, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Well Lori, I hope if they are "sue happy"(obviously) instead of a lesson to their son, that they sue all parents with kids who bully, call names, gossip, spread rumors, beatup, steal their things, tell false stories, make fun if they cant afford the "IN" clothes, tease, and then its near impossible for them to make friends. These victims of bullying are so vulnerable they hurt themselves, start to do horrible in school, do not want to go to school, cant sleep and of course we know the list goes on what these kids suffer up to suicide. How many times has it been a joke for one of the "in boys or girls" at school to ask someone not popular to a dance? The asked tells Mom and Dad, tickets, pictures, dress/tux are bought while the "IN" kid is telling his friends the ruse is working. Then dance night, the asked kid is waiting for this huge limo she was told is coming to pick her up with all the other popular kids. Doesnt show up.......parents take the girl/guy to the dance, and everyone starts roaring with laughter! Hahaha, the "IN" kid pulled the perfect ruse, as he is there with his real date and all his popular friends. Sounds like Carrie, and just how mean kids can be. What you say was "targeting a vulnerable person" was absolutely nothing compared to what kids suffer in public school. Its friends one day, not friends the next. Its the way of school friends. STPP? If only, then we would not have such a huge problem with drugs in our schools.
Michael February 10, 2013 at 02:14 AM
Everyone, if we work really hard then we can make more comments then the original drug bust article which has 264 comments I think. And I want all you guys to read the 2nd to last comment made by Anthony, and tell me how dumb was everything he said. But I think we can accomplish this a citizens of Temecula.
Michael February 10, 2013 at 03:29 AM
Brenda, I was looking at past posts I've commented on just to see if 3 months later people replied and came across the one about the senior couple killed in the crash near Jefferson. And it still surprises me how much of bullies everyone was. Like Becca (new name is Usual Suspects) and where she didn't find any wrong in criticizing the fact that you have a good strong opinion about stuff. I know we agreed to ignore it but I am still just baffled at the hatred that went on. She flagged my comment inappropriate because I called them stupid and bullies for what they said to you. When Popeye called you a village idiot, she saw nothing wrong that. Though, we may meet in real life without knowing its each other, I'm glad we are able to be friends even if we don't meet in real life. I've always found that weird, I talk about never meeting in real life but we might have met before or seen each other without knowing it. I bet if I ever run into you around town, I probably won't know it's you or if I have without knowing its you, I bet you will be a wonderfully nice lady.
Holly February 10, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Brenda, there are no "special needs" schools anymore. All students have to be "mainstreamed" into regular school, parents and teachers have no choice. Sometimes mainstreaming is appropriate, other times not. California has some of the strictest laws regarding this. My sister is a special needs teacher, she's often forced to do state testing on kids that are not able to do the work, or send kids that are violent to a regular class. It's all very messed up.
Brenda February 10, 2013 at 07:31 PM
"Holly 10:56 am on Sunday, February 10, 2013 Brenda, there are no "special needs" schools anymore" You know Holly as I read your post you are right? I only ask because a friend of mine have a bus that picks up her two children around 8 and they go to a special school everyday, or maybe she means special class? But they work seriously with behavior, speech, and so forth. Then others come to her home to work with them on particular things. Exercise, speech more etc. a few days a week. But knowing them I know there is NO possible way these children could go into a regular school or classroom, but I know she gets them as much help as there is available. :/ More good old cuts that we NEED by our spectacular government. Lets give illegals college educations but take away more benefits from our chldren, elderly and mental health patients. :/ Rawr, makes me so angry.
Varney February 10, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Brenda, I must respectfully agree (for the most part) with Holly, though she also was not fully correct. In one of your statements, you write, "If this teenager was/is that autistic he would be in a special school...", yes, Holly is right in that is actually incorrect, though it has nothing to do with the state of California being strict. IDEA, (the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) which provides educational protection to disabled students, as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, (enacted by the first President Bush), requires that disabled students be included in mainstream schools.There is no "special school" for kids who are more severely affected with autism, just like there is no "special school" for kids who are in wheelchairs. In Temecula; this would be considered discrminiation. There is a Bridge Program, which provides classes and services for kids who are severely affected, however, these Bridge Program classes occur in the mainstream schools, including Chaparral High School. Just to be fair, there is a lot of guessing about facts in these comments. It may be useful that we don't so quickly rush to judgement, and wait for more facts to come out.
Brenda February 11, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Michael you are a dear young man. I have learned alot from your articulate and informative comments. That is what comment sections are about, not about picking out someone to call names, make fun of, demean, or play superior over. There is a varied group of people here in regards to ages, education level, backgrounds growing up, careers etc. and just because someone is younger, or older, or is more intelligent, or less intelligent should not leave them open for this bullying on "The Patch" for heavens sake. The articles here have to do with our town, our City and our people, neighbors, kids, co-workers, friends. There are a few "Names" who only get on to follow my comments and insult me. They dont bother to read the article and see it has something to do with someone murdered, or killed by a drunk driver, and give prayers and condolences. Doing that is seriously wierd and I will never understand why a few would do that to me or others and show disrespect for the editor and subject of the article. All we can do is try to keep ourselves in check and not bring ourselves down to the level of those that get on here for no other reason then to insult others and bring drama to a thread of serious comments. I hope we do meet some day and maybe at one of the gatherings for raising money for a victim or something for the City we will :) I would like that very much.
Brenda February 11, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Hey there Varney, I am an old one, LOL. Years ago when I was in middle school there was seperate schools for mentally and physically handicapped children. Probably back when the US still had funds to care for our own families and persons in need. I went to this school to volunteer while in Middle school for some sort of credits and it was a huge experience and so very sad. I just remember there was all ages of children up to teens with all sorts of obvious disorders, diseases etc. But they had them broken into class rooms I guess based on learning abilities and we would help with math, art, etc. Some of them were beating their heads on walls, or fighting, some in wheelchairs, walkers, whatever suited them best if they needed it. So in an earlier question I asked something to the affect about schools and different stages or degrees of autism. Both so I could respond better if I felt I wanted to, and also learn more about my few friends with children who are autistic. I learned we did not have any type of special schools like we had when I was young which is very sad indeed. I think it would be very depressing for these children to be around so called "normal kids" and see what they could have been, but then face reality and see where they actually are, IF THEIR degree of functioning is severely lessened. Now, then I see someone like Michael who I feel fits in fine with regular school but he may not feel that way. So, I am learning V ;)
J. C. February 13, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Clearly, no.
Michael February 14, 2013 at 03:32 AM
By any chance has anyone reported Annie's comment as inappropriate. I would but I'm on my iPod and it doesn't allow you to. The F word talking has no place on the Patch.
Michael February 14, 2013 at 03:36 AM
And J.C I already know what it's like to not be able to talk very good. Not have I had Aspergers most my life without me knowing but I was in special Ed in preschool for my speech. And have been bullied when I was younger because I couldn't pronounce my R's correctly.
Toni McAllister (Editor) February 14, 2013 at 07:04 AM
Comment deleted.
Brenda February 14, 2013 at 09:24 AM
I am sorry Michael, I must have missed that one or not gotten to it yet or I would have. Looks like Toni got it pretty fast. I am putting up with a extremely rude one myself at the moment. :/
Brenda February 14, 2013 at 09:30 AM
Michael, having my half a dozen kids myself I have certainly seen enough bullying for a lifetime. All kids go through it especially if you just are not 100% copies hair, clothes, backbacks, shoes as the "IN" kids. Or like you one of my daughters had a problem in early elementary with the TR combination. She could not pronounce the T but pronounced it as F, so you can imagine the words that were suppose to start with TR that got the sound of FR, and she was teased when reading in class. Thankfully after much fighting(which I should not have even had to do) the teacher let her skip out loud reading until that was resolved with the speech teacher. Thank God it was resolved in short time. Bullying has always been in schools and whether you have something different or not if a group of mean ones find a weak link, or someone shy, they will go after them. I remember I would cry and just walk away which wasnt the way to handle it either. Wish I had answers so kids getting bullied didnt take it so serious and painfully. Its just a rough time in teenagers lives anyway.
Michael February 15, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Thank you, Toni. And Brenda I'm glad someone can relate somehow. So you know what it's sorta like because your daughter went through the same thing.
Brenda February 15, 2013 at 09:12 AM
Yep Michael I totally understand. Matter a fact having so many daughters and raising those few extra's I saw all the silly reasons kids pick on other kids, or to the extreme of Bullying. The satisfaction these kids that bully get from doing it, or seeing the bullied kid get upset, or god forbid cry. :./ It is horrible and adults do the same to other adults and to their own children while raising them. The cheerleader Mom, "OMG Sally you gained too much weight this winter, Salads only or you will look like you dont belong on the team" or lord how many times do we hear Dads yelling at their sons during sports practice? Demeaning them in front of all the other guys. Its bad, it really is Michael. I wish there was some quick fix, but there isnt. Not until parents stop, stop teaching it to their children, the children stop and not think its fun or get satisfaction on making someone feel bad, embarrassed, or not have any friends. The schools just do NOT do anything about this stuff anymore like when I was young. LOL back with the dinosaurs. But we called a name or made fun of someone and we got the corner chair, paddle, principals office, note home to Mom. My heart goes out to anyone treated like that. I know one year at Chap they were suppose to try some peer thing, mentoring, about bullying, it never went anywhere that I remember.
Arrrg February 20, 2013 at 12:21 AM
Did the school follow the IEP. Period. End of discussion. Police should know better and the school should know better. The school does know better because guess what the feds are looking into it. Guess what police and school district. Karma is a b*tch and you deserve everything you get. Honesty is the best policy. Following the law is what you are supposed to do. And who are the ones breaking the laws? Those in a "powerful" position. Parents who don't understand what an IEP is, get a life you obviously have no clue what is going on. Police stop lying and do the right thing. Granted I am sure the poor new guy is getting thrown under the bus instead of whoever was directing him. School district, stop lying and manipulating. Oh yeah and I hope MediCal looks into everything to ensure the students are getting what is promised not just you pocketing the extra cash and lying about services. Seen it happen folks. With any line of work you get those bad eggs. Temecula school district has a TON of bad eggs and unless you are in there and you actually are a halfway decent person you don't know. Consequences are owed to tsd and Temecula police. Stop "protecting your own" and throw away your rotten eggs already. They aren't going to all of a sudden magically become edible. They broke IEP that is that. Now they must deal with that poor decision.
Grace John February 23, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Wow. I just heard about this case and I can't believe how this can happen. Using a special needs child as a pawn is outrageous! I can only imagine how confused this child was when his fake friend had him arrested. Sad doesn't even begin to describe this case, and the devastating effect it must have on this child must be unimaginable. It should go without saying that this sweet population of special needs kids should not be used in this way and then thrown to the wolves.
Grace John February 23, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Is there a fund for this case? Or a petition?
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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