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Parents say special-needs student set up in drug bust

May 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A mother and father in Temecula are taking the local school district to court. They say instead of protecting their special-needs son, the district and local police left him very vulnerable. The parents want the district to change a controversial policy.

Doug and Catherine Snodgrass say the Temecula Valley Unified School District went too far when it allowed an undercover cop to befriend their autistic son. They say on his second day of class at Chaparral High School, their son met and began talking about his new friend "Daniel."

"We were really thrilled because our son doesn't have friends and it's so hard for him to make friends, and he suddenly had this friend that was texting him around the clock," said Doug Snodgrass.

The Snodgrasses say what they didn't know was "Daniel" was an undercover police officer, and, they say, he was pressuring their 17-year-old son to sell him marijuana.

In December their son, along with 21 other students, was arrested during a drug bust at the high school.

"I thought there had been some awful mistake made," said Catherine Snodgrass.

On April 26, the couple filed a claim against the school district for unspecified damages. They say district administrators should have protected their son, who they say has Asperger's syndrome and other disabilities.

The parents say the juvenile court judge will dismiss the marijuana case against their son in six months after he serves 20 hours of community service.

"Our son had been cleared by the criminal judge, who saw extenuating circumstances," said Doug Snodgrass.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, the attorney representing the Temecula Valley Unified School District said: "The District continues to act lawfully and in furtherance of its mission to educate students."

"It really does continue to be an uphill battle for him," said Catherine Snodgrass.

In March the Snodgrasses' son was allowed to return to Chaparral High School after a judge blocked an attempt by the district to expel him.

The Snodgrasses say district officials continue to bully their son, who is now three months behind and will not graduate this year as they had hoped.

"What we'd like to see from this is some change at the top of this administration," said Doug Snodgrass.

For now, the family says it is working to not only clear their son's name but also to make sure this doesn't happen to another family with special-needs children.

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