SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Protesters gathered Monday outside the San Bernardino County Administration building in support of a group home for foster children and its operator.
Rialto-based First Step Group Homes took in high-risk, hard-to-place boys between the ages of 12 and 18 years old.
"Two days before Thanksgiving Community Care Licensing mandated that San Bernardino County snatch all of our kids out of our facility," said Calvin DuBois, operator of First Step Group Homes.
The Department of Social Services' licensing agency pulled the group home's license over an incident that took place in June 2017.
Dubois explained that a 17-year-old boy became irate and pulled a knife on him and another staff member. During the incident, Dubois is seen on a video subduing the teen by taking him to the ground and pinning him down by the wrists. The video also captures Dubois repeatedly telling the boy to calm down.
Dubois said the video clearly shows him trying to de-escalate the situation before police arrived.
"The point was to go outside and make sure he didn't hurt himself. They didn't like my answer. I didn't back down and the county 100% supported me," said Dubois.
According to the lawsuit filed by Dubois' attorney, the California Department of Social Services accused Dubois of engaging in threatening behavior by getting into a physical altercation, sitting on, and pinning the child down as well as verbally taunting him. The lawsuit also points out that First Step Group Home was in compliance with all state and county regulations since inception, with the only incident being the June 2017 one.
Eyewitness New reached out to the state agency which released this statement:
"The Department cannot comment on litigation. We enforce licensing of group homes and Short Term Residential Therapeutic Programs in accordance with the law, as well as the exclusion of individuals who have engaged in conduct harmful to the people of the State of California."
Dubois has enlisted the help of civil rights leader Rev. Shane Harris with the People's Alliance for Justice, who is calling the state's decision discriminatory and racially motivated. As former foster child himself, Harris said First Step Group Homes is one of the few run by an African-American operator and that Dubois' actions saved the teen's life.
"He's an African-American man who understands that if you call the police on a young African-American male swinging a knife chances are he'll be shot down before he can make it to the jail cell," said Harris.
In an effort to fight the decision by the California Community Care Licensing Division, Dubois reached out to state Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes who chairs the Human Services committee.
Dubois believes Reyes has the ability to vacate the state's decision which her office denied being able to do. They also would not comment on Dubois' case.
On Dec. 10, Dubois and his supporters will go before the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to ask for their support and help reinstating his license.