Parents of autistic teen arrested in undercover drug sting sue school district

The parents of a 17-year-old arrested in an undercover drug sting have sued the school district that authorized the operation they say entrapped their autistic son.

The boy was among nearly two dozen students arrested Dec. 11 at Chaparrel High School in Temecula following the undercover operation by sheriff’s deputies.

His parents, Doug and Catherine Snodgrass, said their son had been betrayed by one of those deputies, Daniel Briggs, who’d falsely befriended the teen who suffers from a range of disabilities.

The couple said they were initially happy their son had made his first and only friend last year at school, but they became suspicious when Briggs came up bizarre excuses to avoid coming over for a visit.

They later found out Briggs was actually Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Zipperstein, who they said pressured their lonely and vulnerable son with more than 60 text messages over about three weeks into buying half a joint from a homeless man.

The teen turned the marijuana over to his “friend” and purchased the drug once more at the request of the undercover officer, who then cut off all ties to the teenager.

The student was arrested a short time later at school along with 21 classmates, many of whom were also special needs students, according to the suit.

The teen’s parents said their son had suffered permanent psychological scarring from the incident, and they’re suing the Temecula Valley Unified School District, director of child welfare and attendance Michael Hubbard and director of special education Kimberly Velez for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other charges.

They said their intention is to send a message with their lawsuit to other schools around the country that such raids won’t be tolerated.

Los Angeles police stopped using undercover stings in schools about eight years ago after a review found that police often targeted special needs students and that the operations were ineffective at reducing the amount of drugs in schools.

A Department of Justice study made similar findings.

The Snodgrass family has set up a legal fund to help end undercover drug stings in schools.

Watch this video report about the case posted online by Reason TV: