Archive for May, 2013


targeting the weakest

Cops Go Undercover at High School to Bust Special-Needs Kid for Pot: Why Are Police So Desperate to Throw Kids in Jail?
by Kristen Gwynne

Via Alternet May 22, 2013

Californians Doug and Catherine Snodgrass are suing their son’s high school for allowing undercover police officers to set up the 17-year-old special-needs student for a drug arrest.

In a video segment on ABC News, they say they were “thrilled” when their son—who has Asperger’s and other disabilities and struggled to make friends—appeared to have instantly made a friend named Daniel.

“He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock,” Doug Snodgrass told ABC News. His son had just recently enrolled at Chaparral High School.

“Daniel,” however, was an undercover cop with the Temecula Police Department who “hounded” the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy him weed, and he complied—not realizing the guy he wanted to befriend wanted him behind bars.

In December, the unnamed senior was arrested along with 21 other students from three schools, all charged with crimes related to the two officers’ undercover drug operation at two public schools in Temecula, California (Chaparral and Temecula Valley High School). This March, Judge Marian H. Tully ruled that Temecula Valley Unified School District could not expel the student, and had in fact failed to provide him with proper services.

“Within three days of the officer’s requests, [the] student burned himself due to his anxiety,” Tully said. “Ultimately, the student was persuaded to buy marijuana for someone he thought was a friend who desperately needed this drug and brought it to school for him.”

In January, a juvenile court judge decided that extenuating circumstances applied to the student’s case, and ruled that he serve informal probation and 20 hours of community service, which would translate into “no finding of guilt.”

Since being allowed back to school, Snodgrass says his son has been “bullied” via suspensions and threat of expulsion. “Our son was cleared of the criminal charge, but the school continued to try and expel him,” Snodgrass said.

The Snodgrasses are now suing the school for unspecified damages. District administrators, they told ABC, should have protected their son, but instead “participated with local authorities in an undercover drug sting that intentionally targeted and discriminated against [him].”

“Sending police and informants to entrap high-school students is sick,” says Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. “We see cops seducing 18-year-olds to fall in love with them or befriending lonely kids and then tricking them into getting them small amounts of marijuana so they can stick them with felonies. We often hear that we need to fight the drug war to protect the kids. As these despicable examples show, more often the drug war is ruining young people’s lives and doing way more harm than good.”

Stephen Downing, a retired law enforcement veteran and former captain of detectives in the LAPD, said the behavior of the police in this case points to troubling trends in policy. “It is evidence of just how far we have gone, and how callous we have become, in treating our children with the care and dignity they should be entitled.”

“The fact that the police officer chose to prey upon the most vulnerable” is “egregious” but not surprising, he said. He pointed toward policing tactics and policies—like quotas, the increasing criminalization of America’s schools, and the war on drugs—that put pressure on police to treat normal teen behavior as criminal.

Downing, who is a member of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, also pointed out, “The less fortunate are always targeted.”

“Do we ever hear of an undercover operation like this conducted in an exclusive private school, or on a university campus, or on the stages of a movie studio in Hollywood? No, we don’t. Why? Because those people would complain, get lawyers and make life miserable for the status quo.”

“The parents of this child are right to bring a lawsuit, to take that needed step that will, hopefully, bring about the kind of change that will stop this kind of tyrannical corruption and harm to our children,” he said.

Drug crimes are not the only charges unfairly leveled against students. Marginalized youths are regularly the targets of the school-to-prison pipeline, as in the case of Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old girl who was arrested less than a month ago for accidentally causing a small explosion during a science experiment.


Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne


Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Beatles performing “Piggies”


day off

wtf 1

Yesterday I took the day off to think. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you what I’ve come up with.

And it is this: I think that childhood sexual abuse is a more significant and more central problem than most of us have any idea.

The experts say that there are 300 parricides a year. This makes it sound like a bigger–and more fundable–problem than it is. What the experts don’t tell you is that most of these parricides are committed by the adult children of the people who are killed. Juvenile parricides–murders committed by children under the age of 18–number about 30 a year. This is the finite demographic “slice” that I have chosen to focus on.

Just because I have chosen to not to get involved in the roughly 270 adult parricides a year, does not mean that I have chosen to ignore them. I have observed that adults who have been sexually abused as children carry this baggage with them into adulthood. It is significant to me that this is held by most victims as “secret baggage” which is only rarely disclosed, and as in the cases of the prosecution of abusive priests, usually only far into adulthood. And I emphasize this again–such disclosure happens in only a minority of total cases.

It seems to me that the central issue with all parricides is extreme anger and rage. The main difference between individuals–all individuals–is how this rage comes out. We focus on children, after-the-fact, who see murder of an abuser as the only way to prevent further abuse.victims who shoot back

You can see their point. Even though you and I would be able to devise better solutions (they are kids, after all), you can almost justify their actions. In my personal opinion, the world is better off without such “caregivers”–such abusive scum–in it.

Now here is the point which you may not want me to acknowledge. It is an uncomfortable point. Statistics on the incidence of childhood sexual abuse are lacking, unreliable, and greatly under-reported. The most reliable (but not most conservative) research on childhood sexual abuse suggests that 30-40% of girls and 13% of boys experience sexual abuse during childhood. But I think that even these numbers are too low.

What the real numbers are, I do not know. What I do know that our entire society has been over-sexualized, and that relations between children and adults are not excepted. Too many “normal” adults somehow justify sexual relations with children. Too many adults sow lifelong anger and rage in their children. And I happen to deal with the slice of victims who are arguably the youngest, bravest, or most desperate survivors among them.

When victimized kids try to find another way out besides murder, the system almost inevitably fails them. Cops return runaways to their abusers. Teachers and school officials fail to report warning signs. Kids are put into foster care by social services, where they are raped or sexually abused at rates that are just as high (if not higher) than if they were to remain with their abusers. And almost no one wants to talk about it.

That’s what I know based on the evidence. What I don’t know is this.

How do we avoid sexual abuse, and its outcome, parricide? Our mission should be prevention; we should move beyond after-the-fact solutions.

But I don’t know how. Maybe you do. Or maybe a good idea will strike you. If it does, please let me know.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Rod Stewart performing “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”





Groove of the Day 

Listen to Christopher Cross performing “Sailing”


surprising day

wtf 2

My resolve to not work yesterday didn’t quite work out as planned.

The first news of the day was that weeks of efforts to establish contact with a new kid in Maryland who needs our help were blocked by the mail room of a detention center. Such official interference has not happened before, but it’s probably not the last time. Maybe they knew of us, maybe they didn’t. But the fact is, we were being prevented from helping a young person who needs an assist and I was pissed off. I contacted the head of the mail room by phone and received her assurance that if I were to write directly to the defendant, my letter would get through.

Then I wrote to the boy and explained that we would go to the mat for him, but only if invited to help. Helping young people navigate the system is hard enough without doing it over the resistance of a defendant or his/her lawyers. We don’t take every case, we don’t go where we’re not wanted.

The phone was ringing all day. Other cases beckoned. To truly take a day off, one would need to get away from here. I’ll have to try it next time.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing “I Won’t Back Down”


big day

wt fork

It is my 65th birthday, and I refuse to do any work today.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Stray Cats performing “Rock This Town”



eiffel under construction

eiffel tower in fog

eiffel tower 5

Eiffel View


The one and only time I was in Paris was for the 60th anniversary of the Lindbergh flight from New York to Paris.

It was not a typical visit. There was a reception at the American embassy, a black-tie dinner/dance at a hangar at Le Bourget field, and the meeting of astronauts and other luminaries at various affairs. I visited the Louvre and do not recall ever standing in line. It was about this time 27 years ago.

Even after all this time, I have memories of that visit which are still vivid and for which I am thankful.

Most of the people I met there are now dead, but Paris lives on.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Maurice Chevalier performing “Paris sera toujours Paris”


couch potato


Last week I was invited to supper at a friend’s so Danny, our local telephone man, could introduce me to a video-streaming service called Roku. I had recently been having a lot of trouble (excessive buffering and sound and video being out-of-sync) streaming movies and TV shows on my computer, and the purchase of this $75 device brought me once again into the company of the living.

Unfortunately, it has also brought me into the company of the unproductive. I have been a couch potato ever since I began binging on the movies which have so long not been on my diet of consumables.

Most everything I have watched so far has not been memorable. But I did watch one movie worth noting, Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Hugo, the story of an orphaned boy, Hugo Cabret, who lives alone in the Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris, keeping the clocks of the station working.

The film stars, among others, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, and Christopher Lee. You may think of this post as “old news”–the film was received with critical acclaim, and at the 84th Academy Awards, Hugo won five Oscars and eleven total nominations, the most for the evening–but it’s new news to me. (I am that isolated.)

Yesterday I received a call from my Hollywood friend, who told me that Asa Butterfield, the star of this film, is being promoted as the “next big thing” in films and TV.

Butterfield was born in 1997 in London and started acting at the age of 7.  He secured minor roles in the 2006 television drama After Thomas, the 2007 film Son of Rainbow, and 2008’s Ashes to Ashes. In that same year, aged 10, he played the lead role in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He also played Mordred in a number of episodes of Merlin, and had a small part in The Wolfman.  At the age of 12 he appeared in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. At the age of 13 he played the main and title character in Hugo, and now he will play the title role of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin in the upcoming film adaptation of the novel Ender’s Game, which completed filming in the first half of 2012 and is scheduled for theatrical release on November 1, 2013.

Ender’s Game is likely to be a big hit when it is released. It is the science fiction story of a future in which government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers in order to develop a secure defense against the next attack of hostile alien race. A brilliant young boy, Ender is drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training, where he becomes a leader.

Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers, Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders–issues that parallel the experiences of the young people we serve. It is first and foremost a tale of humanity, a tale of a boy struggling to grow up into someone he can respect while living in an environment stripped of choices. I’m looking forward to eventually seeing it.

Well, I have at least gotten a post written today… and I now return to (what else?) my movie marathon.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Howard Shore conducting “A Train Arrives in the Station”