On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, a little over seven months after that horrible day, I was standing face-to-face with my son in the hallway outside his room. I asked him, "did you take your medicine?" He replied that he did. I noticed that he was visibly shaking, so I said, “are you nervous about this?" Again he replied that he was. I put my hands on his shoulders, and he made eye contact with me. I then told him, "we are going to get through this thing together, just like we always have. Remember that every choice we've made during this so far has worked out perfectly, and it's going to be that way again today. I know that it’s very difficult for you to go back to that place, but here’s what’s different. This time when you go back to that place, know that the world knows you were right in this, and that you did nothing wrong. You don’t have to feel nervous or ashamed. It’s the people who did this to you who need to feel nervous and ashamed. When you walk into that building, walk in there like you own that place."
A couple hours later, my wife and I were sitting in the court room, with our younger children seated to the right of us, and our son's educational/civil attorney sitting to our left. Our son was sitting at the table in front of us, next to his criminal attorney. He was wearing a white dress shirt and black pants, a dramatic change from the justice system issued orange he was forced to wear when he was in the same room, sitting at the same table, in front of the same judge on December 13, 2012. My wife and I were also sitting in the same seats as we had been on December 13, a day on which we saw him for the first time in over 48 hours, with a look in his eyes that we will always remember with a mix of sadness, despair and horror.
At approximately 9:30 a.m. on July 16, 2013, the judge said, “I've read the report, it looks good. I'm dismissing this. Good job." And with that, my son showed the signs of a young man who had just been released from a granite burden. My wife quietly said "thank you", and I repeated the same. The judge responded, "you're welcome."
And our son’s informal probation officially came to an end.
While our son was on informal probation, there were certain things that we chose not to discuss publicly, with the intention of protecting him. But now that the informal probation is completed, and his case has been formally dismissed, we will be sharing more. Here’s a taste.
It was Monday, February 4, 2013, the day after the article appeared in the Press Enterprise newspaper in which my wife and I first went public about the injustice and abuse that had been visited upon our son. At our home, our youngest child came running to my wife, crying, "are they taking him back to jail?" She was panicked from a voicemail that she had just heard in real time on our answering machine. It was from Senior Deputy District Attorney Blaine Hopp, the person who - according to published reports - was responsible for training the undercover officers for what was dubbed Operation Glass House, the undercover sting operation that culminated with the arrests of 22 high school kids, including our son. The voicemail message left by Mr. Hopp was – in our opinion as well as the opinion of every person who has listened to the message – very clearly threatening and specific to my wife and I, as well as to our son. It was not a brief message, and it surprised us that Mr. Hopp’s judgment did not prevent him from leaving a message of this sort. He explicitly stated that the fact that we had chosen to speak to the press could have a direct effect on how the DAs office would treat our son's case. The message came off as threatening, an attempt to intimidate, and appeared to have the goal of shutting us up. Of course, we now know how well that worked for him. There was much more in the voicemail message that may be shared at a future date.
He contacted us directly while we and our son had attorney representation. Our attorney, along with several other key people, were supplied with copies of this voice mail recording. Our attorney then delivered a cease and desist letter to Mr. Hopp’s office. Judging by Mr. Hopp's response to our attorney, it would seem that he does not remember precisely what he said in his voicemail, which would seem logical due to the fact that he sounded very emotional in the voicemail message that he left. So much, that he got the date of our son’s return court date wrong by 10 years.
Our son was not the only victim of Operation Glass House. As reported, there were 22 students arrested. What has not been reported, before now, is that a significant amount of those arrested were special education students, certainly a much higher ratio than the 12% enrollment of Special Education students in all of TVUSD. Also, a super-majority of those arrested were minorities, which stands in contrast to Temecula’s demographics in which only 39% of residents are non-caucasian.
Operation Glass House apparently caught the personnel at the Southwest Riverside Juvenile Detention Hall off guard. According to firsthand accounts, there were not enough beds and blankets available to serve the influx of students, and several of these children were forced to sleep on the floors, with no blankets and using toilet paper to serve as pillows.
The vast majority of the students were represented by public defenders, and some of the students were kept in detention long after the December 11 arrest, causing them to spend the holidays behind bars. One student, who was charged as an adult since he was arrested for selling a small amount of marijuana after his 18th birthday, was recently sentenced to one year in jail, where he still remains. He was also a special education student.
Shortly after my wife and I went public about our son's story, we posted an online petition which garnered almost 8000 signatures, with several of those signatures coming from the Orange Army here at Daily Kos. In one section of the petition, there is a demand for a public hearing, so with almost 8000 signatures demanding this, we are obligated to hold that public hearing. So we are pleased to announce the following event:
Accountability in Our Schools: Is TVUSD Using Our Tax Dollars to Help or Harm Children and Families? A Public HearingWe are in the process of lining up a panel of speakers and experts that we are very excited about. We will also be extending invitations to the members of the TVUSD School Board, Superintendent Timothy Ritter, Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Michael Hubbard, and Director of Special Education Kimberly Velez.
August 12, 2013
Community Recreation Center (CRC)
30875 Rancho Vista Road
Temecula, CA 92592
We have received confirmation of media attendance, both national and regional, including television and print. Further details will be announced soon.
If you live in the region and would like to attend, or know anyone who will want to be there, let me know in the comments, or by Kos mail, or through the TemeculaPost.com contact form.
Related reading from the media:
ALTERNET: Cops Go Undercover at High School to Bust Special-Needs Kid for Pot: Why Are Police So Desperate to Throw Kids in Jail? (reported to have been viewed by over 300,000 people)
Related reading from Daily Kos: