Outrage Over Arrest of Special Needs Student for Selling $3 Vicodin Pill

By Shawn Dwyer 01/08/14

Pressured by undercover cops, a student with learning disabilities was forced to spend the holidays in juvenile hall.

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Last month, Southern California narcotics officers arrested 25 high school students for drug dealing and possession after a 21 Jump Street-like operation where they posed as teenagers looking to score. But buried beneath the headline was the arrest of a 15-year-old special needs student whose parents believe that was entrapped by the police.

Most of the students arrested in the Dec. 12th raid were immediately released to their parents. But Monique Gallo, mother to the special needs student whose first name has been withheld, saw her son sentenced by a judge to juvenile hall through the holidays because he was already on probation for fighting in middle school last year. “He’s pretty shaken up. This is the first time he’s ever been in juvenile hall,” Gallo said. She stated in an interview with the Press-Enterprise that her son suffers from learning disabilities and reads at a third-grade level.

Gallo went on to describe what she felt were questionable tactics used by police, specifically with her son, whom she said was relentlessly pressured by the undercover officer to sell him a $3 pain pill even though her son had never sold drugs in the past. “It just isn’t right what they did to some of these kids,” Gallo said. “They just ruined most of these kids’ futures.”

A similar incident occurred at Temecula High School in 2012, when a teenager with autism was alleged to have been pressured to sell an uncover officer marijuana. His parents sued the school district to have their son reinstated after his expulsion, claiming that the school knowingly allowed their son to be targeted despite his learning disabilities.

Such concerns were what ultimately led to the demise of a similar drug-bust program in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2005.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.