The ACLU of So Cal filed a racial profiling lawsuit against Glendale Unified School District, the Glendale Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, and LA County Probation on Thursday having to do with a 2010 incident in which 56 Hoover High Hchool students were rounded up and questioned for an hour.
The suit names individual officers from the GPD, the LAPD, probation, plus administrators at Hoover HS for “racial profiling and unlawful search and seizure.”
The lawsuit is based on an incident that occurred on September 24, 2010, when, according to the ACLU, school administrators, working with police and school-based probation officers, rounded up 56 Latino students during their lunch period, herded them into classrooms, interrogated them—and in a bizarre touch—”forced them to pose for mock mug shots.”
Attorneys say that the students were targeted although there was no evidence that they were violating any laws or breaking school rules.
Here’s more from the ACLU statement:
“I was shocked and scared when I saw the police, especially because I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” said sixteen-year-old Ashley Flores, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “It was the first encounter I’ve had with police. I’ve never been in trouble and have nothing to do with gangs.”
The students, all Latino, were eating lunch when school administrators ordered them into two classrooms, where armed GPD and LAPD officers were waiting for them. Police told the students that they could not leave until they provided information. When some protested that they had done nothing wrong, officers ordered them to “sit down and shut up,” and threatened to go to their homes at 6 a.m. to collect the information if they did not cooperate. The officers told students that their personal information would be kept in a file to identify them if they ever got in trouble. The students were detained between 30 and 90 minutes, causing some to miss their fifth-period classes.
“The police officers, school officials, and probation officers involved in this roundup targeted these students solely because they are Latino,” said David Sapp, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “They acted as though being a Latino teenager is all the justification they needed to detain and threaten these students, which is a textbook case of racial profiling.”
One student who was eating lunch with the others, who is not Latino, was not detained in the classrooms.
Additionally, after the incident, Defendant Michael Rock, a captain in GPD who authorized the roundup, acknowledged that the students’ ethnicity was central in determining which students were detained, adding that GPD had planned to conduct a similar operation targeting Armenian students. [Italics mine.]
The lawsuit sounds righteous, and there’s no excuse for racially profiling and terrorizing kids, yet it might help to have this bit of context:
According to the school website, Hoover High’s student population is around 42 percent Armenian American, and around one quarter Latino. In recent years, elements within the two ethnic groups have sometimes been violently at odds. The most tragic such event occurred in May of 2000 when 17-year-old Raul Aguirre was beaten with a crowbar then stabbed to death in front of the school just after classes ended for the day. Raul Aguirre, it seemed, was a non-troublemaker kid who had tried to intervene in a fight between the two ethnic factions, and was murdered for his trouble.
In any case, one assumes that there’s more to the story. Again, not that anything excuses the actions of the adults. However, additional information might at least, in part, explain the thinking of the cops and the Hoover High administrators.
“The five University of Georgia professors have started a program they’re calling Freedom University. They’re offering to teach a rigorous seminar course once a week meant to mirror courses taught at the most competitive schools and aimed at students who have graduated from high school but can’t go to one of those top schools because of the new policy or because of cuts to state scholarship programs.”
Hector Tobar’s LA Times story is one you shouldn’t miss. Here’s a clip from the story’s opening:
Before this week, the last time I’d seen Obed Silva was in an immigration court in downtown L.A. On that day, he rolled his wheelchair to the witness box and explained to a judge why he shouldn’t be deported.
That was in 2009. Born in Mexico but raised in Orange County, Silva is a 32-year-old former gang member paralyzed from a gunshot injury who reinvented himself as a scholar. It was the errors of his youth — as a teenager he shot and wounded a man at an O.C. party — that led to the deportation proceeding.
Professors at his alma mater, Cal State L.A., testified in immigration court on his behalf. After I told his story in this column, even a conservative talk-show host said he deserved to stay in the U.S. And in December, the government agreed to stop the deportation proceedings against him.
After nearly four years of court dates and adjournments, Silva’s final appearance before a judge lasted only a few minutes, he recalled. “Next thing I knew, the judge said, ‘You’re free to go.’”
This week Silva and I met again, at his mother’s home in Buena Park. I’d come to see what he was doing with his second chance.
He’s teaching writing at Cypress College and tackling his own painful story in a book. Much of his manuscript is about another man born in Mexico, a heavy drinker who was deported many years ago, and who isn’t missed on this side of the border:
Obed’s father, the late Juan Silva.
Juan Silva was, as Obed writes, “an alcoholic, a drug-addict and a wife beater.” Juan Silva, aged 48 at his death, was one of those fraught men who live hard and leave a lifetime of wreckage in their wake.
“I came to this country to run away from him,” Obed’s mother, Marcela Mendoza, told me. Juan Silva was, by Mendoza’s account, obsessed with the family that had escaped him. Soon after they left, he followed them northward……