A San Fernando Valley (CA) school district will pay more than $1 million to a middle school student who was used in an amateur drug sting by school officials at Porter Middle School. The Los Angeles Superior Court found in favor of the boy, known in court documents only as “Roe,” and awarded him $1 million for his ongoing emotional distress, as well as $15,250 for tutoring.
According to court documents, in 2010 the 12-year-old boy reported that another student was selling marijuana on school grounds. The court determined that after the boy reported the problem, Joyce Edelson, the Principal of the school, Armando Mejia the Assistant Vice Principal, and Laura Custodio, Dean of Students came up with the idea to conduct a television-style drug sting on their own without consulting police or the boy’s parents.
The scheme involved giving the 12-year-old cash and having him attempt buy drugs from the suspected dealer. After the “sting,” the boy began receiving death threats from other students and was forced to leave the school for his own protection.
Alexander Calfo of Yukevich Calfo & Cavanaugh, who represented the plaintiff in the case, pointed out that using a minor in a drug sting is against the law. Furthermore, the action was in violation of school policy. According to Calfo, “Pursuant to their own policies and procedures, all they had to do was pick up the phone. Call the parents. Call the police. There were other methods, other than invading or intruding into this boy’s life.”
The defense admitted administration officials broke the law but said that the officials involved felt that the situation was severe and merited the action. He also stressed that they never intended to harm the boy. The attorney defending school officials stated that the assistant principal “felt that it was so important to act then and act swiftly that he didn’t think about the potential consequences down the road. He felt that the greater concern was to act swiftly and to do something to take care of the problem.”