A group of Latino high school students filed a lawsuit Thursday against Glendale school officials, city police, the LAPD and the L.A. County Probation department, alleging the agencies engaged in racial profiling when they herded the students into classrooms last year.
Fifty-five students at Glendale’s Hoover High School said administrators and law enforcement officials separated them into two classrooms during lunch time on September 24, 2010. Students said police obtained their home addresses and phone numbers, photographed them, and questioned them about their associations.
The students said they had done nothing wrong, and that the only white student with them was allowed to go.
The ACLU also said that the students weren't doing anything illegal.
“It’s a textbook case of racial profiling,” American Civil Liberties Union Attorney David Sapp said.
Ashley Flores, 16, said she is an ‘A’ student who’s never been in trouble with the law.
“There were many police officers armed, and they were telling us to sit down,” she said. “I was just terrified.”
Flores said officers asked if she was a member of a gang. She said she is not.
Other students said when they tried to question police about why they were being detained, officers aggressively told them to “sit down and shut up.” No one who was detained was charged with a crime.
“My parents at first were angry because they thought we had done something wrong,” Flores said. Now, she said, her mother is angry at police. Other parents are too.
Pablo Cipriano is a handyman whose son was among those detained.
“The police here in Glendale are doing a good job,” he said. “But in this case they abused the students.” ?Sapp of the ACLU said school administrators and police have given varying accounts of why they detained the students.
A spokesman for the Glendale Unified School District told the Los Angeles Times Thursday that it was an education effort to deter students from joining gangs.
“We are going to try and do all we can to protect any student we fear is going to be at risk for being sucked into a criminal lifestyle,” Steven Frasher told the Times. "The allegation of racial profiling is ridiculous.”
On KPCC’s AirTalk Friday, Frasher said that the law enforcement agencies involved with the actual detention of students were demonstrating the types of actions that would actually happen to those affiliated with gangs.
“It’s a frank lesson, that’s true," Frasher said. "Once kids get into the criminal lifestyles you never really get out of that. We wouldn’t be preparing these kids for the future if they didn’t have a clear understanding of the choices that they face,” he said.
Frasher said that the educators are extremely invested in helping the students avoid wrong decisions.
“No student is going to be neglected, or left behind, or left to their own devices if we see that they’re in harm’s way. A great deal of the academic intervention at Hoover is directed to ensure the success of Latino students,” he said.
Sapp, one of the lead attorneys investigating the case, told AirTalk's Larry Mantle that “the school is treating these kids like criminals, not students, and that’s exactly the problem.”
For Flores, who is a junior at Hoover this year, her encounter with officers changed her views.
“Before this incident, I thought of police officers as heroes – the people keeping us safe,” Flores said. “After this, I’m honestly scared to get approached by one.”
KPCC's Andrea Wang contributed to this report