Roe v. LA Unified School District (Los Angeles, California)
After three Los Angeles Unified School District officials at Porter Middle School used a 12-year-old boy — named only as Roe in the case — as bait in an attempted drug sting devised to expel a suspected drug dealing student at the school, the boy said he experienced threats from students at the school who said they knew he was the “snitch” and indicated that his participation in the operation was widely known. Fearing for the boy’s life, his parents moved him and his sister to another school district.
Plaintiff attorney Alexander Calfo (Yukevich Calfo & Cavanaugh) noted that the use of a minor in a drug sting is illegal, further arguing that the choice to use the boy in the sting operation was not only detrimental to the boy and his family but also unnecessary.
“Pursuant to their own policies and procedures, all they had to do was pick up the phone. Call the parents. Call the police,” Calfo said. “There were other methods, other than invading or intruding into this boy’s life.”
For the defense, Arthur Preciado (Gutierrez, Preciado & House) admitted that three school officials had used of a minor in a drug operation, but stressed that the school district had acted quickly in accordance with the severity of the situation and in no way intended to harm the child in question. Mr. Preciado added that the teachers executing the plan had no training in law enforcement.
“[Assistant Principal Armando Mejia] felt that it was so important to act then and act swiftly that he didn’t think about the potential consequences down the road,” Preciado said. “He felt that the greater concern was to act swiftly and to do something to take care of the problem.”
The jury found the defendants were liable for negligent supervision and negligence per se, and had acted recklessly and outrageously, and awarded the plaintiff $500,000 for past non-economic loss, $500,000 for future non-economic loss, $15,000 for future tutoring, and $250 for past tutoring, for a total of $1,015,250. The jury allocated 35% of the fault to Joyce Edelson (the Principal of Porter Middle School), 25% to Armando Mejia (Assistant Vice Principal), and 40% to Laura Custodio (Dean of Students).