A lawsuit settlement has put a stop to discriminatory policing practices against Latino students in a Los Angeles suburban school district that rounded up Hispanic youngsters as if they were gang members without proof of any illegal activity.
The settlement negotiated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California against the Glendale Unified School District halts such racial-ethnic profiling that included preventing Latino students from sitting at lunch tables with other Hispanics who had been targeted.
The settlement announced Wednesday came from a lawsuit related to an incident where police officers, county probation officers and school administrators approached Hispanics students at the start of lunch hour and ordered them to two classrooms.
There, those students were photographed and forced to provide personal information, which the lawsuit said was to be kept on file so that authorities could assess whether the students were “on the right path” and to be used to identify them if they got into trouble.
According to the lawsuit the students were interrogated about their personal activities and told they were on a “gang list,” while some had belongings searched without consent.
“I’m happy that what happened to us won’t happen to anyone else,” said plaintiff Ashley Flores, who was 16 at the time of the September 2010 incident at Hoover High School. “I’ve never been in trouble, and it was confusing, terrifying and humiliating.”
Officials had no evidence that students had broken laws or school rules, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of eight of the 56 affected students.
An independent evaluator will determine whether all personal information collected during the incident has been destroyed, the settlement stipulates.
Under terms of the settlement, the Glendale Police Department agreed to revise its policies on racial profiling and to train officers on how to deal with students at schools.
Glendale school officials agreed to notify parents if students are interrogated on campus. In the future, a district superintendent must approve any joint school-police operations.
But Glendale police maintains that all its officers were trying to do was educate youths about the dangers of gangs.
“We’re not admitting any wrongdoing,” said Sgt. Thomas Lorenz. “We have never racially profiled.”
Glendale police officials said that settling the lawsuit was the best way to proceed.
“The end result is that this will never happen again,” said ACLU staff attorney David Sapp. “This just serves as a reminder of how critical it is to properly define the role of police on campus.”