Four students in California have filed a lawsuit against Riverside County for allegedly jump-starting a life inside the prison system. According to The Appeal, the lawsuit claims the schools within the county that participate in the Youth Accountability Team leads to illegal searches and seizures and disproportionately affects black and brown students in the district.
“It’s kind of like this expedited version of the school-to-prison pipeline by having this extrajudicial system operating exclusively through the school,” ACLU’s Hannah Comstock said.
In 2017, a 13-year-old student named Andrew was placed in handcuffs after kicking an orange over the school fence that landed near an officer. Andrew was taken to the principal’s office where law enforcement searched his bag to find marijuana. He received a civil infraction that day and a month later Andrew was told to go to the police station to discuss probation, which was a contract for YAT.
Andrew’s family was present but he didn’t have a lawyer and agreed to participate in the program for six months. To avoid further consequences, Andrew had to go to his classes, earn good grades, adhere to a 8 p.m. curfew, complete 25 hours of community service, attend counseling, visit a prison and go to weekly programs with the Moreno Valley Police Department. This strict schedule even called for Andrew being pulled out of class during a Spanish quiz to take a YAT survey.
The program was created in 2001 as a means to keep “at risk” students in line, however the lawsuit states teachers, school officials and law enforcement used the program as a means of discipline for students.
The four plaintiffs are asking the courts to prohibit the enforcement of Section 601(b), which is a vague statute that states students “persistent[ly] or habitual[ly] refuse to obey the reasonable and proper orders or directions of school authorities” and do away with the contracts, citing they were signed under coercion and without a lawyer present.