by Megan O'Neil
The civil rights group alleges that about 55 Latino students at Glendale's Hoover High School were illegally detained, searched and interrogated.
The ACLU of Southern California filed suit Thursday against Glendale Unified administrators and three law enforcement agencies, alleging that about 55 Latino high school students were illegally detained, searched and interrogated in what the civil rights organization called "a textbook case of racial profiling."
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges that the Hoover High School students were rounded up at lunch on Sept. 24, 2010, detained for at least an hour in two classrooms and intimidated and frisked by Glendale and Los Angeles police officers.
At a news conference Thursday in south Glendale, ACLU representatives said the students were asked for personal information, including addresses and telephone numbers; interrogated about any scars, tattoos and gang affiliations; and "repeatedly threatened" by police.
In addition to a handful of school district officials, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of several Hoover High School families, names the Glendale and Los Angeles police departments and the Los Angeles County Probation Department. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
"The school officials and police had no evidence that the students were doing anything illegal or breaking any school rules at the time they were rounded up," said ACLU attorney David Sapp. "The facts in this case also make it clear that these students were targeted because they are Latino."
Glendale Unified School District spokesman Steven Frasher defended the operation, describing it as an educational effort to deter students from falling into gangs.
"Student safety is our utmost concern at all times," he said. "The allegation of racial profiling is ridiculous. 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."
Representatives of the Glendale and Los Angeles police departments did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the county probation department.
"It is not illegal to be a Latino teenager," Sapp said. "This is a textbook case of racial profiling, and it is all the more offensive because they terrorized and threatened students while they were detained."
Frasher said the operation was conducted after school officials and probation officers noticed gang activity among students who sat in a specific area on campus during non-class time.
Some incoming students, he said, "seemed to be getting sucked into some activities, or looking up to kids who were on probation."
School and law enforcement officials wanted to give those students a taste of where gang activity can lead, Frasher said, adding that relationships and grades at Hoover High School improved after the effort.