Dean Defends Using Student, 12, In Drug Bust Without Police, Parent Approval

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A veteran San Fernando Valley middle school dean said on Friday that she was “devastated” after district officials told her she should not have allowed a 12-year-old student to be used in a drug sting without first asking the parents or the police.

Laura Custudio, the dean at Porter Middle School in Granada Hills, told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury that she was surprised by a Los Angeles Unified School Police official’s response when she told him about the February 18, 2009, incident.

“He said it was not a good bust,” Custudio said. “He said, `We don’t use minors in the operative.’ I was devastated.”

The boy, identified in the suit only as Roe, was told to buy drugs from a suspected drug dealer even though the plan was not authorized by police, according to the lawsuit filed in January 2010.

His parents, identified in the complaint as Daniel C. and Reina C., sat behind their attorneys as they listened to the testimony.

According to the lawsuit, the sting was enacted after the boy told school administrators that a 14-year-old was selling marijuana on campus.

Without telling police, the administrators gave the 12-year-old cash and asked him to buy drugs, according to his parents, who are claiming emotional distress and loss of income.

Named as defendants along with Mejia in the lawsuit are Custudio Principal Joyce Edelson and the LAUSD.

In their court papers, defense attorneys say Porter Middle School officials believe they had an obligation to try and stop marijuana sales on campus and they did not intend any harm to the boy or his parents.

In her testimony, Custudio said Roe gave her a note stating the other boy had offered to sell him marijuana for $5.

“All it would take is $5 to get drugs off campus? I’ve got the money, problem solved,” Custudio said she told herself.

Custudio said she got permission from both Mejia and Edelson to go ahead with the plan. Edelson’s response was, “Go for it,” she said.

The woman said she did not consider the alternative approach of demanding that the alleged marijuana seller let her search his pockets and backpack.

“I know well enough he’s not going to put it in a place where I’m allowed to search,” she said.

Custudio at times bristled at the questioning by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Alexander Calfo, criticizing him even for his syntax. The contentious exchanges prompted Judge Terry Green to, at one point, excuse the jury and ask Custudio not to make an issue of Calfo’s grammar.

The 35-year LAUSD veteran repeatedly defended her actions, saying she believed at the time that she was doing something good for the school.

“I saw it as a good way of getting drugs off campus to protect my kids,” she said.

  • Daniel Thomas

    Can you say this is a case of the over-educated attempting to be over-achiever. Your specialty is education and obviously not the law or policing.

    • Really

      Agreed, Daniel. This had no business happening without law enforcement and especially the parents of a minor who I’m sure wouldn’t have allowed it.

      • alan hart

        How are you sure the parents wouldn’t have allowed it. Stop speaking for people you don’t know. Some parents actually care about their children!

    • Daniel Thomas

      What if the 14-year old decided to rob Roe of the $5. then what would be your response if during the course of the robbery Roe was hurt or worse?

  • Brian

    What was she thinking? Is she CRAZY??? WRONG MOVE lady. You don’t use someone else’s kid in your sting operation. You shouldn’t even use your own kid. You shouldn’t conduct your own sting operation. That’s what the police are for. She gets an “F” and should be fired for showing such a lack of judgment.

  • Dean Defends Using Student, 12, In Drug Bust Without Police, Parent Approval | Los Angeles for Me

    […] Without telling police, the administrators gave the 12-year-old cash and asked him to buy drugs, according to his parents, who are claiming emotional distress and loss of income. More from:… […]

  • Give me a break

    She may not have made the best choice but she did what she had to do and I don’t think she should be punished. It doesn’t say the kid was against helping and no one was hurt. We need more people like her to stand up and take control. Teachers are told to do everything else and are criticized when they don’t. Then when one does something helpful she gets blasted. Teachers can’t win either way.

    • Rod

      This lady had might have had good intentions but she lacked a serious amount of common sense. Being the dean of the middle school, she should have made a better judgement call.

    • LA Momma

      So if a child reports bullying, weapons or drugs to a teacher, the teacher should have the CHILD recreate the incident in order to ENTRAP another CHILD? Wrong answer !
      Think about if it were YOUR child… do you want your child to be used in this manner when your child should be SAFELY studying?
      It’s really too bad that soo many administrators with poor judgment happened to be at the same school at the same time.

  • Philip Porembski

    the law is the reason people are breaking laws

  • John Helsdon

    This has got to be one of the most dense public employees I have ever heard of. Since when does a school official have the right or permission to conduct a criminal sting operation using minors. She should be fired and charged with many crimes including child endangerment.

  • alan hart

    “we don’t use minors in drug busts” really means, we are not really interested in actually doing anything. We will pick who and when we do anything.

    If you really want to stop the use of drugs, make them legal and take the “cool” factor out of it. Legalizing also takes the profit out of drug dealing.

    • Scott

      So make it legal for minors? That removes the cool factor?? Hmmm, oh wait, alcohol is legal for adults and it removed the cool factor, right? Cool has nothing to do with it! We can talk about maiking MJ legal via other reasons but not the “cool factor.” All school amin. types know you cannot perform stings and the like. The law is clear about how to go about this. The school did however, have the authority, via the Welfare and Institutions Code (but did not use it) to search the suspect studetn’s locker, back pack etc… The probelm would have been solved…

  • JP

    these are “school politics”, in which two students, one in serious need of slanging lessons and the other in need of good moral scaffolding, were served with the authority needed.
    the boy with the note needs to feel part of something bigger than him and has taken the initiative, done the right things and gone to the administration with an issue. making him understand that ‘ the right thing to do is not always the easy thing to do ‘ requires more than just a pat on the back, he needs to be involved, own up to the moment.
    the dealer, should not be given an excuse for his behavior. setting the dean of this learning institution on this premise of wrong doing is not right. she is an educated adult, more than i can say about halve our police department, even if it is school police, fully capable of teaching a young man how to be a real man. remmem. these are LAteens who need guidance on how to be humble and right doing individuals through out life.
    – this to me is instilling life long values in the kids. what does one want the kids to really knw…? ‘ im proud of u… today u did something good. not everyone has the courage to stand up and help do the right thing. / we are also suing ur dean for helping u do the right thing.-
    makes no sense to me…

  • HollywoodSaint

    I think everyone involved was a little high themselves..I think the sting operator is a mad stoner!!

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