A Justice Department investigation led the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to suspend its CleanSWEEP program at approximately 100 campuses across the county.
Launched on three high school campuses in 1999, CleanSWEEP was touted by the SBCSD as a “one-of-a-kind,” one-of-a-kind, comprehensive, and comprehensive effort to protect students across the county.
The program is disciplinary in nature and designed to deal with minor infractions in a school setting through non-criminal procedures, with an emphasis on keeping students in school and not suspending or expelling them.
The Sheriff’s Department this week sent a letter to all participating CleanSWEEP school districts, notifying them of the suspension.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Mara Rodriguez said school districts that participated in CleanSWEEP included several in the High Desert/Mojave Desert, including Apple Valley, Helendale, Lucerne Valley, Needles, Oro Grande, Silver Valley, Trona and Victor Valley.
Other districts include Alta Loma, Bear Valley, Chaffey, Colton, Morongo, and Rim of the World.
Letter from Sheriff Shannon D. Dicus
Sheriff Shannon D. Dicus sent a letter to all participating CleanSWEEP school districts, notifying them of the suspension. The letter contained the following information:
Effective immediately, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is suspending the CleanSWEEP program and also asking you to immediately cease all CleanSWEEP activities on your campuses.
“I feel compelled to take this step out of an abundance of caution and to better focus our ongoing response to DOJ requests and requests,” Dicus said.
Recently, the California Department of Justice informed the SBCSD that it was investigating CleanSWEEP in light of “certain concerns expressed to the DOJ” about the program. Discus said.
“Although we repeatedly asked what these concerns were, the DOJ unfortunately refused to tell us,” Dicus said. “Nevertheless, my department worked diligently with the DOJ.”
Over the past few months, the department has provided many relevant records, documents and information, Dicus said.
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“We hope these unknown concerns are either unfounded or can be resolved through collaborative efforts, focused on positive student outcomes,” Discus said.
“In the meantime, please know that the Sheriff’s Department and all of our staff genuinely care about the well-being of our students. We value and appreciate our partnerships within the county and look forward to continuing our work with you to provide safe learning environments.”
The DOJ did not return messages from the Daily Press regarding the investigation.
VVUHSD Civil Rights Inquiry
The DOJ investigating the SBCSD may stem from actions that occurred last month when the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated the Victor Valley Union School District.
The Daily Press reported that the VVUHSD had reached a resolution agreement to end racial discrimination in the implementation of school discipline, according to the Office for Civil Rights.
The Civil Rights Office determined that the VVUHSD discriminated on the basis of race in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by disciplining black students more frequently and harshly than white students. The Civil Rights Office opened the investigation into VVUSD in 2014.
The Voluntary Resolution Agreement requires the district to review its disciplinary policies and procedures, train its staff in them, and develop and implement a corrective action plan to ensure nondiscrimination in student discipline.
The resolution letter mentioned how black students were treated harsher in discipline than white students, and how black students received citations more frequently through the CleanSWEEP program.
The Civil Rights Bureau reported that witnesses reported that the program disproportionately punished black students and that black students were punished more harshly than white students for dress code violations, “being loud”, “inappropriate behavior and school absenteeism.
The CleanSWEEP program is described as the only juvenile citation-based program in the nation that allows school administrators to write real citations for students who break the law on campus.
Students receive citations for crimes such as littering and possessing tobacco and alcohol products, face fines, but they also face the kind of diversion programs that can help them stay out of trouble with the law in the future, the SBCSD said.
Students at participating CleanSWEEP schools know in advance that citations may be issued by administrators, and students first receive a verbal warning when caught in an act that could have resulted in a ticket.
Deputies review each citation before signing it, and they ensure that it is properly drafted, with all elements of the alleged crime included. MPs can always reject a ticket if it is not adequate in any way.
Additionally, quotes written by CleanSWEEP’s “quote writers” are all treated as offenses in court, even though the off-campus crimes themselves would be treated as a misdemeanor by a deputy.