Sigma Beta Xi v. County of Riverside (Youth Probation)
In July 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the ACLU Foundations of Southern California, Northern California, and San Diego and Imperial Counties, along with the law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP and the National Center for Youth Law, sued the County of Riverside on behalf of students and the non-profit mentoring organization Sigma Beta Xi.
The lawsuit argued that the county's Youth Accountability Team (YAT) program spent millions of dollars funneling children into an unconstitutional probation system that denied them their due process rights and subjected them to oppressive, invasive policies, such as surprise searches, unannounced home visitations, strict restrictions on who participants can speak to, curfews, and interrogations into intimate details of their lives. The program punished students for minor misbehavior, and was much more likely to be applied to students of color.
A historic settlement was reached in July 2019. Under terms of the settlement, the county will no longer enroll youths in the probation program — with its oppressive tactics such as surprise searches, unannounced home visitations, restrictions on who participants could speak to, and interrogations into intimate details of participants' lives — for adolescent, non-criminal behavior such as talking back to school officials, truancy, or academic problems. The settlement calls for youths accused of committing crimes to receive due process protections, including the appointment of a defense lawyer upon referral to a diversion program such as YAT. It also requires that the County implement positive incentives instead of punitive restrictions, and engage in transparent, open communication with students and their families.