PJI to Court: Strip Search of Preschoolers Is Unreasonable

Denver, CO–Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief today that urges the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold parental rights in a case of state authorities strip searching a preschool child based on unfounded allegations of abuse.

A military family from Denver enrolled their child in the Head Start program, a federally funded preschool that meets on public school property. The child’s teacher perceived the father’s tough appearance of riding motorcycles and having several tattoos as an indication that he was a child abuser. Several allegations of abuse were recorded against the military working class family, which lead to a home search that concluded there were absolutely no signs of abuse.

However, a social worker proceeded to go to the school and strip search the child at the age of 3 in the presence of the teacher and another school employee. She found no bruising or other evidence of abuse. A second search was conducted by the social worker when the child was 4, this time continuously photographing the child, but again the search failed to produce any evidence of abuse.

The frightening experience of being coerced by unfamiliar adults in authority to expose herself and allow her body to be searched left the child humiliated and traumatized. When the mother asked why the school failed to notify her of the strip searches conducted on her child or to allow her to be present for the searches, the social worker informed her that parental rights are void upon suspicion of abuse, even suspicion as weak as an unspecific allegation from an unreliable source repeatedly proven wrong.

PJI’s brief argues that these searching procedures of a child have the same effect on the child as the abuse itself. It address the standard of reasonableness that should be considered in such situations and displays an array of evidence that these invasions of privacy are psychologically damaging for children.

Brad Dacus, President and Founder of PJI, stated, “No governmental authority should have the right to strip search preschoolers and violate parental rights based on unfounded allegations. We are honored to come along side this family and their attorneys in this important constitutional case.” 

The family is represented by Telios Law of Monument, Colorado.