Supreme Court Weighs Parental Rights Abuses by Social Workers, Police

Washington, D.C. – The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a pair of cases that could restrict the authority of social workers to interview and examine children without their parents’ knowledge and consent. Pacific Justice Institute filed an amicus brief in the cases in support of parental rights.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, stated, “For years, we have heard from outraged parents whose children have been subjected to invasive questioning and embarrassing physical examinations at school and elsewhere, without the parents’ knowledge or consent. These cases are a critical opportunity to restrict unchecked governmental power and reassert parental authority.”

The cases arose in Oregon, where a social worker and police officer went to a child’s elementary school, pulled her out of class, and interrogated her for more than an hour about alleged abuse by her father. The child later said she only agreed that her father had abused her because the social worker would not accept any other response. The child was later removed from the home by the social worker and subjected to being undressed and invasively examined, and her mother was refused permission to be anywhere near her during the exam.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the social worker and police officer were shielded from liability for the interrogation at school, but that the social worker violated the Constitution by preventing the mother from being near her daughter during the physical examination, and that a jury should decide whether the social worker lied in order to get a court order removing the children from their home.

The Supreme Court is also considering another case this year that seeks to apportion liability between the State of California and the County of Los Angeles for trampling the rights of parents who were initially accused of child abuse by a rebellious teenager but later found to be completely innocent. In that case, the Ninth Circuit harshly criticized California’s Child Abuse Central Index. The CACI lists hundreds of thousands of Californians, preventing them from getting jobs, when many of them have never been charged—much less convicted—of child abuse or any other crime.

Dacus noted, “There is no question our society has a problem with child abuse that should be aggressively prosecuted and punished. The problem is that, unlike every other type of crime, parents are presumed guilty until proven innocent, and the government often destroys good families based on unfounded allegations that are never proved. We are hopeful the Supreme Court will restore the balance that is currently missing in this important area of the law.”

The amicus brief filed on behalf of Pacific Justice Institute was authored by prominent California parental rights attorneys Dennis Atchley, Donnie Cox, Shawn McMillan, David Beauvais and Paul Leehey.