Home School Legal Defense Association
P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134
For Immediate Release Contact: Sandra Kim
August 20, 2020 (540) 338-8864
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—When there is no reason to believe a child has been harmed, it is unconstitutional for an investigator to coerce entry into a family’s home without a warrant and strip-search the children once inside, said a federal district court in Louisville yesterday.
The opinion was issued as part of a civil rights lawsuit brought by Holly Curry and her children, which arose out of a quick stop to buy muffins on a cool day in March of 2017. Holly had left her children sleeping in the family van for no more than ten minutes while she went into a café. Someone observed Holly leave the children in the van and called the police.
An officer arrived on the scene and advised Holly not to leave her children unattended in the future. He then sent her on her way without filing any charges. He did say he was required to file a report with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which would likely send a child-protective investigator to her home.
The next day, investigator Jeanetta Childress came to Holly’s home and demanded to be allowed inside to inspect the children. When Holly said no, not without a warrant, Childress left and came back with a sheriff’s deputy, Michael Furnish, whom she recruited to help her get inside the home.
Childress and Furnish threatened to take Holly’s kids if she did not allow them inside. Holly relented to prevent them from taking her children.
Once inside, Childress inspected the children’s bodies, including their genitals, while Furnish assisted, even though, as the judge said, “Childress lacked even a shadow of probable cause that the Curry’s physically abused their children.”
Childress closed the investigation as “unsubstantiated,” but she telephoned Holly later and said, “If we ever get a call against your family again, bad things will happen to you, and we’ll take your children.”
Holly sued in federal district court for the violation of her family’s right to be secure in their own home under the Fourth Amendment.
Childress and Furnish asked the court to dismiss Holly’s case, arguing that they were immune from being held liable. By rejecting that argument, the court has allowed the case to go to trial.
“The court’s ruling should put a stop to this all-too-common practice by CPS investigators,” said attorney James R. Mason of the Home School Legal Defense Association, who represented the Currys. “Childress actually testified that she should automatically strip-search any child who was four or under,” Mason continued. “Not anymore; not anywhere in the commonwealth.”
No trial date has been set. The court’s opinion may be read here.