Three years ago, a child protective services (CPS) investigator and sheriff’s deputy threatened their way into Josiah and Holly Curry’s home, and their six young children were strip-searched—one day after a town police officer had seen the children and confirmed they were fine. The experience was shattering.
Now, a federal judge has ruled that the Currys will get their day in court.
I could try to summarize the judge’s opinion for you, but frankly, I couldn’t do it any better than the judge did in his conclusion:
Act One: An “attentive and loving” mother gets muffins for her children. Act Two: There’s a knock on her door and a threat by the government to take away her children. Act Three: Her children are strip-searched without cause. America’s founding generation may never have imagined a Cabinet for Health and Family Services. But they knew their fair share of unwelcome constables. And they added a Fourth Amendment to our Constitution to protect against this three-act tragedy.
This is a huge win for the Currys, but there is more work to be done. Although the Currys now have the go-ahead to proceed to trial, the investigator and deputy could appeal that decision, setting up a court battle before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The good news is that the judge’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion for summary judgment has positioned the Currys well if there is an appeal. Taking aim at the warrantless entry into the Currys’ home, the judge said that the law is clear “an officer’s baseless threat to take a suspect’s child ‘constitute[s] an improper police action’” in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The judge was even more emphatic when it came to the strip searches of the Currys’ six children. Recognizing that “strip searches of children implicate ‘the fundamental dignity of a young person’s body,’” the judge
found substantial evidence for a jury that the investigator “lacked even a shadow of probable cause that the Currys physically abused their children,” making those strip searches “clearly unconstitutional.”
Even more troubling for the judge was the fact that in her deposition the investigator “repeatedly testified that she believed she should ‘automatically’ strip search any child who was four or under. The Constitution protects against that approach to children’s privacy, and no reasonable social worker could think otherwise.”
Focusing on Rights
The Currys’ case did not directly involve homeschooling, but the Fourth Amendment right we all have to be secure in our homes from unreasonable searches and seizures is absolutely essential to the survival of homeschooling. We live in a time when there is both a historic interest in home education and a growing push to presumptively ban it for almost every family through measures that include multiple unannounced home visits.
“For almost forty years, HSLDA has come alongside thousands of families to protect children’s interest in the privacy and dignity of their homes,” says HSLDA President Mike Smith. “Child welfare investigations can play an important role in protecting children from abuse or neglect. But that is not what happened to the Currys. The individuals who are entrusted with the protection of children should not be allowed to inflict the very harm they are meant to prevent.”
The opponents of homeschooling nearly won a victory in the Sixth Circuit earlier this year. Cases like the Currys’ are how we stop them from winning again.