|For Immediate Release May 20, 2008
MILWAUKEE BUREAU OF CHILD WELFARE VIOLATES RIGHTS OF PRIVATE SCHOOL PARENTS AND STUDENTS -- AGAIN
WAUKESHA, Wisconsin. May 20, 2008. On May 19, the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Michael C. v. Dana Gresbach.* The decision upholds a lower court ruling that Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare case worker Dana Gresbach violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a brother and sister when she partially disrobed and viewed them at the private school where they were enrolled in the third grade. The family is represented by First Freedoms Foundation general counsel Michael Dean and Liberty Counsel general counsel Stephen Crampton.
The case arose in 2003 when someone antagonistic to the family filed an allegation of child abuse. The parents fully cooperated with police, who investigated and found no basis for the complaint. However, Gresbach later went to Good Hope Christian Academy where the children were enrolled and asked to see them without their parents' knowledge. Principal Cheryl Reetz asked to call the parents and to be present during the interviews but, following Bureau protocol, Gresbach refused and said that wouldn't be necessary and that she would contact the parents later.
Reetz brought the children to be interviewed by Gresbach, but besides talking to them, Gresbach also told them to partially disrobe so she could check for marks or bruises. Gresbach did not tell Reetz what she intended to do and did not obtain Reetz's permission to disrobe the children. Gresbach later contacted the children's parents, who were extremely upset that a stranger had told the children to disrobe - something they had warned the children that a stranger was never to do.
The family then filed suit in federal district court, which held Gresbach personally liable for disrobing the children without consent of their parents or Reetz. Gresbach appealed, claiming that following Bureau protocol was "reasonable" and that the law was unclear that her actions violated 4th Amendment rights. The 7th Circuit disagreed, finding that the law had been well settled in Doe v. Heck, a 2003 decision issued by the 7th Circuit in an earlier case filed by Dean and Crampton over a similar investigation by the Bureau in 1998.
Dean stated, "We've been telling the Bureau for 10 years that their procedures violate basic 4th Amendment rights. They spent a lot of money on junkets and conferences after Doe came down, but nothing changed. Social service agencies have done whatever they like for so long that they've never bothered to create constitutional procedures that safeguard parental rights. We hope today's decision in Michael C. will be the incentive they need to take the constitution seriously."
|Who is First Freedoms Foundation?
|First Freedoms Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation whose mission is to defend historic civil liberties and constitutional principles through public interest litigation and education.
FFF's goals are to defend core freedoms and constitutional principles in court and to educate the public about constitutional rights and principles, the impact of the judicial branch and court decisions, and the importance of judicial elections and appointments.