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Social Worker Forced Entry
November 21, 2014 permalink
When a CPS worker returned to the home of Laura and Jason Hagan for a follow-up visit, the parents refused to let them in without court authority. The worker called for police help. While their three children were watching, police repeatedly pepper sprayed and tasered the parents and the family dog, continuing their assault even after being alerted of Jason's recent hospital visit for chest pains. Police charges of resisting arrest were dismissed by the local court, and the parents are now suing the police officers.
Parents Tasered, Sprayed, Handcuffed—as Kids Watch
Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:
On November 14, 2014, Home School Legal Defense Association filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Chief Sheriff’s Deputy David Glidden and Sheriff Darren White of the sheriff’s department of Nodaway County, Missouri. The suit charges Glidden and White with unlawfully forcing their way into the home of HSLDA members Laura and Jason Hagan on September 30, 2011, in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
A child protective services (CPS) caseworker had been inside the home several days earlier to investigate a report of a messy house and had returned for a follow-up visit. When Jason and Laura declined to allow her inside she summoned Glidden and White.
When Deputy Glidden arrived at the Hagans’ home he demanded to be allowed inside. Jason opened the door and told Glidden that he could not enter unless he had a court order.
Glidden said he would enter anyway.
At the Front Door
As Jason turned to go back inside, Glidden sprayed him with pepper spray—first at the back of his head and then directly in his face. Glidden also sprayed Laura, who fell to the floor. Glidden then turned to Jason, who was still standing, and shot him in the back with his Taser. As Jason fell, Laura closed the front door. Glidden triggered the Taser three more times through the closed door.
Sheriff White joined Glidden on the front porch. Together they forced open the door and found Laura and Jason lying on the floor. Glidden sprayed Laura in the face a second time while White sprayed Jason and tried to turn him over onto his stomach.
Laura shouted to the officers that Jason had been taken to the emergency room earlier in the week for chest pains. White nevertheless continued attempting to turn Jason over and sprayed him a third time when he was unsuccessful. The officers also sprayed the Hagans’ dog with chemical agent and threatened to shoot it if it didn’t stop barking.
Finally, the officers handcuffed and arrested Laura and Jason and charged them with resisting arrest and child endangerment.
All of this took place in front of the Hagans’ three young children, who were then taken to the emergency room to be evaluated for exposure to pepper spray.
No Child-Welfare Exception to the Fourth Amendment
At Jason and Laura’s trial, the judge determined that White and Glidden had violated the Fourth Amendment when they forcibly entered the Hagans’ home without a warrant. “The State has not offered sufficient, if indeed any, evidence of an exception that would justify a warrantless entry,” the judge wrote in his ruling. The case against Laura and Jason was dismissed.
HSLDA is representing the Hagans in a lawsuit against the two officers who attacked Jason and Laura and terrified their three young children in their own home.
The Fourth Amendment strikes a carefully crafted balance between a family’s right to privacy and the government’s need to enforce the law. In most situations, government agents cannot simply force their way into a home. Instead, they must explain to a neutral magistrate why they need to enter the home, and they must provide real evidence to support that need. This rule applies to all government agents. Court after court has agreed that there is no social services exception to the Fourth Amendment.
All too often, law enforcement officers and child-welfare workers act as if the Fourth Amendment does not apply to CPS investigations. They are wrong. The Fourth Amendment is a legal shield that protects people from exactly the kind of mistreatment the Hagans endured.
HSLDA is firmly committed to protecting the front door against unlawful invasions. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said in HSLDA’s seminal Fourth Amendment case Calabretta v. Floyd, “The government’s interest in the welfare of children embraces not only protecting children from physical abuse, but also protecting children’s interest in the privacy and dignity of their homes and in the lawfully exercised authority of their parents.”
The court added, “The reasonable expectation of privacy of individuals in their homes includes the interests of both parents and children in not having government officials coerce entry in violation of the Fourth Amendment and humiliate the parents in front of the children.”
High Cost to Children
According to Doriane L. Coleman, a Duke University law professor, ignoring the Fourth Amendment rights of families during CPS investigations comes at a high cost to the very children government agents are supposed to be protecting. In her aptly-named article, Storming the Castle to Save the Children: The Ironic Costs of a Child-welfare Exception to the Fourth Amendment, Professor Coleman says that home investigations “epitomize deep intrusion[s] in both symbolic and actual respects.” They can shatter the innocence of even the youngest of children, causing a broad range of emotional responses, including “trauma, anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, stigmatization, powerlessness, self-doubt, depression, and isolation.” (47 William and Mary Law Review 444 (2005)).
All of this makes Fourth Amendment litigation a serious matter. It is a crucial part of defending our civil liberties. When HSLDA takes cases like the Hagans’, we do not intend to show disrespect for law enforcement officers. We know that they have a difficult job.
But there are rules, and they exist for a reason.
Law enforcement can only work if our officers follow the laws themselves. If we stand by and allow law enforcement to flagrantly disregard our Fourth Amendment rights, those rights will be eroded and eventually ignored. And real parents and real children will continue to be harmed.
Cases like this one don’t just protect the rights of one family. They protect the rights of everyone.
Would you please consider standing with Laura and Jason Hagan by supporting the HSLDA’s Homeschool Freedom Fund? Your tax-deductible donation will be used to pursue this and other civil-rights cases.
Thank you for all you do to support homeschooling and parental freedoms.
HSLDA Senior Counsel