El Paso County, Colorado — The Christian parents of a 16-year-old girl have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the government violated their right to privacy when it pursued the family over allegations that the girl had been spanked with a light rod.
According to the lawsuit, the parents, who are not being identified, discovered last year that their daughter was sending sexually explicit messages to her boyfriend on her cell phone.
“In addition to the texting, Girl Doe 1 confessed that she had lied to the school about her whereabouts on repeated occasions, broken other school rules, engaged in both physical sexual activity in the school and in sexting — sending naked pictures of herself and extensive pornographic text exchanges,” it outlines.
After confronting their daughter, on two occasions, the parents spanked the girl with “20 swats on the backside with a light rod.” They kept her home the following day as they worked with her in determining how to keep her out of further trouble.
In one instance, “the School Resource Officer, Deputy Dennis Coates, came to check on Girl Doe 1 because of an anonymous report. He interviewed her in her home and reported she said nothing that raised his concern for her safety.”
However, the next day, Joanna McAfee from the Department of Human Services was dispatched to the residence to investigate allegations of child abuse. She told the parents that she needed to meet with her daughter privately, and so the two met in the garage where the girl admitted to the social worker that she had marks on her buttocks from the spanking.
McAfee, however, then asked the girl to remove her clothing so that she could take photographs of the marks on her bottom.
“Girl Doe 1 refused to undress,” the lawsuit states. “She said to Ms. McAfee, ‘I want proof that I have to do this.’ She also requested written proof that Ms. McAfee had that authority. She also told Ms. McAfee that it was gross and embarrassing.”
The parents claim that McAfee then requested that the mother force the girl to strip.
“Ms. McAfee stated that any marks on Girl Doe 1 needed to be documented, and that if Girl Doe 1 would not cooperate, she would call law enforcement,” the lawsuit outlines. Girl Doe 1 replied, ‘Do what you have to.'”
The police were then called to the residence, who also attempted to coerce the girl to drop her bottoms.
Later, the mother and daughter fled to Kansas, and McAfee went to the school of the younger children to take them into custody.
“All three children started crying and became hysterical,” the suit states. “Girl Doe 2 kept screaming and asking to see her friend. Boy Doe 3 screamed as well, and Boy Doe 4 was very scared. Girl Doe 2 kept screaming, ‘You don’t have a right to do this. I know my rights.'”
The children were then taken to the Department of Social Services, and when they saw their father, they broke away from the social workers and pled for him to take them elsewhere as they feared for their safety. He then drove them to their grandparents’ house in North Carolina. Meanwhile, the mother and teenage daughter returned home, where they were greeted by police.
“[T]he Colorado State Patrol performed a felony stop with several police cars involved,” the complaint explains. “They drew their guns and pointed their guns at Mother and Girl Doe 1.”
El Paso County Department of Human Services then directed Human Services in North Carolina to remove the children from the grandparents’ home.
“Children were made to stay at a teen shelter instead of with their grandparents,” the parents state. “At the shelter, [Doe 2] had to share a room with two girls. One had knifed her own father. The other was a cutter, whose arm was covered with fresh cuts. This girl was very upset and asked Girl Doe 2 to sing her to sleep, which she did.”
The family was eventually reunited, but both parents were arrested on child abuse charges. The father, in order to avoid kidnapping charges, pled guilty and spent two months behind bars.
They are now suing, among others, two El Paso County caseworkers, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and the Monument Police Department for violations of their constitutional rights.