A parent of a former Countryside Elementary student is suing Edina Public Schools for an alleged “excessive, unnecessary, unreasonable and unwarranted” strip search of a second-grader.
The lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court Aug. 30, alleges that in the spring of the 2017-18 school year, district employees conducted a search of the boy’s rectal area in an effort to determine whether he had defecated on the floor of the student bathroom. Marshall Tanick, attorney for the plaintiff, argues there was no probable cause for the search and that the student who was allegedly subject to the search had not, in fact, defecated on the bathroom floor.
The school district is refraining from extensive comment on the matter as litigation is pending. “However,” Edina Public Schools contends in a statement, “the district vehemently denies the allegations in this lawsuit and will defend itself from these inaccurate and misleading claims.”
The lawsuit is two-pronged. In addition to seeking monetary compensation for the alleged strip search, the suit demands that the school district release to the plaintiff a full report of the incident, which Tanick says has been withheld up to this point.
According to Tanick, the district commissioned its own investigative report, but gave the plaintiff a version in which most of the document’s conclusion – the most vital part of the report, the attorney says – was redacted.
“They won’t tell them what happened, why it happened and how it happened,” Tanick said.
“ … They said because the investigation was done by an attorney, it was covered by some type of attorney-client privilege”
Tanick argues that data practice law dictates the parent should be allowed to see the full report.
“This is not a case about money,” Tanick said. “We’re mainly concerned about getting the report.”
The plaintiff points to district policy stating searches like the one alleged in the suit can only be conducted in scenarios involving “imminent danger” or an “emergency health situation.”
With those conditions absent, the parents gave no authorization for the search, Tanick says. “They didn’t tell the parents before, during, or after,” he said.
It was several months before the parents found out about the search, Tanick added.
Further explaining why the lawsuit was not filed until well over a year after the alleged incident, the attorney said, “We had some discussion with the school about this situation and tried to resolve it.”
The lawsuit seeks in excess of $50,000 in damages for each of the lawsuit’s six counts, including violation of the Minnesota Data Practices Act, invasion of privacy, and infliction of mental and emotional distress. The suit also includes counts of assault – in the form of causing “apprehension of fear or bodily harm” for the boy – and battery, for “unpermitted touching.”
In its defense, the district issued the following contention:
“District staff acted to support this student, and it is unfortunate that this matter has progressed to this point based on significant misunderstandings of the District’s actions. District staff at all times has the best interests of its students as their primary focus and goal, and the District remains committed to providing the best possible education and environment for its students.”
– Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent