Mom’s lawsuit says school strip-searched five-year-old daughter each day for weeks

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The mother of a five-year-old girl has sued a Tennessee school district in federal court because, she claims, a school nurse strip-searched her daughter on a daily basis without her knowledge or approval.

The plaintiff, Brandy Madden, is seeking unspecified compensatory damages from the Hamilton County Department of Education for “great emotional distress and suffering, humiliation and embarrassment and for all medical expenses past and future,” reports The Chattanoogan.

Madden’s daughter was five years old when the alleged events giving rise to the lawsuit occurred. She attended Apison Elementary School.

At some point, the unidentified girl was diagnosed with congenital herpes. In August 2012, a doctor signed off permitting her to go to school. Madden informed school officials in writing and provided information about the treatment plan.

On a Monday in November 2012, the complaint says, school officials contacted Madden and told her to leave work at once to pick up her daughter at school because “she was contagious.”

The school allegedly asked for a doctor’s note declaring that the five-year-old girl would not give herpes to others. A specialist in pediatric infectious diseases then wrote a note saying that the girl’s lesions were not contagious as long as they were covered.

Madden then asked that her daughter be allowed to go back to school.

The complaint says a school district health official then informed Madden that, actually, her daughter couldn’t return to school even with a doctor’s note.

Next, Madden asked the Apison Elementary school nurse how the school knew about lesions her daughter had. The answer, the suit claims, is that the school nurse “had been removing all of the minor plaintiff’s clothes on a daily basis for several weeks, looking at all areas of the minor plaintiff’s body, including her genitals.”

The suit says Madden was “shocked, upset and hurt to learn these facts,” according to The Chattanoogan.

The complaint adds that the daily searches were unwarranted and unauthorized.

It also alleges that Madden lost her job because she was forced to take excessive time off from work.

Madden’s attorney, Valerie Epstein, filed the lawsuit in November. Attorneys for the Hamilton County Schools have since responded, according to local NBC affiliate WRCB.

The school district alleged that the school nurse knew about the lesions because the girl was “unable to self-toilet and was therefore dependent upon school officials to change her diaper.”

Consequently, the district’s attorneys say, “this child had a diminished expectation of privacy such that any routine examination that school officials may have conducted during the course of routine diaper changing would not have violated any clearly established rights of the child.”

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Eric Owens