Parents of 8-Year-Old Suing School Over Strip Search

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:19pm EDT

( - The parents of an eight-year-old Colorado boy are suing his former elementary school for allegedly strip-searching him to look for signs of child abuse.

Based on a complaint, Nick Tassitano's teacher along with Vice Principal Greg Grote of Odea Elementary School in Fort Collins pulled him into an office and pulled down his pants. Grote "took my underwear and looked if there were any scars or scratches," the boy said.

The boy's father, Jim Tassitano, said child protective services never contacted him or his wife before the strip search, and the school insists it did nothing wrong.

"[School officials] said that because child services was involved, they weren't allowed to say anything," Tassitano reported. "Child services, on the other hand, says that they weren't involved and that they would never ask the school to do any such thing, and nobody from the school will talk to us in any regard."

Tassitano said his son is doing well and has not seen a counselor about the incident.

"Actually he's very resilient, he's a very happy boy," Tassitano said. "So long as I don't see any indication that he's scarred in any way, I don't see that it's necessary."

According to John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, an international legal and educational organization dedicated to preserving human rights and defending civil liberties, the Tassitanos have a strong case.

"I think that this is so egregious," Whitehead said. "Just random strip searching of children, I think it's an illegal seizure under the First Amendment, and I also think it's a gross violation of personal privacy."

Whitehead added, "As far as parents rights go...before these kind of activities happen, I think parents need to be notified that their children are actually being stripped nude...we all want to know that as parents."

Whitehead went on to say that the school's actions violated Nick's rights, also.

"Supposedly social services had not even requested the search," he said. "There has to be some kind of probable cause, and since no one's saying here it looks like maybe they didn't have probable cause.

"This may have been a random type activity, and if such, it's just really grossly violated of personal privacy and the constitutional rights of this child and the parents," he said.

Neither Principal Paul Havenar nor Vice Principal Greg Grote could comment on advice of their attorney, George Hass, who represents the Poudre School District. Calls to attorney George Hass were not returned.

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