Schulkers v. Kammer, No. 19-5208 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
A family of two parents and five children alleged that social workers employed by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services violated their Fourth Amendment rights by subjecting the children to warrantless in-school interrogations without reasonable suspicion of child abuse. They also claimed violations of their Fourteenth Amendment rights by requiring adherence to a “Prevention Plan,” which constrained the mother’s ability to be alone with her children for approximately two months without any question as to her parental fitness and without any procedural protections.
The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment claims. The law governing in-school interviews by social workers was not clearly established at the time of the relevant conduct. The Fourth Amendment does govern a social worker’s in-school interview of a child pursuant to a child abuse investigation; at a minimum, a social worker must have a reasonable suspicion of child abuse before conducting an in-school interview when no other exception to the warrant requirement applies. The court affirmed the denial of qualified immunity on the procedural and substantive due process claims. The complaint alleged that the supervision restrictions were imposed for approximately two months after there was no longer any question as to parental fitness without any procedural protections; they abridged the parents’ clearly established right to the companionship and care of their children without arbitrary government interference.