An example of cognitive dissonance

               LAW OF THE LAND
               Judges rule against
               Case of 2-year-old 'streaker' goes
               next to state Supreme Court

               By Julie Foster
               ? 2001

               The North Carolina Court of Appeals
               ruled in a split decision that the parents
               of a 2-year-old "streaker" should have
               complied with a social worker's
               demands to enter the home and privately
               interview all their children.

               The ruling was announced yesterday by
               the Home School Legal Defense
               Association, which represents the
               parents. The appeals court issued its 2-1
               decision Tuesday afternoon, saying the
               social worker's demands did not
               constitute a "search" in the context of
               the Fourth Amendment, which says in its

               "The right of the people to be secure in
               their persons, houses, papers, and
               effects, against unreasonable searches
               and seizures, shall not be violated, and
               no Warrants shall issue, but upon
               probable cause, supported by Oath or
               affirmation, and particularly describing
               the place to be searched, and the persons
               or things to be seized."

               Home-schooling parents Jim and Mary
               Ann Stumbo of rural Kings Mountain,
               N.C., contend that social workers are
               bound to obey the U.S. Constitution and
               that a child-abuse investigation is a

               According to the majority opinion,
               however, the "case involves neither a
               search nor a seizure and, therefore, does
               not implicate respondents' Fourth
               Amendment rights."

               The case began on Sept. 9, 1999, when a
               2-year-old girl ran out of her family's
               home without any clothes on chasing a
               kitten at around 7 a.m. The toddler's
               older brother quickly brought the girl
               back inside, but an observer reported the
               family to child protective services.

               During the trial court proceedings,
               Cleveland County District Judge Anna
               Foster excluded testimony regarding the
               circumstances of the toddler's
               "streaking" episode as irrelevant, saying
               the case centered on the parents'
               interference with an investigation.
               Foster ultimately ruled that the social
               worker was not a "state actor," thus
               eliminating applicability of the Fourth

               The Fourth Amendment is intended to
               protect citizens from government
               actions, not those committed by
               individuals acting on their own
               authority. For example, if a burglar
               enters a home, searches for valuables
               and seizes property, no violation of the
               Fourth Amendment has occurred.
               Rather, the burglar, if caught, could be
               brought up under criminal charges.
               Government representatives, or "state
               actors" are specifically prohibited from
               unreasonable searches and seizures by
               the Constitution, unless probable cause
               exists and a warrant is issued containing
               details of the forthcoming search and

               Foster admitted in the lower-court
               proceedings that probable cause did not
               exist in the Stumbo case, but the social
               worker was not a state actor, so the
               Fourth Amendment did not apply, the
               judge ruled.

               The appeals court came to the same
               conclusion, but used a different tactic.
               Without addressing whether or not the
               social worker conducting the
               child-abuse investigation was a state
               actor, the court ruled that the
               investigation was not a "search" for
               Fourth Amendment purposes.

               Michael Farris, general counsel for
               HSLDA, represented the Stumbos at the
               appeals court.

               "It is outrageous for the court to say
               social workers are not state actors, or
               that the Fourth Amendment doesn't
               apply. We will argue before the state
               Supreme Court that this is a search and
               is subject to the Constitution," he said.

               Farris also pointed out that federal
               courts have already ruled in other cases
               that social workers are state actors. And
               HSLDA attorney Scott Summerville says
               the Stumbo case has raised "a nice, clean
               constitutional question that needs to be
               asked and answered."

               Because there was a dissenting opinion
               in the Stumbo appeal, the family is
               granted an automatic appeal to the state
               Supreme Court.

               Previous story:

               Parents of 2-year-old 'streaker' taken to

               Julie Foster is a staff reporter for