Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nashville Schools Ordered to Cease Searches and Examinations by Nurses Until Proper Training and Policy in Place

A school nurse in the Davidson County public schools in Nashville, Tennessee, subjected a female student to a medically unjustified genital examination in the presence of a school official.  The girl's parents challenged the examination as a violation of her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.  The case went to trial and the jury found for the defendants.  The parents moved for a new trial, which the court in Hearring v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., 2014 WL 3924520 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 11, 2014), denied.  The court, however, did grant the plaintiff an injunction as to future examinations by the district.  The court found that the staff were insufficiently trained and the district had adopted insufficient standards to prevent unwarranted invasions of privacy. 

The court adopted the standard set forth in City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 109 S. Ct. 1197 (1989), which states that "in light of the duties assigned to specific officers or employees the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymakers of city can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need." The court, thus, enjoined the district from any further examinations or searches until the necessary school officials have been thoroughly and properly trained on the rights of students under the 4th and 14th amendments. The court further ordered the school district to implement such training. Relying on New Jersey v. T.L .O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985) and Safford Unified School Dist. No. 1 v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364 (2009), the court indicated the district must ensure that "‘other safeguards' are available ‘to assure that the individual's reasonable expectation of privacy is not ‘subject to the discretion of the official in the field,’ and that school officials 'limit the intrusiveness of a search, ‘in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction.’ ”


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