HSLDA Media Release
March 12, 2001

North Carolina Family
Holds Social Services to Constitution

For immediate release
March 12, 2001
Contact: Rich Jefferson
(540) 338-8663 or media@hslda.org

RALEIGH-Home schoolers across the country will be watching when a North Carolina family defends its constitutional right to privacy Tuesday, March 13, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Although the facts of the case focus on a child, who, in typical two-year-old fashion, left her house undressed to chase a new pet early one morning, there are critical issues at stake.

Jim and Mary Ann Stumbo of Kings Mountain, North Carolina insist that the Constitution protects the privacy of their home. The Cleveland County Department of Social Services contends that social workers are not subject to the Constitution. The trial court took the side of social services.

The question to be answered by the appeals court is whether social workers are bound to obey the U.S. Constitution. Federal courts have already ruled in other cases that social workers are subject to the Constitution (see http://www.hslda.org/, and search for Calabretta v. Floyd).

The case arose in Cleveland County, NC, on Sept. 9, 1999, when the Stumbo's daughter, behaving as a normal two-year-old, failed to put all her clothes on before running out the front door to pursue her pet kitten. Her older brother saw her and quickly brought the little girl back in the house, but someone was already complaining to the authorities.

Soon, a social worker drove up to the family's home on a 10-acre lot on a dead-end street. The social worker did not have a warrant to enter the home or examine the children as required by the Constitution. Nevertheless, she demanded to examine all the children. The family, after contacting the Home School Legal Defense Association, declined. When the case went to trial, the court ordered the family to immediately comply with the demands of the social worker.

According to the lower court, the Fourth Amendment only "applies to criminal action and to the state," but not to social workers (see http://www.hslda.org/, and search for Stumbo). The lower court also said that social workers investigating child abuse are not "state actors," and are therefore not subject to the Constitution.

"The bottom line is that North Carolina's social workers seem to believe they don't have to obey the Constitution when investigating child abuse," said Michael Farris, chairman and general counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association. "The federal courts have said that social workers are not a law unto themselves. They must obey the Constitution, just like the rest of us."

Farris will present the Stumbo's case Tuesday, March 13, 2001, at 9:30 a.m. in Raleigh at the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

 Other Resources

More information on the Stumbo case