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A federal appeals court ruled that county doctors should not have examined children without parental consent.
In Mann v. County of San Diego, the parents sued after the County of San Diego took their kids and medically examined them. The parents soon won a decision against the county for not having sufficient evidence to take custody from them.
And then the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, saying the county violated the parents' and the kids' rights by doing gynecological and rectal exams on the children.
Mark and Melissa Mann sued the county for taking their four children and putting them in a temporary shelter. The county examined them for general health, not part of an investigation.
However, a doctor testified at trial that she and her staff looked for signs of abuse. That included gynecological and rectal exams without notice to the parents.
"The Mann children were subjected to invasive, potentially traumatizing procedures absent constitutionally required safeguards," Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote for the panel.
The county argued that the procedures did not offend the constitution, but the Ninth Circuit said they violated the parents' due process rights and the children's right to be free from unreasonable searches. However, the panel acknowledged, parental consent may not be necessary in emergencies or to preserve evidence.
Donnie Cox, an attorney for the family, told reporters that tens of thousands of children in the county have been subjected to such tests.
"They're placed in a frightening place that they have no idea where they are or why they're there and then they're taken into a room where strangers strip them naked and touch the private parts of their body that every parent tells the child, 'Don't let anybody touch you there,'" he said.
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