Thursday , August 09, 2007
EAST CHICAGO, Ind. —Parents say their children were strip-searched at a city-run day camp by counselors who were searching for $140 that disappeared from another worker's backpack.
April Hinton said her 8-year-old son told her about the search that happened at the Martin Luther King Center last week.
The camp director who ordered the search has been suspended, and an investigation by the city Human Resources Department is expected to end this week, city spokesman Damian Rico said Wednesday.
"We are interviewing everybody that was involved. Parents, workers, everyone," Rico said.
Rose Jefferson said her 9-year-old son called her from the center last Monday as the searches were taking place.
"He ran to the front desk and told him what was happening, and they let him call home," Jefferson said. "He called me and said, 'Mama, they want me to take my clothes off.'
"I said you don't take your clothes off for anybody. Come on home."
Jefferson said her son continues to go to the center, though the incident has made her question the judgment of camp managers.
"It's a good camp. It keeps the kids off the streets," she said. "But that had something like this in the winter, when they made the kids take their socks and shoes off for a search, and that ain't right either."
Ivan Bodensteiner, a civil rights lawyer and Valparaiso University Law School professor, said even law enforcement officers have fairly limited powers to strip-search suspects.
"Government would have a very difficult time justifying a strip search of kids just because they happened to be around when some money was stolen," he said.