Lancaster mother Trina Howze is filing a lawsuit against Milton Hershey School over a strip search performed on her daughter, C. W., without her knowledge or consent. Howze filed the lawsuit March 12, 2014 to take the school and several individuals to federal court.
On June 10th, 2013, a school nurse strip searched C. W. in response to an allegation that the girl had a smart phone on her person. C. W. had lived at Milton Hershey school for nearly four years when the strip-search occurred.
Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA is a no-cost residential school serving low-income families, from preschool to 12th grade. Students live at the school in a household consisting of 10-14 other students their age and a married couple who oversee the group as “house parents.”
C. W. was strip searched by the school nurse after her house parents, Kenneth Wilson and Tysha Wilson, accused her of having a smartphone and took her to the nurse’s office at the student health center. The nurse then asked C. W. to remove her blouse and then touched her all over her body, including the chest, according to a local news report by Lebanon Daily News.
Trina Howze, C. W.’s mother, is seeking $75,000 plus punitive damages against the school and several individuals involved in the strip search incident. Howze’s lawsuit claims that her and her daughter’s civil rights were violated because the search was performed without her knowledge and out of her presence. The lawsuit also seeks damages for emotional distress, stating that “After the strip search, C.W., feeling violated, was visibly upset, crying and shaken” and then called her mother, as reported by Courthouse News Service.
Lisa Scullin, vice president for communications at Milton S. Hershey School could not yet comment on the lawsuit but said that “We take our student privacy rights seriously and work to balance those rights with our responsibility to care for students while they are at our school and living on our campus.”
Yet when Howze called the Wilsons to ask about the incident, house parent Tysha Wilson reportedly “advised Howze that C.W. does not have constitutional rights because she is in a private school and that the school is backed up by the Derry County Police Department; and ‘it is what it is, Ms. Howze.'”
The lawsuit seeks damages for violations of civil rights and due process, assault and battery, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence for failing to properly train school staff.
The strip search did not find a smartphone.