Texas School Sued After Forcing “Smelly” Kid To Strip and Shower At School

In Texas, two school employees have been sued after they allegedly verbally abused a boy for being “smelly” and forced him to strip and shower in front of them. The boy was just eight years old and attended Peaster Elementary School. The child’s parents, Amber and Michael Tilley, also filed a police report but no charges were brought against the employees. The lawsuit names Peaster Independent School District and Peaster Elementary School employees Julie West and Debbie Van Rite in federal court in Fort Worth.

The complaint alleges that the boy was taken to the nurse’s office where the employees “began violently washing his body with a washcloth, scrubbing him over a large portion of his body, stuck cotton balls in his ears, all while ridiculing and harassing him about being ‘dirty.'”

If the complaint allegations are true, the treatment of the third grader is truly shocking. Indeed, I cannot imagine adults showering a child without parental notice and consent absent some immediate medical emergency. The case raises a curious line between civil and criminal laws. If a teacher forces a student to strip for pleasure, he is criminally charged. However, if he did so for “bad hygiene” and proceeded to hand wash the child, it is not a crime? I am not necessarily disagreeing with the decision not to charge the employees criminally. I have been critical of the over-criminalization of conduct and intent should be the dominant factor in such an analysis. I simply find it interesting in how such cases are divided between the civil and criminal dockets.

I believe the case probably does belong on the civil side and furthermore I cannot see a viable defense to such an action. A boy in the third grade would be highly traumatized by such an act. As the father of three boys and a girl under 13, I can attest to the intense privacy notions that kick in early with children. You can add feelings of shame and self-loathing that would likely come from such an extreme act. Expert testimony in the case could be devastating for the school district.

It will be interesting to see if the District tries to portray the two employees as “rogue employees” who acted without permission.

Such measures also warp a student’s sense of not just autonomy but authority. The school’s motto “Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow” has a chilling ring if this is what students are being taught about their rights as individual vis-à-vis the state.

Source: Courthouse News

47 thoughts on “Texas School Sued After Forcing “Smelly” Kid To Strip and Shower At School

  1. This indeed was cruel behavior and highly inappropriate conduct. However, I’d like to know why the boy was so dirty in the first place? Was he sent to school like that or did he get dirty on the schoolyard? It’s possible there was some parental neglect. If so the child protective authorities shoul have been called in. Something smells about the case.

  2. Mike S. said it correctly. If this was a neglect issue, the Texas department of child services should have been involved. What were these people smoking that made them think that they have the right to force any student, any age, to strip and then hand wash him? I think criminal charges might be appropriate here if the facts hold up under scrutiny.

  3. And if it *was* a neglect case, the teachers are mandated reporters in this state. That might be where the charges come into play–for taking matters into their own hands (pardon the pun) rather than following the law and reporting the issue.

  4. I think the cops should take another look at this. Two people stripping a child naked? I was going to say two women stripping a boy but as I substituted genders I realized that gender doesn’t matter. I don’t know the legal definition of assault but that’s what this seems to be to me.

    While general lack of hygiene may be the issue, I wonder if the child regularly eats middle eastern cuisine? Spices used in middle eastern cuisine can produce an odor that is offensive to some.

    Humiliation comes in many forms. My brother had problems with a teacher, Mrs. Jones. Seems he couldn’t do anything right. My father went to see the teacher to find out what was going on. Turns out he knew her as Miss Smith. He was about 14 and living in a foster home and there was not a lot of money. Miss Smith made him stand up in front of the class and proceeded to compare him to the kid from the wealthiest family. She started with his haircut (or lack thereof) and went to his very well worn shoes. My father went to the principal and told her that he would no longer be in Miss Smith’s class and she couldn’t make him. After the principal found out what happened my father spent English class in the principal’s office. My brother was no longer required to attend her class.

  5. Texas Family Code Chapter 261 lists the people required to report neglect and child abuse (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/) . Under that section, schools can be held civilly liable for failing to report. If this was indeed a case of a child with consistently poor hygiene, that should have been handled with Texas DHS, not by assaulting the child. Even if there was no sexual intent, there should still be grounds for assaulting a minor.

  6. From what I’ve heard it was worse than stated here….. I read one account where they spayed him with perfume……

  7. From the article in the link with the post:

    “P.T. was then forced to apply deodorant at the insistence of defendant West and Van Rite, who then told P.T. ‘if you ever come to school dirty again[,] we will strip you buck naked and throw you in the shower and scrub you down.'”
    The parents claim the defendant then warned their child that he and his backpack would be sprayed every morning so he would not smell.
    When he asked what they were going to spray him with, the defendants said, “it will kill you,” according to the complaint.
    ………….
    “These events have caused severe emotional trauma to P.T., to the extent that he is now in therapy and is exhibiting OCD-type behaviors, such as taking numerous baths a day, constantly cleaning his ears, and spraying himself with large amounts of cologne,” the complaint states. “P.T. has developed a phobia of getting physically too close to people, out of fear they will say he is dirty or smells, and is traumatized by attending school and continuing to be victimized.”

  8. Many years ago I had a co-worker with nonexistent hygiene. No one could stand to be near him. One day a gang of his fellows grabbed him and threw him in the shower. No lawsuits resulted but the guy was a bit cleaner afterwards.

  9. Had they tried a note home to the parents wondering if the child was having a hygiene problem? Hint hint.

    This was assault, a criminal offense. In loco parentis? Assault by a parent is still assault.

    Why do kids have less rights than adults to integrity?
    A primary trauma to children is not being respected as a person. All else is small. It happens constantly.

  10. The two employees certainly shouldn’t continue to be employees of the school district whatever else is going on, criminal or civil.

  11. I agree, Blouise. I suspect the parents were not people the employees of the school thought were important enough to worry about — if they complained, who cares? But it looks to me like a case of child battery. If the nurse thought there was a problem, he or she should have phoned the parents and explained the problem to them. Thereafter, proper procedures for school health standards should have been employed. What a pack of thugs!

  12. Idealist, your questions about children’s rights:

    Children have no property interests and no liberty interests.

    Therefore, all they have constitutionally are LIFE INTERESTS yet there is ZERO LIFE INTEREST litigation in American case law.

    None. Nada. Zilch. Zerooooo.

    “Life interest” is a term of art in the probate law, ONLY.

    The only people who have an “expressible” life interest are convicts on death row who have a measurable life interest until the time of their appointed deaths.

    Wow, thinka that.

    Bodily integrity — not in the constitution.
    Life interest — IN the constitution, but not expressible because never litigated.

    Go hire a lawyer to bring that one into court one day. Yeah. Go find one.

  13. With the serious problem with bullying it is not a far stretch to say the teathers could have saved this kids life. The parents shouldnt even be aloud to have a dog if they cant even take care of a kids basic needs. Are these the same people that sued mcdonalds for having coffee that was too hot? Get real.

  14. Here’s another tale of sexually predatory women victimizing male children under the guise of authority. Typical, typical, typical, but often covered up by feminists.

    Where is our society to drive these predators out of town on a rail?

    Female principal strip searches 10 year old student after he was FALSELY ACCUSED BY WOMEN of stealing $20. Worse: after the principal was proven wrong, she insisted on hugging the child.

    FALSE ACCUSATIONS against men are real, and significant, and disgusting, and are abuse, regardless of what your feminists pals tell you.

    Here we can see how the vaginocracy instills fear in male children and normalizes adule female male child rape behaviors.

    http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/11221117/

    Clinton third-grader strip-searched after being accused of stealing

    Clinton, N.C. — The mother of a Clinton third-grader says a school administrator went too far when she strip-searched her child after accusations that he stole from another student.

    Clarinda Cox says her 10-year-old son, Justin, a student at Union Elementary School, was ordered to take off everything but his T-shirt and boxer shorts on June 1 after a girl and several other students accused him of taking $20.

    Justin told his mother that a girl dropped the money and that he picked it up and gave it back to her, she said.

    “If I felt he needed to be searched, I would have brought him into the bathroom,” Cox said. “You could have had a witness in the bathroom with me. I would have searched my son.”

    The female assistant principal, Teresa Holmes, did not find the money, Cox said, and hugged Justin and apologized to him afterward. Holmes said the money was found underneath the lunchroom table.

  15. Given the economic circumstances of the time, I wonder if the family of the child might be living on the street or in a car with limited access to bathing facilities. There’s a lot we don’t know about the circumstances of the child. Whatever, it’s no excuse for how he was treated.

  16. This country is all about freedom of speech. But we should not have freedom to use our children as pawns to sue a school for being concerned over a childs neglectful parents.some of the us need to get the facts straight before we assume anything. Does it not occur to anyone that if this child had actually been stripped that these school employees would be in jail? Or they would have charges filled against them, or would even had been interviewed by law enforcement or cps? Does it not bother anyone that this family that made these accusations never even bothered to remove this boy from the school where this supposedly happened? Sounds a little orchestrated to me

  17. Mike,

    “However, I’d like to know why the boy was so dirty in the first place?”

    I’m not quite sure that I’m willing to trust the judgement of people who think it’s o.k. to strip and mock a child. He may not in fact have been “so dirty.”

  18. Gyges,

    I agree. In 2nd grade I had diarrhea and didn’t get permission to go to the boy’s room in time. I had to sit in my seat for what seemed like an interminable time in my own mess. When that damned teacher finally recognized my hand up and let me go, it probably was because she had smelled me. I felt so humiliated that I bolted from school and ran home even though it was 1:30pm.
    Going back the next day wasn’t easy. I can well feel for this kid and the insensitivity with which he was treated

  19. The degree of dirtiness of the child is not really relevant to the action taken. If he was so unbearably dirty that action of some sort had to be taken, then the day BEFORE this event, he was so unbearably dirty that action of some sort had to be taken SOON. On that day before, the action should have been to contact parents and/or caretakers, and if necessary, bring in social services to make sure the kid was provided with adequate opportunity to be self-respecting with regard to his hygiene and his personal space. Failing that is failing in his education in the extreme.

    To compound the school’s failure, they commit a mortifying abuse against the child who has already been neglected in some fashion. Typical but utterly disgusting and yes, I believe criminal.

    Oh Anon, although your view of history is obviously correct in all respects, there were a few times in the distant past when some actual wrongs were actually committed by men, and in those cases, I surely should have brought them up to you but I was too busy polishing my nails and leading my band of merry vaginocrats.

  20. “…I surely should have brought them up to you but I was too busy polishing my nails and leading my band of merry vaginocrats.”-Malisha

    Band of merry vaginocrats =D

    I had to type this three times, I was laughing so hard!

  21. Huh!??! WHY would there be ANY argument about criminal charges!?!?

    I don’t give a rat’s ass WHAT their excuse is, because I have seen abusers come up with some duzies….and I don’t care WHAT the problem with the kids was.

    IF THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE KID….NOW GET THIS—YOU CALL IN HIS PARENTS!!!!!!!!!!

    Then if a resolution is not forthcoming you inform the PARENTS that either the PROPER authorities will contacted, or the kid will be out of school until the situation is resolved.

  22. @ John —

    Why there would be an argument about criminal charges does not have to do with what was done to that child; it has to do with:

    (a) who the child abusers are;
    (b) who the prosecutor is;
    (c) who the child’s parents are;
    (d) who the principal is;
    (e) who is on the Board of Education;
    (f) who…etc.
    (g) who…etc.

    Unfortunately, the “prosecutorial discretion” thing is so strong that ONLY when massive publicity surrounds a situation is there EVER a non-political evaluation of what constitutes a crime in any particular jurisdiction, and even then, what particular crime it constitutes, and even then, whether there will be charges, a summary dismissal, a plea deal, a trial, or…

    And it is the only game in town.

  23. Did these two female teachers Julie West and Debbie Van Rite have a male teacher to monitor this? Sounds like they didn’t follow proper protocol. No one knows what they really did to him. They shouldn’t have been in there anyway. Freaks.

  24. FULL DISCLOSURE: Debbie VanRite is my aunt.

    She has been working at the school for decades without so much as a whisper of trouble, and any and everyone who knows her, the administration, and the atmosphere of the school knows these accusations are unfounded and laughable. And, anyone who reads this article without falling for its false sensationalism–riding on the waves of the most lamentable Sandusky coverage, perhaps?–should be applauded for recognizing the reporter’s small concessions that the circumstances of the case are alleged/claimed/unproven (ridiculous?).

    Of course, what’s sad about the case is the issue of bullying in any instance; but it’s fairly difficult to believe that this isn’t a case of misdirected parental embarrassment, neglect of the child at home, and likely taunts (and maybe worse) at the hands of young classmates. But a longtime school nurse? And a teacher just starting her career? In a public office surrounded by other employees, students, administrators? I’d have a hard time buying this story, my aunt or yours.

    The thing that stinks in this article is the reporting. If accusations are alleged, they should be well documented as such; whether trolls buy into the story or not, would at least like to see a little less speculation pass for reporting. Oh, internet, I once loved you so…

    Town is pronounced Pee-ster…right next door to Poo-ville. I sh*t you not.

  25. http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/06/19/4044047/peaster-school-officials-deny.html#storylink=omni_popular

    From the above link:
    “There was no violation of the law,” said Danie Huffman, spokeswoman with the sheriff’s department. “We spoke with seven people and all of their stories were consistent; all witness statements were corroborated with each other.”

    She said that deputies were told by school district employees that the child was offered a stick of deodorant and allowed to put it on himself but that at no time was he ever showered. She said he was offered a shower if he wanted but that the employees didn’t bathe him.

    The suit also alleges that, every morning after the incident, the student was told when arriving at school that he would be “sprayed” so he would not smell. When he asked what they were going to spray him with, the two defendants responded, “I can’t tell you, but it will kill you,” the suit says.”

  26. Of course it doesn’t surprise me that there were seven stories, all in line with each other. I mean, Duuuuuuuh!!

    If I had to figure out what happened here (I don’t) I would bet that they forcibly showered the kid, because offering him deodorant does NOT sound like something they did. Also, had the police checked into this the following day, if they found that the seven stories were all alike, that would certainly explain the parents’ belief that they couldn’t rely upon the school to change its tactics or protect the kid from further humiliation or harm, wouldn’t it?

  27. twattingtitstx:

    “Town is pronounced Pee-ster…right next door to Poo-ville. I sh*t you not.”

    LOL
    ======================================
    If all 7 stories corroborate each other, what are those stories? What we have so far is pretty gross.

    Why is an 8 year old given deodorant? It isn’t needed until puberty.

  28. @Malisha Of course I know how the system actually works, so I know how they can skip over people they don’t want to prosecute.

    But from some of the posts, it looks as though this might be all blown out anyway by the news. I have seen that before too..in fact I have seen news authors print stuff in articles that they KNEW to be lies. (BTW that article actually won an “award”…!! Go figure…)

  29. John, I agree.

    Case in Harford County, Maryland: People versus Valerie Carlton.

    OK, this mother was made subject of an investigation by Harford County authorities who had no jurisdiction to do the investigation because the county where the subject child lived (with dad) was Anne Arundel County, where the county child abuse authorities WOULD HAVE HAD jurisdiction to investigate allegations of child abuse.

    Child abuse allegations were made by the school teacher (again, in Anne Arundel County) TO the wrong county (Dad told her where to call) that she suspected the mother of molesting the child because the child was masturbating in class.

    CPS interviews child on video; child says nobody molested her. mom loves her and hugs her, doesn’t abuse her, dad spanks her, but that’s it. She says a cousin “plays with his pee pee” in front of her. A “friend” close to her age (“Bella”) touches her in the shower and she doesn’t like it.

    They charge the mom with 28 felonies and hold her on $10 million bail. I am not kidding about this bail. They hold her 13 months and then drop the charges because they can’t get the kid to testify to anything. meanwhile a forensic psychiatrist evaluates the whole thing and comes up saying (a) the kid was not molested; and (b) the kid says she wants to see her mommy more; and (c) someone needs to give her a thorough physical because she may have some vaginal irritation left over from a bout of chicken pox.

    When the mom was first arrested, a bunch of news articles showed up that actually PRINTED detailed descriptions of sex between mother and daughter including “oral sex” — used those words — and no retractions were ever printed. Some on-line site called “Screamin Demon” called for the citizenry to burn down the jail with the mother still in it.

    The prosecutor, Cassilly, was president of the national prosecutors’ association. He did this all on purpose and all of it to achieve civil goals and to promote a program that the state made money off, sending alleged molesters to the state run mental hospital for six months at a clip so Medicaid would foot the bill.

    Cute, expensive, illegal, and it happens every day. This cost Maryland a fortune in tax dollars because the mom was kosher and had to have food shipped in for 13 months in the county jail. Go figure.

  30. As a former student of peaster isd I can say there is no way this happened these are tow of the most respected women in the district and I went there k-12 I was very close to one of these women and it is horrible that these parents are okay with ruining two great people’s lives. Not only is it that I know these these women wouldn’t do this but if you follow the story and look at what all the parents say they are changing the story and even the child is saying it didn’t happen if an 8yr old boy was being forced to do this he would be crying and yelling the layout of the school the secretary, the principal, and vice principal would have heard along with all the teachers and parents that are in and out of the office it’s an open area office they would have stopped it. Also the parents say they kept him out of school for a week then sent him back!!! What parent sends their kid back if they believe this happened! And if you can’t teach your kid to was proper and clean his ears you should be thanking these women for picking up your slack! Just because you are a lousy parent doesn’t mean falsely accuse good women for things you made up!
    But us angry alumni and parents of students at peaster know the truth will come out and we know in our hearts what really happened! We are all praying for you Julie and Debbie keep your head up we will get through this!

  31. I hope they go to jail for what they did to this child. If someone did that to my son our daughter i would kick ther f***ing a** for touching my kid. No teacher should lay their hands on any person let alone a child. By the way … what the heck were they doing even watching the kid shower?? The school is also at fault for this kind of treatment for even allowing any teacher to treat a child with such disgust. THIS MAKES ME SICK!!!

  32. This school is very horrible and have no values. They do a lot of cruel thing to children their and it truly is a horrible school district. their is no reason for for what they do and nobody can tell them otherwise. Myself and other family’s in this school district are facing multiple problems with them all the the time! They need morale’s!!!!!

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