NEW ORLEANS (CN) – A couple with 13 children did not prove the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services performed unconstitutional child-abuse investigations, the 5th Circuit ruled.
The department first investigated the Gates family when father Gary forced son Travis to go to school with fig-bar wrappers stapled to his clothes as a punishment for stealing food. Travis has a disorder that has led to him steal food on dozens of occasions.
An investigation showed that Gary sometimes handcuffed Travis to the bed for stealing food, and that Gary also spanked the younger children with a belt.
Two other investigations prompted Gates to launch a court battle that has lasted for more than four years. Gates appealed the district court’s dismissal of his claims against the department.
Judge Prado ruled that investigators did not have the right to search the Gates’ home without a warrant because Gary was not home, and the children were not in imminent danger.
However, at the time of the search, the law was not clearly established on the constitutional standard for entering a home to investigate child abuse. Therefore, due to the state’s interest in preventing child abuse, the investigators are entitled to qualified immunity, Prado ruled.