|Back to Feb. Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 157||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||FEBRUARY 1999|
TULSA, OK - About 20 three-to-five-year-olds in the Roosevelt Elementary School Head Start program were given genital examinations in November without parental consent. The exams were sanctioned by Head Start administrators, who failed to send out parental notification until two days after the exams took place. The parents of at least 10 of the children have asked the Rutherford Institute to file suit on their behalf.
Rutherford spokesman Ron Rissler told the Internet news source WorldNetDaily that the Tulsa case has "distinct differences" from similar cases they are handling in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. "This is the most egregious act of government intrusion that I have witnessed in my tenure at the Rutherford Institute," Rissler said. "These children are much younger than those in our other cases, and the manner in which the exams were conducted was appalling."
There was no physician present, and the exams were given by licensed practical nurses (LPNs), who first drew blood specimens, then ushered the children into another room for the genital exams. As in other incidents, some of the children were crying and asking for their parents. (See Education Reporter, June 1996 and October 1998.)
Tulsa attorney Christopher Goree, who is affiliated with the Rutherford Institute and will file the lawsuit, told WorldNetDaily that while the LPN drawing the blood wore gloves, the one performing the genital exams did not. He described the examination area as "dirty."
School officials and Head Start administrators said the exams were performed to check for sexual abuse and for genital abnormalities, but no abuse had been reported by either parents or school personnel, and sources say that Head Start is not authorized to check for abnormalities.
One source familiar with Head Start (who wishes to remain anonymous) said that all children are required to have physicals before they can qualify for the program. She told WorldNetDaily that "most LPNs are not adequately educated to perform sexual abuse exams," and that "specialized training is required for detecting real abuse." She noted that even physicians must be trained to recognize sexual abuse, and she could think of no reason why the Roosevelt preschoolers were examined after having already been enrolled in the program.
Head Start officials met with the children's parents following the incident to apologize and to address their anger and concerns. Goree said the officials "talked down" to the parents, offering them door prizes, "as if getting a trinket of some sort would make it all go away."
Despite the lawsuit, other schools in the Tulsa area reportedly perform genital exams on Head Start children, and program director Jerome Lee does not foresee ending the practice.