A group of parents has accused state and county child protection agencies in Minnesota of illegally removing children from their homes.
The civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis Tuesday alleges the state's child protection laws are overly broad and that children are being taken from their homes and placed in foster care for parental discipline, such as spanking.
The main plaintiff in the lawsuit is Dwight Mitchell, founder of the Stop Child Protection Services From Legally Kidnapping organization, which has about 250 members in the state, The Star Tribune reported. Mitchell said Dakota County child welfare workers removed two of his children from his Apple Valley home after a baby sitter reported that Mitchell spanked his 11-year-old son for stealing and being disobedient in 2014.
One of Mitchell's children was kept in state custody for 22 months, while another was removed for five months, according to the lawsuit.
"It was every parent's worst nightmare," said Mitchell, 57, a management consultant. "My children were legally kidnapped for a bottom spanking that was done out of love, because I want my children to grow up to be hardworking members of society."
A child can be found "in need of child protection services" if a parent causes bodily harm, which is defined as causing pain, injury or illness under the current state law.
The lawsuit also alleges that such laws disproportionately impact black families, including Mitchell's. African-American children in Minnesota were three times more likely than white children to be reviewed for child protection services in 2016, according to a state report.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services said the agency hasn't been served the lawsuit. A Dakota County spokeswoman declined to comment because the agency has yet to review the lawsuit.