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Archie Ingersoll, Forum Communications Co., Published December 11 2010

Haircut lawsuit settled in Traill County, ND

Traill County Social Services has agreed to pay more than $26,000 to settle a suit brought by parents who said their young children were wrongfully given haircuts and placed in protective custody during a drug investigation.

The settlement was approved in Fargo’s federal court earlier this week. It calls for the three children of Ricky Gonzales and Cassandra Laymon to each receive $4,000 that will be held in an interest-earning account until they turn 18.

The parents are to get $500 to use toward the benefit of their children. The rest of the money will cover attorney fees and legal costs.

On April 6, 2009, social services received a tip that Gonzales and Laymon were smoking marijuana around their children, who were 4, 6 and 8 years old at the time, according to court documents.

That same day, a social services employee went to a Mayville, N.D., school and cut the hair of one child without the parents’ consent; the hair tested positive for marijuana, the documents say.

Later that month, the three children were put in protective custody, and their hair was tested again; those tests came back negative. The children were returned home, and social services told the parents that the first test was incorrect, the documents say.

Gonzales and Laymon alleged that social services violated their constitutional rights during the investigation. The parents’ attorney, DeWayne Johnston, said social services did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement.

Archie Ingersoll is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald