The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a portion of the Davenport Parental Responsibility Ordinance is unconstitutional. The case involved Anne Hensler, a registered nurse living in Davenport, who is divorced and is raising three children ages 15, 17 and 19. Hensler’s mother helped her raise the children until she suddenly became ill and died in 2004.
Hensler’s 17-year-old son soon after his grandmother’s death started having problems in school. He was six-foot-two, weighed 200 pounds and Hensler said she had trouble controlling him. The boy was caught smoking pot by police and officers sent Hensler a letter for her fist violation of the parental responsibility ordinance.
Hensler said she tried different ways to deal with her son, but he was again caught smoking pot. Police issued Hensler a citation for violating the parental responsibility ordinance.Hensler paid for a drug rehabilitation program for her son and took a parenting class. In the class she learned she had taken all the correct steps to help her son.
Hensler then filed a civil rights petition against the City of Davenport claiming the ordinance ordinance infringes on her fundamental right to make her own parenting decisions without undue coercion or interference from the state. The district court ruled in her favor and awarded her some 20-thousand dollars in attorney’s fees.
The Iowa Supreme Court found the provisions of Davenport’s ordinance dealing with the presumption that a parent failed to exercise reasonable parental control of his or her child upon a second “occurrence” can be severed from the rest of the ordinance.
The court says the Iowa Code requires a city to prove a violation of a municipal infraction by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence. The Supreme Court also vacated the attorney fee award and remand the case to the district court to reconsider its award of attorney fees, taking into consideration the high court’s ruling.
See the entire ruling here: Davenport ordinance PDF