FLATWOODS A Flatwoods woman and her wife allege in a federal lawsuit that Flatwoods police arrested and jailed them because they are lesbians and not because they had committed the offenses for which they are charged.
They also accuse police of improperly taking their 8-year-old son out of class and questioning him without their knowledge or consent as part of an investigation tying them to the truancy of two area teens.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 4 in U.S. District Court in Ashland, names three Flatwoods police officers as defendants — Bryan Tackett, Zak Clark and Chris Castle. Clark is identified in the suit as resource officer for Russell schools. A school official said he is no longer the resource officer. Tackett has been a resource officer for the district for several years but is not identified as such in the suit.
The suit names one more defendant, former school counselor Michelle Light, who no longer works for the district, according to a school official.
Stephanie and Jennifer Lewis claim they were charged with illegally influencing two area teens to be truant only because police were focused on their sexual orientation.
The Lewises are married; Stephanie Lewis is the biological mother of the 8-year-old and Jennifer Lewis is the boy’s stepmother, according to the suit.
The trouble started, according to the suit, on Sept. 4, 2019, with the truancy investigation of a 16-year-old Russell student. Clark and Tackett found the mother and teen near, but not in, the Lewises’ home, but the officers said in their report the teen was found at the Lewises’ home.
Stephanie Lewis also told the officers about a second apparently truant child in the neighborhood who had asked them for food and clothing.
According to the suit, that made them the target of the officers, and when the Lewises picked up the second child later that day at a shopping mall at the request of the mother, the officers reported the child was found in their custody, “implying a different role by the plaintiffs, and totally ignoring the ‘Good Samaritan’ role of the plaintiffs.”
That led to Tackett, with the assistance of the counselor, taking their 8-year-old from his class at Russell Primary School and questioning him without letting his parents know, records show.
They asked the boy about his two mothers, their relationship and their care for him, questions that were not pertinent to the truancy investigation but focused on their same-sex relationship, according to the suit.
When the Lewises went to the school the following day to complain, Tackett and Castle arrested and questioned them there, the suit alleges.
News reports in The Daily Independent at the time indicate they were charged with third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, which often indicates alleged complicity in truancy. The news reports indicate they were taken to jail after their arrest.
A police report in their Greenup County District Court file shows they are accused of allowing a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy to stay at their house and that they took the girl to the mall and dropped her off with an 18-year-old man, all during school hours, according to a deputy court clerk.
The suit alleges police didn’t investigate the parents of the teens or disclose that at least one of them had the mother’s permission to be absent from school, or that the Lewises had attempted to report their truancy.
The omissions indicate bias against the Lewises, the suit alleges.
Thje suit alleges violation of unreasonable search and seizure, due process and equal protection constitutional rights. It requests $1.2 million in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages.
Messages left for the three officers were not returned Wednesday afternoon. Attorneys for the Lewises did not return phone calls Wednesday afternoon.
Light no longer works in the Russell district and could not be reached for comment. Russell Superintendent Sean Horne said he had not heard about the suit and had not been informed of the incidents leading up to it. The Lewises never contacted him, he said.