A random traffic stop in Tennessee last month wound up with a family fighting for the return on their five children who were taken away from them and put into custody.
Bianca Clayborne and Deonte Williams say they were heading to a family funeral in Chicago with their children when a highway patrol officer pulled them over for dark tinted windows and “traveling in a left lane while not actively passing,” according to court documents.
The trooper then conducted a search of the family’s Dodge Durango where he found five grams of marijuana – a misdemeanor in Tennessee. Williams was arrested on the scene while Clayborne was issued a citation.
Six hours later, the couple says they waited at a local criminal justice center waiting for Williams to be released. Her five children, who are 7, 5, 3, 2 and 4 months old were taken away from Clayborne while an officer restrained her from tending to her crying baby who was still being breastfed.
Clayborne would later be notified that child protective services were contacted and retrieved an emergency court order, which would give the state authority to place her children in custody while she waited for Williams.
“The Department of Children’s Services petition said there was probable cause that the children were neglected and there was no less drastic alternative to taking the children from their parents,” according to a Tennessee Lookout report.
It has been nearly one month since her children have been in custody. The couple’s legal team has now issued a statement calling DCS’s actions “extreme” “abnormal” and a “violation of the parents’ rights,” adding that the couple “received disparate treatment driving through rural Tennessee because they are Black.”
“It’s just so shocking to the conscience that in 2023 this is happening,” said Jamaal Boykin, an attorney representing the family. “I just have to believe if my clients looked different or had a different background, they would have just been given a citation and told you just keep this stuff away from the kids while you’re in this state and they’d be on their way.”
It was later revealed that authorities conducted a rapid hair follicle test, which showed that both parents tested positive for drugs, although an expert believes that such tests sometimes generate “false positives.”
“Both parents submitted to urine and hair follicle tests,” the DCS Feb. 23 petition read. “As a result of the drug screens, the children should be deemed to be severely abused.”
“I just sat there crying, crying, crying,” Clayborne said while fighting back tears as she recounted the experience via Zoom. “My kids – they have asthma and you’re not asking about nothing,” she said. “I breastfeed. They didn’t give me anything. They just ran off with my kids.”
The couple are due back in court Monday.