Newspapers File Lawsuit Over DCS Records

The Tennessean, joined by a coalition of the state’s newspapers, TV stations and other media organizations, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state Department of Children’s Services, alleging the agency is violating the law by refusing to make public the records of children who died after being brought to the agency’s attention.
From The Tennessean’s story:
Filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, the lawsuit asks the court to order DCS to explain why the records were not provided. It asks that DCS immediately give those records to the court so a judge can review them and redact any confidential information, and for the records to then be opened to the public for review.
Tennessean requests over a three-month period have failed to persuade DCS to open its files on child deaths.
In the first six months of 2012, there were 31 deaths among children, ranging from newborns to teenagers.
“The public has a strong interest in knowing what actions DCS took — or failed to take — in order to protect them,” the lawsuit states. “This public interest outweighs any privacy concerns DCS has referred to in limiting its disclosure of information. The public has a right, under federal and state law, to understand how children under DCS’s supervision (or with whom DCS had prior contact) died and came close to death. DCS’s disclosure of this information may help to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

A Haslam comment, via TNReport: “This isn’t a case of us trying to withhold information,” Haslam told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. “We have a responsibility to protect children and a lot of the way that they are wanting that information I don’t think would do that.”

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