The state of Tennessee may have failed some of its most vulnerable citizens. Equally troubling, officials in Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration don’t want you to know about it.
The (Nashville) Tennessean, The Tennessee Press Association and other news organizations in this state have filed a public records lawsuit against the state Department of Children’s Services for refusing to release information on the 120 children who died between 2009-11 after the state was made aware that they might be victims of abuse or neglect.
The DCS has also declined to provide details of 31 more children who died under similar circumstances during the first half of 2012. The DCS will not divulge any details about the deaths and refuses to say what steps (if any) were taken to help the children. The state even thinks it can keep the names of the children who have died a secret.
We don’t think that is right, and it is an insult to the memory of any child who might have needlessly perished while the state looked the other way.
Opening these public records (and they are public records) is the only way citizens of this state can truly know if the DCS failed any of these children.
Haslam has said he agrees with state attorneys who argue these records are private and that the DCS has no obligation to release anything but the barest details of the deaths.
That’s disappointing to hear from a governor who promised to make his administration one of the most transparent ever.
To make good on that vow, Haslam and DCS officials should release all information about these cases so that Tennesseans will know if the state is doing its job in responding to allegations of neglect and abuse of its most vulnerable citizens.