Media, state lawyers argue over DCS disclosures - WSMV Channel 4

Media, state lawyers argue over DCS disclosures

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -

A Nashville judge heard arguments Tuesday regarding whether the state Department of Children's Services must release the case files of children who died or were hurt while in the state agency's care.

Several media outlets from across Tennessee, including WSMV-TV, argued DCS is violating the Open Records law by not releasing the files.

In court on Tuesday, media attorney Robb Harvey argued that state law requires the agency to disclose its files in cases where children have died or nearly died.

"The public has a strong interest in knowing what is happening," Harvey said.

The Tennessean originally requested the records in September for the 31 children who died in the first half of 2012 and the 206 children who nearly died in abusive homes since 2009.

In court, Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter, who is representing DCS, argued that the privacy of the children and their families overrides any public right to the records.

"There is a provision in the Public Records Act itself that these are not public records," Kleinfelter said.

Harvey countered that seeing the records was the only way to know whether DCS is doing its job of protecting vulnerable children.

Instead of providing the records, DCS has given spreadsheets with limited information about the cases and no information about any involvement by DCS.

"We need to bring Tennessee in conformity with other states for which the records have been provided for years," Harvey said.

Judge Carol McCoy said she would review the records and rule later, but a future court date has not been set.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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