A Davidson County chancellor has ordered DCS to turn over some of its records as requested by The Tennessean and a host of other publications.
The governor, though, isn't sure those outlets should be so quick to claim victory:
We are currently reviewing the full decision, but it appears that the Court agrees with the state about how important our confidentiality laws are. Chancellor McCoy came to a reasonable conclusion that is in line with what the state was prepared to do before the lawsuit was filed, but wasn’t given the opportunity. By law, we have an obligation to protect the confidentiality of children and families receiving services from the Department of Children’s Services as well as those who report abuse. This is not an obligation that we can casually dismiss or ignore when we get a public records request. Disclosing confidential information is a criminal violation. As the Legislature determined when it passed the law, it is critical that we protect families and those who take the risk of reporting abuse. We have been trying to follow this direction from the outset.
Before the lawsuit was filed, attorneys with the Department of Children’s Services and the Attorney General’s Office offered to sit down with the plaintiffs to discuss possible options to get them the information they were looking for while still following the law. The plaintiffs wanted all of the files and all of the information, so they chose instead to sue the state.
Based on the chancellor’s ruling, the department will provide four case summary reports after redacting identifying information. The department will also review the more than 200 files requested by the plaintiff to give them an estimate of the time and cost for making the same redactions prescribed by the law. The state will not have to provide all of the files and information the plaintiffs demanded.
Both sides cheering the ruling? Courts of equity are neat!