First State Redacted Too Much From Child-Death Files, Now It’s Cut Too Little

"We had to bring in outside people to do this, in many cases," Commission Jim Henry says, "so everybody doesn't redact in the same way, but there was no intention to put out more information than we should have." Photo via Gov. Haslam's flickr

“We had to bring in outside people to do this, in many cases,” Commission Jim Henry says, “so everybody doesn’t redact in the same way, but there was no intention to put out more information than we should have.” Photo via Gov. Haslam’s flickr

The state may have gone from revealing too little in files it’s giving to reporters, to revealing too much. The Department of Children’s Services is handing over sensitive records about kids who died in state custody, after a lawsuit from a media coalition led by the Tennessean.

The records have to be redacted to take out identifying details like the children’s names, as well as locators like the names of funeral homes.  But last month Chancellor Carol McCoy found someone struck out too much other information, and said they could face jail for misinterpreting her order.

In releasing another batch this week, the state had the opposite problem – extra details that should be scratched out.

“It looks like the judge found some cases where we might have missed the age and the address, which is a pretty clear way you can trace people.”

Commissioner Jim Henry says the department has brought in outside paralegals to help go through so many files, and he’s looking forward to getting the process done.

More child-death records are due out next month, and the media coalition’s lawyer says they also want more recent files since their initial request last year.


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