The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has been ordered to provide media outlets with case files involving fatalities and near-fatalities of children under the group’s watch. A Davidson County judge say the DCS has until May 3 to turn over the initial batch of records being sought by Tennessee media organizations.
The Tennessean reports the state must provide the 50 most recent cases involving 2012 deaths and near-deaths of children under the supervision of the DCS. Initially, several media groups had sought 200 records.
Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy says the case files will include information on how and why a child may have died or suffered critical injuries. McCoy also greatly decreased the cost the state wanted to charge the media groups for copies of the files.
State lawyers had initially set the price tag at over $55,000. That has been decreased to a little over $1,000.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he was as surprised as anyone that FBI and IRS agents locked down the headquarters of his family’s company Monday. He says all he knows is that they were looking for “certain records.”
The governor remains a primary shareholder in Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J, though he has never disclosed the level of his investment. He stepped down as company president in 1998. Brother Jimmy has returned as CEO after leaving his post briefly last year when he bought the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
Gov. Haslam was asked by reporters Tuesday if he was worried about any appearance of impropriety.
“Well sure. To say you didn’t would not exactly be honest. That’s a business that my family is involved in, people I care a lot about. So to say that it doesn’t feel like a big deal is wrong," said the governor.
A bill is gaining steam in Tennessee that would allow teachers and other staff members with a background in policing to carry guns in schools. The Tennessean reports the measure is a compromise between those who want all teachers to be allowed to carry guns, and those who want to increase the number of armed security guards in Volunteer State schools.
The bill would allow school personnel who have worked as police officers to get certification allowing them to bring their weapons to work. Gov. Bill Haslam backs the plan, saying it strikes a good balance between cost considerations, school safety, and local control.
House Bill 6 is moving its way through legislative committees in Nashville and could reach the floors of the state House and Senate before the session adjourns next week.
Tennessee is making progress in fixing problems with the computer system that is designed to track abused and neglected children. The $ 27 million system, known as the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System, or TFACTS—has been wracked with problems since it was introduced in 2010.
The Tennessean reports federal monitors filed papers this week detailing progress made by the Department of Children’s Services in getting those issues fixed.
The statewide computer system was supposed to be able to handle the majority of DCS cases, including suspicions of abuse and neglect, as well as adoption and foster care cases. But the system has been blamed for numerous problems, including a failure to produce reports regarding children who died while in agency custody and an inability to pay Tennessee foster parents.
DCS caseworkers say TFACTS is difficult to navigate and frequently kicks them out of the system halfway through writing reports.
A proposal meant to put more armed guards in Tennessee schools has begun moving forward in the General Assembly. It offers money for schools to hire retired police officers and allows teachers with law enforcement backgrounds to carry a gun to class.
Whether a retired officer hired part-time as a security guard or a teacher already on the payroll, both would have to go through at least 40 hours of special training.
The legislation has the backing of Governor Bill Haslam and has trumped other proposals aimed at more broadly allowing teachers to go armed to class.
Some Republicans still want to mandate armed guards in every school, but others say the only reason they support this bill is because it doesn’t. Rep. Ryan Haynes of Knoxville says schools aren’t as dangerous as they’re made out to be.
Some state lawmakers believe the Tennessee General Assembly may have gone too far with cost-cutting when it wiped out oversight committees looking out for children.
Governor Bill Haslam was asked whether he supports a push by Democrats to reestablish the panel that looked over the troubled Department of Children’s Services.
“You can’t have 133 bosses. That doesn’t work. But having said that, there is a legitimate role for legislative oversight, and we’d love to be a part of that conversation about what that should look like going forward," said the Governor.
Haslam says the debate should be about more than DCS.
The sponsor of legislation that was competing with Gov. Bill Haslam's to create a school voucher program withdrew her bill on Wednesday after proponents of a broader program decided they want to focus on the governor's plan.
The measure withdrawn by Sen. Dolores Gresham from the Senate Education Committee sought to increase the income limit for eligibility to about $75,000 for a family of four, up quite a bit from the $42,643 envisioned by the Republican governor.
The bill also had no limitation on growth, where Haslam proposes to limit the program to 5,000 students in failing schools in the academic year that begins in August, and grow to 20,000 by 2016.
Gresham, a Somerville Republican and chair of the committee, didn't give a reason for withdrawing the bill but told reporters after the hearing that she may bring it up again before the end of the session.
A Tennessee panel that could authorize charter schools to open anywhere in the state is moving forward against the objections of Democrats and a few rural Republicans.
The proposal would require that charter applicants first ask the local school board for permission to open a publicly funded, privately run school. If the answer is no, they could go to the new independent state panel that would have the final say-so.
Rep. Curtis Halford is a Republican from west Tennessee, where there are no charter schools at this point. He spoke against the state authorizer in a House committee.
“Is it just kind of like if you don’t get the answer you want from mom you go to dad?,” asked Halford.