Courts to Decide if Child Abuse Investigations are Made Public

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that courts must decide on a case-by-case basis whether results of state investigations into allegations of child abuse and neglect should be made public.

The high court’s decision stems from a 2005 Department of Public Health and Human Services investigation into allegations of child abuse at the Swan Valley Youth Academy, a now-closed military-style boot camp near Condon.

The results of the investigation were made public in 2007, when a Helena judge ordered the state to release a version of the report, which excluded private information about the alleged victims and some academy staff members.

Disability Rights Montana, a Helena-based nonprofit advocacy group, filed a lawsuit last November, arguing the process it had to undergo to release the report was overly burdensome.