WPLN News contributor Natasha Senjanovic’s reporting process spanned nearly a year. She spent almost a month living in the Knoxville area, to get to know the places and people in the story and to conduct in-person records requests at four separate courthouses.
Protecting the privacy of these kids, many of whom are in state custody due to abuse and neglect at home, necessarily makes it hard to see behind the wall of places like Kingston Academy. When we do, it is often because conditions are so bad that privacy is no longer an option. Public records requests provided hundreds of pages of state inspection reports, incident reports, 911 police call logs and court rulings related to Kingston Academy and Norris Academy (Sequel’s remaining Tennessee facility, also near Knoxville).
Natasha conducted more than 35 hours of interviews with three former residents; parents of former residents, including the mother who helped shut Kingston down; nearly a dozen former employees from Kingston Academy; a former DCS commissioner; sheriff’s deputies and the head of the Juvenile Court in Roane County; Disability Rights Tennessee investigators; private attorneys; and attorneys working in health care and child advocacy. She conducted other, off-the-record interviews as well, with current and former service providers.
Sequel declined multiple interview requests about Kingston Academy but provided a lengthy statement to APM Reports about its nationwide operations.
Each story in this series went through several rounds of edits with editors at WPLN News and with Curtis Gibson, lead reporter on APM Reports’ national investigative project.