Vermont state will pay ACLU and turn over records in settlement

In a settlement this week of a lawsuit over the release of public records, the state of Vermont will pay $30,500 in attorneys fees and costs and the Agency of Education will provide to a journalist information it withheld about bullying and hazing in Vermont schools.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont filed the suit against the state Agency of Education on behalf of former Rutland Herald reporter Lola Duffort, following repeated attempts by Duffort to get the agency to release a school-by-school breakdown of reported and verified instances of bullying, harassment and hazing over a span of several years.

According to the terms of the settlement reached this week, the education agency agreed not only to provide the information it had withheld, as well as additional data reports, but it also agreed to comply with statutory requirements to report the data annually, on a school-by-school basis. The state also agreed to pay the ACLU $30,500 for attorney fees and litigation costs.

“I think it sends the message that data is public information and that you absolutely need to work with requesters to make this information public,” Duffort said Wednesday of the settlement. “I’m so glad the court part of this is done and that now I can look at this data and write a story.” Read more…