South Hadley Discloses Prince Settlement

Slate Reporter Emily Bazelon Sued After Town Ignored Requests for Public Records Concerning Settlement Following Student’s Suicide NORTHAMPTON — The Town and School Department of South Hadley settled the lawsuit brought against them by the parents of Phoebe Prince for $225,000 in exchange for full release of all claims, according to documents released today to Slate reporter Emily Bazelon. The 2010 suicide of Prince, a student at South Hadley High School, was widely linked in local and national media to severe bullying by students at the school, but the amount of the settlement was never known until now. The release of settlement details follows an order issued Friday by Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “This is a victory for the public’s right to know and for transparency in government,” said Bill Newman, who represents Ms. Bazelon and serves as director of the ACLU’s Western Massachusetts Legal Office in Northampton. “The Court’s decision highlights the importance of transparency in government at all levels.” On Dec. 2, Emily Bazelon, a reporter and editor for the national news organization Slate, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against the Town of South Hadley and town officials, seeking an order requiring disclosure of settlement details. Beginning in May 2011, Ms. Bazelon had made numerous requests for this information, without success. Argument for the preliminary injunction was heard on Dec. 19, and the Court issued the preliminary injunction on Dec. 23. In that order, the Court allowed the Town a week to decide whether it wished to appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Ms. Bazelon filed the lawsuit with help from the ACLU of Massachusetts, under the Massachusetts Public Records Act, G.L. c. 66,