South Hadley paid Phoebe Prince family $225,000 to avoid lawsuit over bullying

The family of Phoebe Prince, the South Hadley teenager who took her own life after being relentlessly bullied, received $225,000 from the girl’s school district, according to a copy of the settlement.

The settlement was made public today, four days after a Hampshire Superior Court judge ruled in favor of a Slate reporter who filed a lawsuit to force the town to release the records.

Prince, a 15-year-old transfer student from Ireland, hanged herself in her family home in January 2010, and her death fueled a national call to stop bullying in schools.

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In July 2010, Prince’s parents, Jeremy Prince and Anne O’Brien, filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination that alleged the South Hadley Public Schools failed to protect Prince from discrimination.

They withdrew the complaint in November 2010, after they reached an agreement with the town. The amount of the settlement was never revealed.

Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Emily Bazelon, a reporter and editor for Slate, an online magazine, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court on Dec. 2, after she had made numerous requests for details of the settlement.

“This is a victory for the public’s right to know and for transparency in government,” said Bill Newman, Bazelon’s lawyer and 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.”