- Associated Press - Friday, May 26, 2017

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - A Vermont civil court judge has ruled the state Agency of Education must be more responsive in releasing records even if meeting the request means extra work.

The Monday ruling by Judge Helen Toor followed a lawsuit filed against the agency by a former Rutland Herald reporter Lola Duffort and the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Duffort had sought the records under the Freedom of Information Act for a planned story on incidents of bullying and hazing. When the agency refused her request, she worked with the ACLU to file suit seeking the records.

In response to Duffort’s request, the agency said the state was under no obligation to produce the report because it was not published as a readable, compiled report before she made her request.

But Toor’s ruling said the state has the information that was being requested and so must provide it.

Haley Dover, a spokeswoman for the Education Agency, said Friday the Herald’s requested information was provided to the news organization last week, before the judge’s ruling.

She said that as a result of the litigation, the agency created a school-by-school record of hazing, harassment and bullying reports.

“We will continue to produce the reports,” she said.

ACLU attorney Lia Ernst told the Rutland Herald (https://bit.ly/2qrbkq5 ) Toor’s decision was “unambiguously a win for the Public Records Act, a win for journalists, a win for all Vermonters who want to know what the government is up to.”

Rutland Herald General Manager Rob Mitchell said the case is another example of journalists fighting to support open government.

“Public records are indeed public. I’m glad the court ruled in favor of the public’s right to know,” he said. “The fact that this case needed a court decision to establish the precedent shows that there are issues remaining with the public records laws in Vermont.”


Information from: Rutland Herald, https://www.rutlandherald.com/

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