Alaska school district drops fight to keep records private

ALASKA — The Anchorage School District has declined to appeal a state court ruling that requires it to release the details of a suit settled with the parents of a middle-school student.

That suit was filed in 2000 after the student attempted suicide because he was bullied at his middle school; the details of the settlement were kept confidential. In June 2004 the Anchorage Daily News sued the district for access to the settlement documents. A state district court ruled in favor of the newspaper.

Under terms of an agreement reached in September, the school district will now classify all court cases it is involved in as public documents. If the case involves a student, school officials will contact the student’s parents for permission to release the documents. If the parents deny permission, references to the student will be omitted from the documents before they are released.

School officials say that the settlements were kept confidential to protect the privacy of the parties suing the school district. Anchorage schools Superintendent Carol Comeau said in July that the district still has qualms about disclosing details of settlements.

“We still have serious concerns with [personal] information disclosed in some of these settlements,” Comeau told the Anchorage Daily News. But school officials wanted to avoid appearing as if by settling they were “trying to cover up things,” she said.

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