The Town of South Hadley Reveals How Much They Paid in Their Settlement with Phoebe Prince’s Family

The new world of online cruelty.
Dec. 27 2011 5:51 PM

The Phoebe Prince Settlement

The town of South Hadley reveals how much they paid the Prince family.

Phoebe Prince.
Phoebe Nora Mary Prince

A few weeks ago, I went to court to find out the terms of the settlement agreement the town of South Hadley reached with the family of Phoebe Prince. After Phoebe’s suicide was linked to bullying at South Hadley High School, her parents brought a complaint with the Massachusetts Committee Against Discrimination over the school’s failure to stop the harassment. The town settled, on behalf of the school district, while both sides agreed not to disclose how much was paid out.

No one really defended the nondisclosure agreement in court. Through their lawyer, the Prince family declined to appeal. The lawyer for South Hadley said that it was the town’s insurer, not him, who had negotiated the settlement, and that he’d turn it over if he was ordered to do so. A judge ruled last week that the public did indeed have a right to know the terms of the settlement, under the Massachusetts public records act. She gave South Hadley time to appeal. Today, the town released the settlement instead. Here it is (187KB PDF).

The Prince family received $225,000—not that much, as these things go, though the settlement spared them the time and expense of going to court. In exchange, the family agreed not to sue South Hadley again in any way connected to Phoebe’s death. They also agreed not to disclose the settlement’s terms. However, “a representative of the South Hadley Public Schools” could communicate the information. This is a little mysterious, but it suggests that it was the school district or the insurance company, rather than the Prince family, which wanted the settlement to remain secret. In any case, the settlement also includes a gag order. Phoebe’s parents agreed that if the settlement became public, the only public comment they would give would be to say that “the matter has been resolved.”

Thanks to William Newman of the ACLU of Western Massachusetts for representing me and to the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School (where I’m a fellow) for help with legal research.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.