Judge Dismisses Some Of School Districts' Claims In Forced-Merger Lawsuit

Apr 12, 2019

In a partial ruling Friday in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of forced school district mergers, Franklin County Judge Robert Mello has dismissed several complaints lodged by the more than 30 school districts that filed the suit.

The school districts are challenging the constitutionality of an order by the State Board of Education last year that will require them to merge involuntarily. But on Friday, Mello dismissed several of their central claims.

Mello said the 2015 law that led to the forced mergers did not violate districts’ right to due process. And while school districts argued that the State Board of Education lacked the constitutional authority to hand down the merger orders, Mello dismissed that claim as well.

Mello said he issued the partial ruling now so that school districts can appeal their case to the Vermont Supreme Court. Time is of the essence for that appeal, Mello said, because districts have only until June 30 to comply with the forced-merger orders.

Mello has not dismissed all the claims filed by school districts, which means the underlying lawsuit will continue until those issues are adjudicated as well.