Financial settlements of legal claims against public schools and some colleges in New Mexico on accusations ranging from sexual molestation to personal injury would be sealed off from public view for at least six months, under a bill endorsed by a panel of House lawmakers.
Advocates of the bill say it would safeguard from public embarrassment the whistleblowers who denounce misbehavior at schools in small communities, while some lawmakers fear it would conceal wrongdoing by public school employees and leave parents of students none the wiser.
The proposed exception to state open-records law comes amid revelations about recent six-figure payouts by the insurance authority to settle molestation cases against school employees in Santa Fe and Espanola. A similar six-month disclosure ban already covers legal settlements involving state employees.
The initiative is backed by the state Association of School Superintendents and the New Mexico Public School Insurance Authority that contracts liability insurance and oversees financial settlements over accusations against public schools, charter schools, some public colleges, and their employees.
A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 2019 edition of Education Week as New Mexico May Delay Release of School-Related Legal Settlements