Court Dismisses “Unconstitutional” Suit Over Act 46 School Mergers

ST. ALBANS – Judge Robert Mellow ruled to dismiss three of the six issues arising from a civil suit filed against the Vermont State Board of Education. The case, known as the Athen’s case – named for the first school listed alphabetically in the suit – has been joined by many Cold Hollow area schools against the controversial Act 46.


Act 46 was created to force a merger of Vermont’s many small schools. The legislation has been opposed by many towns, including those named as Plaintiffs in the Franklin County suit Athen’s School District et. al. vs. the Vermont State Board of Education. Among those towns filing suit were the School Boards of Franklin, Highgate, Montgomery, Richford, Sheldon and Swanton.

Among the arguments made these small schools, they also argued that the forced mergers were a violation of both the Vermont State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

The Plaintiff’s hoped that the case would block Act 46 from taking effect, but Mello’s ruling will allow the forced mergers to take effect on July 1. In his 13 page ruling, Judge Mellow wrote that the Plaintiff’s argument that their rights to due process had been violated did not establish which “constitutionally protected interest in life, liberty or property.” He went on to state that schools “do not have a fundamental right to any particular form of school governance.”

But the ruling has not deterred local school officials and their supporters who have resolved to take portions of the case to the Vermont Supreme Court for appeal.