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Schools in Ohio seek protections from COVID-19 liability

Columbus Dispatch |

In Ohio, House Bill 606 by Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland, would provide civil immunity from coronavirus-related liability to businesses and schools.

“With the fall school year rapidly approaching, House Bill 606 will offer our schools much-needed legal protection. I have received hundreds of calls from across the state urging passage of this bill,” Grendell said.

The bill passed the House and Senate and is awaiting House concurrence with some changes made by the Senate.

Kevin Miller, a former superintendent and director of governmental relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, said he has been advising district leaders to proceed with caution. 

As a political subdivision, schools are provided a fair amount of protection under Ohio Revised Code, but the statutory immunity doesn’t apply if they act with “malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner,” Miller said.

“The advice we’ve given every superintendent is make sure you’re having a discussion with your insurance provider,” he said. “We have heard that some are hearing back ‘We would not cover you in the case of a civil suit regarding contraction of the virus.’”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said fear of litigation is one reason some schools are not returning to in-class instruction. While he believes schools already have protection if they follow the rules, legislative action would address those concerns.