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Fearful of Covid Lawsuits, Jittery School Officials Buy New — and Frequently Costly — Insurance Policies

The 74 Million |

Most school districts have general liability insurance, which does not cover communicable diseases like COVID. Individual states offer some immunity defenses that could shield them from lawsuits, but there’s nothing clear-cut about how it would apply to the coronavirus, said Loretta L. Worters of the Insurance Information Institute.

As a result, some insurers are offering riders on policies to extend liability coverage for the virus — at an additional cost.

The article looks at the concerns from a district administration perspective and the perspective of teachers and staff.

Michael L. Wright, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Unified School District #32 in Lakeside, Arizona, roughly two and a half hours east of Flagstaff, had no doubt about opting for additional coverage. 

“I believe you need to do all you can to provide protection for taxpayer dollars,” said Wright, whose district serves some 2,000 students. “The exposure would be extraordinary, in some cases even catastrophic.” Wright said Arizona schools are drastically underfunded and that money will be tight in the coming years, but he believes added insurance was the only choice.

“Are teachers being heard?” said Andrew Spar, president of the 150,000-member Florida Education Association. “Absolutely not. Are they safe? It depends on the circumstance.” 

Rob D’Amico, communications director for the 65,000-member Texas American Federation of Teachers, said members’ sense of safety depends on the leadership of their individual school. “It’s a mixed bag, with some teachers saying, ‘I’m scared to death, my administration isn’t even reporting cases, no one is wearing masks, and I’m forced into a room with 27 kids,’” to others who feel far more protected, he said. “It really boils down to the campus.”