/Would schools need more insurance to arm teachers

Would schools need more insurance to arm teachers

Mississippi News Nonprofit There has been a lot of debate among policymakers over how to protect schools in Mississippi, following the shooting death of 17 students at Parkland High School in Florida on Valentine’s Day. The state Senate approved HB1083 last week. This would allow schools to permit teachers and other employees to receive specialized concealed-carry training. The measure’s supporters argue that having armed employees can help reduce casualties in active shooter situations. Critics include the majority of Democratic legislators who believe that teachers shouldn’t be required to wear the same hats as educators and law enforcement. The debate on similar legislation in statehouses across the country has raised concerns about whether it would lead to school districts incurring additional costs for safety equipment, training, or insurance. It all depends on who you ask. Mississippi Today heard from two of the largest school districts in the state that their insurance companies had told them that arming teachers would increase their insurance costs. “We have liability insurance that covers School Resource Officers. “Our insurance provider indicated that expanding coverage to teachers would prove very costly, but we weren’t provided with exact numbers,” Katherine Nelson, a spokesperson for DeSoto County Schools (the largest school district in the state), said. Jackson Public Schools, Mississippi’s second-largest, is also unsure if its insurance company will cover the district if it allows employees to carry guns. Our current professional liability policy doesn’t cover teachers carrying weapons. Only our law enforcement policy covers that. Sherwin Johnson, a spokesperson for Jackson schools, stated that this coverage will likely be more expensive. Brian Johnson, a Fisher Brown Bottrell vice president, stated in an email to Mississippi Today, that the company would work with each school district and its underwriters to develop strategies to address this issue from a policy-, procedure-, and safety perspective. The responses Jackson and DeSoto received were consistent with similar experiences in other states. According to a recent report by Best’s News Service (a business newswire), Oregon’s largest public school pool insurer charges $2,500 per state-certified armed staff member. Kansas passed a law that allowed certain school employees to carry weapons in response to the Newtown massacre. EMC Insurance Companies, the largest state school insurer, stated that they wouldn’t insure schools with armed staff. The company informed its agents that concealed handguns could be found on school premises, which poses a greater liability risk. We have decided not to insure schools that permit employees to carry concealed handguns. As new business, schools that allow concealed handguns in the classroom will be closed. Existing schools that permit concealed handguns won’t be renewed. Mississippi currently bans weapons being brought onto school grounds without an enhanced concealed carry permit. To obtain one, you must be at least 21 years old and have completed a safety training course. 40 states ban school employees from carrying guns on school grounds. Many state officials believe that Mississippi school staff are protected by the Tort Claims Act. This law was passed by the Legislature in 2009. Mike Chaney, state insurance commissioner, stated that Mississippi public school teachers are protected under tort reform. The district is responsible for any injuries or harm that they cause, provided that the actions are within their scope of employment. In most cases, the legislation set a $1 million cap on pain-and-suffering damages and $500,000 for medical malpractice cases. It also set a ceiling on punitive damages that are based on the defendant’s net worth. Chairman of the House Insurance Committee, Rep. Gary Chism (Republican from Columbia), echoed Chaney. Chism, who owns an insurance-services company, said that the Tort Claims Act dictates what you can get. Now that HB 1083 has passed the Senate it will be sent back to the House, where it can be sent to a conference committee for any differences or to agree with the changes before being sent to the Governor. Bryant for signing. Contributing: Kate Royals