A recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that the number of armed guards or armed personnel on school campuses in the United States is on the rise. Armed officers were present at least once a week in 43 percent of all public schools during the 2015-2016 school years, compared with 31 percent of schools a decade before. And this was before major school shootings in the last 18 months, including the mass shooting in Florida at Stoneman Douglas High School that ended in the deaths of 17 students and employees and injured 17 others.
Now, schools and school districts are having to take more mindful steps of the legal hurdles and increased liability they face with having or considering having armed officers or teachers on campus, even with the push from lawmakers in seven states to legalize the arming of teachers.
Currently, there are states, like Kansas, that are debating proposals to allow armed officers and armed teachers to be on campus and would make schools liable if they didn’t arm teachers. The proposed legislation would make it so that insurance companies could not pull coverage, as some lawmakers are hoping to overcome the insurance challenge that has stifled many districts across the country from pursuing the policy.
What some lawmakers are having trouble with is considering if insurance companies can be made to provide educators liability insurance coverage, or if they’ll just leave whatever state they’re in entirely. Now, schools are taking on rising insurance premiums because of similar laws, like in Oregon where the school board association announced a new pricing structure for K-12 schools that decided to use armed guards on their campuses.
In Oregon, for example, it costs an additional $1,500 for each armed officer who has military training or equal experience and is certified by the Department of Public Safety Standards. Coverage can be up to $2,500 per person if an armed guard only carries certification.
But while some schools and additional school districts around the country may be thinking about providing weapons training to teachers and arming them during their on-campus work or stabling armed officers on campus, it has only given way to multiple challenges. This is a controversial idea that has presented some obvious objections and concerns from parents and guardians of students about the presence of weapons in classrooms.
Weapons on campus can present liabilities and insurance issues to put it lightly. Schools are responsible for the cost of training, licensing and arming teachers, as mentioned above. Many teachers aren’t already familiar with how to handle weapons in general and may require additional training and resources. What’s more, if students catch wind that a teacher has a gun, they may try to steal it or disarm the teacher. The same goes for armed guards on campus—students may feel emboldened to protect themselves against armed guards they feel may present a threat.
Having armed teachers or guards on campus may present some challenges mentally as students may feel threatened and that they cannot focus on their work or feel safe around the presence of exposed weaponry. This can affect students’ ability to learn and receive information from teachers and school heads.
No matter the liability exposure, the debate around gun violence on campus and having armed guards and teachers is something that will only continue to rise. In the meantime, insurance companies are pulling together resources to provide comprehensive educators liability coverage that can keep teachers, their administration and their school boards safe in times of legal trouble and provide protection in the midst of issues including school safety.
Professional Governmental Underwriters, Inc., is a full-service risk management company dedicated to assisting public, educational and non-profit entities in the management of their professional liability exposures. We are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art professional underwriting management and loss control advisory services on behalf of our designated carriers. For more information, call us toll-free at (800) 586-6502.