There are more than 3.2 million public and private school teachers in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In today’s litigious society, that’s 3.2 million targets for lawsuits. A 2014 survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that an American teacher with 10 years of experience earned an average of $53,758. Considering that injury claims can run from $25,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, that income is not nearly enough to withstand a lawsuit from a student’s parents should their child be injured while under a teacher’s supervision.
Doctors and lawyers would not dream of practicing without liability (or malpractice) insurance. In today’s sue-happy world, a teacher should not step into a classroom without the protection of a professional liability insurance policy.
According to a 2014 Harris Interactive poll, 60% of respondents viewed teaching as a prestigious profession. Teachers ranked 10th, behind other careers such as engineering, architecture, clergy and nursing. As respect for teaching declines, the number of incidents sparking lawsuits increases, and the more parents and others tend to blame teachers when things go wrong in the classroom.
How Can Teacher's Insurance Help?
A 2014 OECD report showed that American teachers spent an astounding 967 hours each year in the classroom. That was the third highest in the world, only slightly lower than 1,010 hours in Australia and 1,049 in Chile. Teachers spend more time with students than their own families.
The more often teachers are in the classroom, the higher their chances of being accused of wrongdoing.
A significant percentage of teachers are threatened with violence by students every year, and teachers who work at the elementary level aren’t immune. According to the U.S. Department of Education (ED), in 2008 threats were made against:
- 9% of urban elementary teachers and 11% of urban secondary teachers
- 5% of suburban elementary teachers and 7% of suburban secondary teachers
- 8% of town elementary teachers and 7% town secondary teachers
- 5% of rural elementary teachers and 7% of rural secondary teachers
Data from the ED and the NCES show that those threats turn into actual violence in about half the incidents where teachers are threatened by students. Teachers are highly trained in bachelor’s and advanced degrees in education, but responding to threats and actual violence isn’t usually part of their instruction. Responding to such attacks can leave teachers open to liabilities and lawsuits.
What Does Teacher Liability Insurance Cover?
This type of insurance provides protection against a broad range of liabilities, including the following allegations (whether true or false):
- Injuries to students under teacher supervision
- Failure to educate
- Violation of students' civil rights
- Hiring unqualified persons
- Failure to promote students or grant credit
- Improper methods of instruction
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Privacy rights violations
Say your class is on a field trip. Despite your attempts to redirect potentially harmful behavior, a student injures themself or another student. Even though you attempted to keep the child safe, their parent sues for $30,000 (the cost to treat the child’s broken arm). Or say you are acquitted of all charges of sexual assault of a student. The damage to your reputation can’t be repaired, but a teacher’s liability insurance policy can help you recover the $14,000 in legal fees spent on your defense.
A teacher liability insurance policy should not just protect you in the event you are faced with a lawsuit. A proper policy should also reimburse you if a student’s personal property, or yours, is damaged in an assault-related incident. If a student damages your personal tablet in an outburst of violence, some policies will help you replace it. Teacher liability insurance can also help protect you if a student accuses you of damaging that cell phone you confiscated.
Doesn’t My District or Union Carry Insurance?
Your school district’s liability insurance covers the district, not you. In certain situations, your district plan won’t cover you, your attorney’s fees, or the incident that triggers a lawsuit. It is prudent to have your own insurance policy naming you as the insured party.
According to Education Weekly, more and more teachers are opting for personal coverage. The number of teachers purchasing professional liability insurance has risen 25% in the past five years. Teacher liability insurance may have become more attractive in recent years, in part because it’s inexpensive, costing less than $100 a year for a $1 million policy.
Another reason teachers are buying more insurance is that they are increasingly dubious about whether their districts will protect them if they are sued. Many lawsuits filed today name everyone, right down to the janitorial and cafeteria staff.
If you are a member of an education union or association, your dues may pay for some level of liability insurance. However, many of these plans have limits and some will not cover any of your legal fees if you are found guilty in court.
Where Can I Purchase Teacher Liability Insurance?
In the event you face a lawsuit, you need the protection only a professional liability insurance policy can offer. Knowledgeable, independent insurance agents are always available to assist you. These agents work for their clients and not the insurance company, which allows them to compare several quotes with a variety of coverage options. Contact an agent today to find out how you can obtain a teacher liability insurance policy at the most affordable rates with the best protection. An agent can answer all your questions and allow you to teach with peace of mind knowing your finances are protected.