Kindergartens, primary/secondary schools and universities-Teachers and schools can be a big part of a person’s thinking, personal growth, and experience. Schooling is a crucial factor in developing critical thinking and building foundation knowledge. Additionally, learning/education is the best path towards a successful and happy life. It gives us a better understanding of life; sometimes, we can use the ability to fulfil our dreams.
Therefore, education is one of the most important growing industries worldwide. The industry includes schools, kindergartens, universities and all the staff involved. The teachers are a big part of the industry and are accountable for providing expert knowledge and experience to their students. Although providing educational services as a teacher or a school comes with some liability risks.
These school liability risks can lead to lawsuits and massive reputation damage. In addition, a small mistake, negligence, or unethical move can ruin the school’s future. Therefore, the education industry needs to have the best liability protection against these school risks. Hence why, most schools purchase school liability insurance. The article will discuss possible liability risks and how they are covered by insurance.
What is School Liability Insurance?
School liability insurance is a specific professional liability coverage that protects schools and employees from professional risks while performing their duties. Sadly no one is safe from a lawsuit, not even much-loved teachers. There are many things that can go wrong when running a school with countless students and teachers.
These risks can include education negligence, defamation, employee troubles, admin disasters or out-of-school liability risks. School liability can reduce the impact of these risks and hefty lawsuits.
What Risks Does School Liability Insurance Cover?
Teachers and schools have a huge responsibility when educating students, especially young impressionable students. It is very easy to offend someone/group by saying something wrong by mistake. Hence teachers are careful what they say and teach about certain topics to avoid defamation. Although on the other hand, teachers are at risk of being a victim of defamation too. Students can easily lie and spread false information that the teacher did or said something wrong/offensive. A small lie can ruin a teacher’s reputation, and they may file a defamation case against the student and school.
Defamation cases in a school are taken very seriously against a student or a teacher. As its ruins, someone’s reputation and causes personal emotional damage. For example, A teacher was granted USD 363,000 (HKD 2,848,873) in compensatory damages when two schoolgirls alleged that he touched children. The teacher did sue the school for not helping him avoid harmful defamation.
In cases like this, the school should assist the teacher in his defence and may have to take legal actions against the student for ruining the school’s reputation. School liability insurance will provide the school and teachers with legal defence and compensation. The defamation case can be against a person, group, or brand. The insurance will help the school protect itself and its employees from such claims.
Proving education is a service that involves schools, teachers, and students. Like in any industry, there will be errors and mistakes. Small mistakes like teaching the students wrong facts can be corrected easily. However, big mistakes can have a more serious outcome. These large mistakes are also known as acts of negligence or breach of duty. They include errors like poor staff management, teaching offensive information, not keeping an eye out for bullying, or accidently injuring a student.
In most cases, the teachers and school will be held liable and may be sued. Parents could believe the teacher or school’s negligence caused harm to their child and other students. For example, a mom sued a Malaysian school for RM 2 million (HKD 4 million): alleging that the school did not take a right or any actions against bullying- which caused her daughter serious emotional damage. The school will be responsible for paying commission to the student and may suffer a large reputation and financial loss.
Negligence cases can arise from staff, parents or even students. The school will be responsible for defending themselves and as it was their duty to avoid such incidents. The school board often may not know about the possible negligence and may be shocked. At this point, school liability insurance will help the school pay for defence, compensation, and settlement costs. Of course, errors will happen, but a school should be ready to face them, big or small.
Loss Of Private Documents
Any school, from kindergartens to universities, deals with a large number of important information and applications. It’s the school’s duty to ensure each application gets equal attention and is stored correctly. An application can affect a student’s future, and one mistake with an application can ruin the student’s chances and may harm their future.
For example, there have been cases where schools have lost important results belonging to a graduating class. The school will have to pay a hefty amount to fix this problem, inform students, third parties and compensate for the loss.
Thus, in such cases, the school liability insurance will assist the school by reimbursing the amount spent to fix the loss of private documents. The costs could include informing third parties, commission, and possible legal fees. In addition, the insurance will also pay for expenses related to confidential information leaked. Such a situation can be rare but could happen to any school or education institute and be expensive to fix.
School Employee Malpractice
As important as the students are in a school, so are the employees/ staff. The team of teachers, board and additional staff helps the school run. There must be a duty of conduct to regulate how employees act and how management deals with junior-level staff. Each school should have a strong HR department, employee handbook and procedures that guide hiring, disciplining, or terminating employees.
Breaking the duty of conduct or miscommunication can lead to lawsuits from employees toward the school and the accused party. Misconducts include sexual or racial discrimination, unprofessional behaviour, sexual harassment, etc. For example, a teaching staff sued her manager and school for discrimination when she had been threatened that her referral letter might contain false negative comments if she tried to get a new job. As a result of her winning the case, the school settled the claim for SGD 6,500 (HKD 37,092).
Accordingly, the school board is liable for ensuring their employees are safe and applying correct employee practices. In such cases, the school liability insurance will be a great asset as the insurance will pay legal defence and settlement costs. Each employee is important as the other, and each employee deserves to feel safe working in the school.
Out Of Class Liabilities
Unfortunately, school liability risks don’t only exist in the class or school. A school is almost always liable for its students and their safety. Their liability also extends to school trips, extra-circular activities, school buses and anything under the school’s control. Additionally, the school may also be responsible for their student’s safety online if issues (cyberbullying) are bought up by parents.
Therefore, if a student is injured physically or mentally during these times, the student or parents will have the right to sue the school for negligence, for not taking the right actions (even if it wasn’t on the school premises). For instance, if a student is injured or even temporally lost during a school trip, the parents can sue for negligence and lack of supervision.
In many cases, it may not even be the teacher or the school’s fault– kids have a mind of their own. Parents and students will blame the school for anything wrong under their supervision. Thankfully, if the case escalates- the insurance will pay for the legal costs and possible commission. The insurance will be the school’s finest strength when things go wrong and are costly to move past.
What Schools Need School Liability Insurance?
The insurance can and should be purchased by every school, from kindergartens to universities. Even if you are a small or local school, this insurance is a must to protect your school liability.
Additionally, the school liability insurance will provide the school with the financial coverage they need when things go wrong. School budgets are already tight enough with spending on educational improvements. The insurance will provide financial cover for most claims, so the school doesn’t lose part of their budget.
Another benefit that schools will realise after purchasing the insurance is the peace of mind they will feel. The school will be able to focus on providing the best educational service and hiring the best professionals. They do not need to worry about possible claims that can arise from anywhere. Obviously, schools and teachers will still need to be careful about providing a safe and organised service.
Finally, insurers can customise school liability insurance to meet all your requirements for any school size. Therefore, if you are a teacher or school board member, you may want to check if your school has the right insurance.
To learn more about the school liability insurance and protect your school and teachers, contact Red Asia Insurance.