Take Action: Please urge your legislator to take action on liability now so that Oregon schools can reopen this fall. It’s urgent and important for the future of our students.
Schools across Oregon are working hard to prepare to resume educating students under challenging conditions. The financial uncertainty around COVID-19 liability is a major barrier to that work. Districts urgently need clear direction about the legal risks associated with the spread of COVID-19, which is why the Legislature must act.
Why Liability Matters to Oregon Schools
Oregon schools have been working tirelessly to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic and to minimize disruptions to our children’s education. Now that summer is here, districts across the state are working on preparations to resume instruction this fall. But the risk of COVID-19 lawsuits could be a serious impediment to this work.
Schools’ liability insurance policies do not offer coverage for the risk of unintentional spread of COVID-19. This means that one lawsuit could sink a district’s finances, along with its ability to serve Oregon students.
CampusSafetyMagazine.com recently noted that “nearly all school [districts’] liability insurance coverage specifically excludes claims related to viral infection or transmission.” (CampusSafetyMagazine.com, May 27, 2020)
Oregon School Boards Association Executive Director Jim Green is quoted highlighting this challenge for Oregon schools:
“School districts are very concerned,” Green said. “They want to try to open their doors in September, but if they don’t have insurance or they don’t have some sort of limited liability protection, they’ve said it’s going to be really hard for them to open their doors and put the assets of the district at risk.” (The Oregonian, July 29, 2020)
What Do Oregon Education Leaders Think?
Board members, superintendents, students, and other stakeholders from across Oregon are weighing in to urge legislative action. Here’s what they’re saying:
Uncertainty about COVID-19 liability is creating significant challenges as schools consider how to resume teaching this fall. Schools that are complying with state and federal COVID-19 guidelines deserve temporary liability protections until this crisis passes. A smart, balanced approach will still ensure accountability for reckless or intentional misconduct while protecting schools so they can move forward. That is why the Legislature must act now to address this issue.