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More school districts buying active shooter insurance, but other liabilities remain

After a shooting, a district’s typical insurance policies may not cover victim lawsuits, building repairs, medical expenses, funeral services or trauma counseling. Recent attacks in Florida and Texas have driven interest in specialized policies that prevent costs from piling up after a crisis.

While it is not known how many schools have purchased this type of coverage, insurance provider McGowan Companies reports that it has received hundreds of inquiries from schools and other customers.

Beazley Group, another provider, says it has seen four times as many requests for information on its active shooter policies from schools this year than the year before.

Policy cost depends heavily on the location and size of a school, says Chris Parker, an underwriter at Beazley Group. “The attitude of ‘It won’t happen to me’ is changing,” Parker says.

Policy considerations

Before seeking active shooter or disaster insurance, Parker suggests administrators check with their general liability insurance provider to learn what would be covered in the event of a crisis.

When shopping for any type of liability insurance, administrators should also examine what they are doing in-house, says Amy Klinger, director of programs at the Educator’s School Safety Network, a nonprofit that provides safety training. She recommends creating district- or building-level safety teams for planning and prevention.

These teams typically comprise teachers, support staff and administrators who meet regularly to review safety and operational policies, to evaluate risks and to make recommendations for training.

“You can’t just take out insurance and say, ‘Now we don’t have an obligation to try to prevent things,’” she says. “Schools need to be looking at what sort of vulnerabilities are present and what training is needed.”

A spectrum of vulnerabilities

Schools are considering crisis events and their potential aftermath more seriously than in the past, which is one reason why more are looking to active shooter insurance, Klinger says.

However, insurance won’t solve for a school’s response to other, more likely vulnerabilities that they may be held liable for, such as a bus accident or a parent suing a district, Klinger says.

“It’s clear there isn’t a lot of forethought about, ‘What are we doing, are we being consistent, do we have a clearly articulated policy, are we following it?’” Klinger says. “You can’t just be looking at this violent crisis event, but also at the vulnerabilities and risks in the daily operational things you do.”

Poor visitor screening and access control are two of the most common liabilities for districts, Klinger says. For example, many schools have buzzer systems at their entrances, but few have trainings or policies around using them. Schools also often buzz in visitors without identifying them or prop open doors for convenience.

Supervision is another vulnerable area, as teachers are less likely to be assigned hall, cafeteria or pep rally duty today than in the past, leaving students alone, Klinger says.

Administrators should ensure that there are policies and staff training in place that clearly describe how the school will respond to any issues that arise, she suggests.