Insurers Block Plans to Arm Schools

Monday, 08 Jul 2013 03:02 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Insurance companies are threatening to raise premiums — or even cancel coverage altogether — for school districts that arm their employees

Measures allowing teachers or other staff to carry guns have gone into effect this month in Kansas, South Dakota, and Tennessee, reports The New York Times and already, one large liability provider has instructed agents to decline coverage in schools where weapons are carried.

EMC Insurance Companies which covers 90 percent of school districts in Kansas wrote to its agents, "Concealed handguns on school premises pose a heightened liability risk."

The company said schools that allow concealed handguns will be declined as new business and policies already written for such schools will not be renewed.

"We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company," the letter said.

EMC's threat seems to be working. After Kansas passed its gun law in April, more than a dozen school administrators considered allowing their staffs to be armed, said David Shriver, who oversees insurance programs for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

But the calls stopped as soon as EMC issued its new rules.

In the months following December's mass shootings in Newtown, Conn. — in which 20 first graders and six teachers were killed — lawmakers in at least 30 states proposed laws to allow school personnel to carry firearms in primary and secondary campuses, according to CNN.

In addition to Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee, laws have been enacted in Alabama and Arizona. Even before the Newtown shootings, 18 states already allowed adults to have a loaded gun on school grounds, usually as long as they have written permission. NBC News reported at the time.

Indiana, one of those states, may face new problems, reports The New York Times. An insurance company threatened to refuse workers' compensation in schools where staff members carry guns, after Noble County sheriff, Douglas Harp, offered to make teachers sheriff's deputies so they could carry guns. Firearms worth $27,000 were donated and school officials were about to sign off on the plan, but the insurer's threat made them back off.

The National Rifle Association began pushing for increasing firearms in classrooms shortly after the Newtown shootings and in April released a report calling for armed police officers, security guards or staff in all schools.

But while some insurers are denying coverage or raising rates, Jenny Emery, who heads the Association of Governmental Risk Pools, said none of her members plan to withhold coverage. However, Emery told The New York Times that many are still recommending other security alternatives, and she hasn't seen evidence that shows arming teachers "is a recommended way to manage risk."

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