As more schools consider arming their employees, some districts are encountering a daunting economic hurdle: insurance carriers threatening to raise their premiums or revoke coverage entirely.
During legislative sessions this year, seven states enacted laws permitting teachers or administrators to carry guns in schools. Three of the measures — in Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee — took effect last week. But already, EMC Insurance Companies, the liability insurance provider for about 90 percent of Kansas school districts, has sent a letter to its agents saying that schools permitting employees to carry concealed handguns would be declined coverage.
“We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” the letter said.
In northeast Indiana, Douglas A. Harp, the sheriff of Noble County, offered to deputize teachers to carry handguns in their classrooms less than a week after 26 children and educators were killed in a school shooting in Newtown, Conn. A community member donated $27,000 in firearms to the effort. School officials from three districts seemed ready to sign off. But the plan fell apart after an insurer refused to provide workers’ compensation to schools with gun-carrying staff members.
The Oregon School Boards Association, which manages liability coverage for all but a handful of the state’s school districts, recently announced a new pricing structure that would make districts pay an extra $2,500 annual premium for every staff member carrying a weapon on the job.
Scott Whitman, an administrator at the Jackson County school district in southern Oregon, where a committee is looking at arming school staff members next year, said costs would be a factor in the decision. With 10 buildings, the expense of arming and training more than one staff member at each school would easily exceed $50,000 a year.
“Pretty much every last bit of our money is budgeted,” he said, adding, “To me, that could be quite an impediment to putting this forward.”
Increasing the number of firearms in classrooms across the country has been the cornerstone of the National Rifle Association’s response to the Newtown massacre and the legislative fights over proposed gun laws that followed it. In April, the gun-rights group released a report that called for armed police officers, security guards or staff members in every American school. More than 30 state legislatures introduced bills that permit staff members to carry guns in public or private schools this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Supporters say training teachers to carry guns would better protect students and, if anything, should put insurance companies more at ease. But worries remain about who could be sued if a gun-related accident occurred on school property, giving way to business realities for some insurance providers, which include both commercial carriers and nonprofit cooperatives.
“Some are saying this is so high risk we’re not going to touch it,” said Kenneth S. Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services, which discourages districts from implementing concealed carry policies. “Others may say this is so high risk that you’re going to pay through the nose.”
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