Amid ‘clouds,’ another school year launches

August is the month when back-to-school shopping is in its proverbial high gear, even though sales of school supplies and the latest school fashions get underway right after the Fourth of July.

But this month has been unusual on two fronts, and they’re the bases for concern and the fodder for significant discussion. And it’s safe to say that that discussion is destined to be prolonged.

First, on Thursday, the federal Department of Education revealed that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed using federal funds to arm teachers.

Such funding is not currently permitted.

The issue of arming teachers received its most prolonged discussion beginning in February, after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Now DeVos has provided the impetus for much more discussion, which no doubt will take place.

It’s premature to try to predict the outcome and, if that use of federal money is authorized, what options school districts will have as a basis for applying for grants.

The second back-to-school-related discussion front gearing up — and that seems destined to be the source of increased focus going forward — is “active-shooter insurance.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 3 that “demand is growing for ‘active-assailant’ coverage as districts confront a new reality.”

Who could have imagined 19 years ago, in the wake of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., that nearly two decades later, this country still would be wrestling with the tragic school-shootings problem? And who could have imagined that the time would come when some school boards would feel compelled to have on their agendas the item of whether to vote yes on this new insurance option?

It’s open to question whether any area school board has discussed the topic at a committee meeting or whether any school board members or administrators have talked about it during informal contacts. However, it seems like an issue that’s destined for consideration by more and more school systems with each passing year.

According to the Journal, a leader in shooter insurance — a company that has written more than 300 active-shooter/workplace-violence policies for school districts, charter schools, private schools and universities across the country since 2016, when it started offering the insurance — is based in Ohio.

The Aug. 3 Journal article noted that, after a mass shooting at a school, it isn’t unusual for victims and grieving family members to file lawsuits against a school district alleging negligence or for missing warning signs of a would-be shooter.

For example, after the Parkland, Fla., tragedy, 15 survivors filed a lawsuit against several parties, including the school district’s superintendent.

Shooter insurance is classified as gap coverage — for expenses not usually covered under general liability policies. The Journal reported that the range for annual premiums is about $1,800 for $1 million in coverage for small school systems to about $175,000 for $20 million in coverage for larger ones.

More than 150 children and adults have been killed in school shootings since 1990, according to the Journal.

Not that long ago, the start of a new school year was met with excitement about regular contacts with friends once again, football and myriad other positive interactions — and, for seniors, planning for life after high school.

How troubling it is that topics such as arming teachers and buying active-shooter insurance now must be a “clouding” factor in that positive new-school-year environment.


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