Though we hope you never need to use your liability insurance benefit, it’s important for all educators to understand when they can and cannot be held legally responsible for in a situation.
Immunity from Liability
Legal immunity means you cannot be held responsible (liable) for something that may otherwise be a violation of law. If in a situation, you’re found to be immune from liability, you cannot be held financially responsible for damage, injury, or loss. This protection also means that lawsuits involving someone with immunity are often dismissed, since a party can’t be held responsible.
Texas state law grants fairly broad immunity for teachers and other professional employees (including counselors, nurses, and certified bus drivers) in a school district, given the amount of judgment and discretion required in performing their professional duties.
Per the Texas Education Code, professional school employees cannot be held personally liable for any act “that is incident to or within the scope of the duties of the employee’s position of employment and that involves the exercise of judgment or discretion on the part of the employee.”
Under federal law, professional public employees have qualified immunity for federal claims, typically including civil rights violations such as sexual harassment or racial discrimination.
Liability for School Employees
A professional employee does not have immunity, and is therefore liable, in circumstances in which they use excessive force in the discipline of students. Professional school employees also can be held liable for:
- negligence resulting in bodily injury to students
- negligence in administering medication to a student
- the use or operation of a motor vehicle
Liability Insurance for Texas AFT Members
It’s worth noting that you will need to prove that immunity applies to a given situation, which can be a lengthy, challenging, and expensive process.
That’s one reason Texas AFT offers $8 million in occupational liability insurance. As a member, this is your protection against lawsuits relating to the scope of your duties as a school employee.
The scope of that protection includes civil rights violation claims made against you, a $35,000 Legal Action Trust to protect against criminal incidents, and a Legal Defense Fund to protect against employment-related claims.
This is just one of our many workplace protections and services. For more information, see our membership benefits.
The legal information provided above is intended as general information. If you have questions or concerns or need legal counsel, please contact your local union. If you’re a member of the Associate Membership Program, please contact the AMP service department.
Have a question about your rights? Contact a union expert about policies by downloading the Ask Texas AFT app for free.