Chair of Assembly Education Committee Concerned Lawsuits Can Hamstring School Districts’ Finances When They Reopen
(Sacramento) – Today, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) introduced a bill to provide limited liability protections for K-12 schools as they prepare to reopen for the next academic school year. AB 1384 is in response to school districts’ concerns that they could face COVID-19 related lawsuits.
“We need to provide clarity and reduce uncertainty for school districts as they navigate the patchwork of state, federal and public health COVID-19 rules,” Assemblymember O’Donnell, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee said. “AB 1384 ensures that policies and procedures are established to safely reopen schools, consistent with federal, state and local legal COVID-19 requirements, and allows school districts to focus on instruction rather than lawsuits. We cannot divert scarce resources for instruction, meals and other student needs for legal bills or let schools become cash cows for lawyers.”
“The best learning environment for students is in a classroom, but science tells us there is currently no way to be back in schools without risk to students, staff and family members,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “Schools should not have to use funds that would otherwise go to instruction to pay lawyers and satisfy lawsuits,” said Superintendent Beutner.
The bill does not modify or affect workers’ compensation claims by employees. The protections afforded under AB 1384 also do not apply to claims for money or damages for gross negligence or for reckless, intentional, or willful and wanton misconduct.
“Schools and teachers deserve credit for quickly adapting to distance learning when schools had to close, but as a teacher, I know firsthand that students learn best in a classroom. The question going forward now is: how do we protect staff, students and their families’ health while ensuring school districts’ finances can remain afloat in these dire budget times?”
The bill will be heard in its first policy committee after the Legislature’s summer recess.