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Is teachers’ union membership the only option for protection from lawsuits? No.

During my first year of teaching, a colleague pulled me aside and told me I needed professional liability insurance to protect my job and reputation from potential false accusations made by students or parents. Since lawsuits against teachers can be career kryptonite, protection is a good idea.

So, how does liability insurance work?

It begins with school districts providing general liability coverage to protect teachers for actions performed in their scope of duties. (Check with your local district for specific coverage information.) Next, teachers decide if they want additional liability insurance—which most do—that personally covers them and names them as the insured party. This extra precaution is understandable, considering today’s sue-happy world. But the teachers’ union is quick to scare teachers into thinking that outside of union membership, they can’t get such protection.

To start, this is false. The union is not the only organization that offers teachers liability coverage. There are several non-union education associations teachers can belong to that offer job protection benefits and liability insurance along with other coverage options. Plus, the coverage offered through these alternative associations is often double the coverage ($2 million per member, per occurrence versus the union’s $1 million liability policy) for far less the cost ($16.50-$20 per month compared to at least $75 per month in union dues for coverage).

It’s important, too, to remember that this coverage is excess coverage to what is already provided by the school district or school board errors and omissions or general liability policies purchased by a teacher’s employer. Even the union acknowledges its liability policy is excess coverage in its certificate of insurance as stated in this sample policy: “This insurance is excess of any and all other insurance policies, insurance programs, self-insurance programs, and defense and indemnification arrangements…”

Generally speaking, few teachers will need additional, liability insurance coverage, but for peace of mind there are alternative professional associations ready to represent teachers and offer legal aid. A teacher’s homeowner’s insurance policy may also contain or offer professional liability coverage.

Don’t let the union intimidate you into thinking the sky will fall outside of union membership. If you believe union membership is not the best choice for you and your family, join us at EducatedTeachersMN.com to find out about your options and rights.

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