Texas educators often don’t know what legal protection they receive from their district. ATPE debunks some of the myths about your district’s support in facing legal complaints against you.
Myth: My school district will automatically defend me should I need legal defense.
Fact: Not all school districts carry liability insurance, and if they do, the policy may exclude your particular scenario. For those districts that have policies, each one could be different and the policy details are often unobtainable. The provisions of district policies are subject to negotiation and may be written first and foremost to protect the school district at the expense of the employee.
In addition, school district employees may not be clear about how to report claims on their own in the first place. They are completely at the mercy of the district’s legal counsel or superintendent, who may not inform them of all their rights.
In contrast, ATPE readily provides policy details to members and non-members, so you can see exactly what you’re getting for your membership.
Myth: My district will defend me if I have a legal concern.
Fact: School districts may not provide coverage unless the district is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. There are many scenarios where the district would not be named in the lawsuit but the district should still provide a defense.
It’s important to remember that the district’s interests and your interests as an employee are not always the same. Districts want to protect themselves from harm and are often willing to sacrifice the employee, particularly if there is public or parental pressure.
Myth: My school district’s policy provides all the legal support I need.
Fact: Districts do not provide any employment, certification, or criminal defense coverage. With ATPE, your benefits include both excess liability coverage, ensuring that someone is representing your interests as an educator in case your employer fails to defend you. AND you have employment rights defense in the event you encounter an employment conflict with your district.
If you happen to need a criminal defense lawyer (and you don’t have to break the law to need a lawyer!), he or she will require a sizeable retainer—regardless of how little work they wind up doing.
Myth: I don’t need to join a professional organization. My district will take care of me.
Fact: Your district may discourage you from joining a professional organization by telling you that their policy will cover you, but if there is a conflict, you may not wind up on the same side as your district. You need someone to look out for your interests. ATPE has encountered many large school districts that refuse to provide a defense for their employees who were sued in their professional capacity.
Myth: I don’t need career protection. I’m not going to do anything wrong.
Fact:You don’t have to do anything wrong to need protection. Working with minors on a daily basis puts educators in a risky position. Accidents happen to everyone, and many educators have been falsely accused of things that require legal defense.
Eligibility, terms, conditions, and exclusion apply. Learn more about ATPE’s protection benefits.
Not an ATPE member? Join today to become part of the state’s largest educator group.