Bill giving teachers immunity OK’d

Published 1:46 am Saturday, March 1, 2014

A bill crafted by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) that would provide statutory immunity to teachers and state workers for acts they carry out as part of their employment duties cleared the legislature this week and needs only Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature to become law.

“This potentially has a huge effect,” Jones said. “We were one of five states that had not codified some form of immunity for education employees. It’s to the governor’s deck, and I have every reason to believe he will sign it.”

Jones said the bill covers both certified and non-certified education employees, and provides them protection as employees and as individuals. It also expanded protection for state employees.

“That’s a bid deal,” he said.

Traditionally, one of the selling points of the Alabama Education Association was that with membership came the assurance of representation if one were sued. However, Jones said AEA did not oppose the bill, which was supported by the state superintendent of education, the state superintendents’ association, and the Alabama Association of School Boards.

Last year, the legislature funded liability insurance for teachers. Jones said at the time, he realized a better fix would be to put protection into the Code of Alabama.

“In the long run, it will save not just money, but also stress.

“We’re not trying to protect bad people, we’re trying to protect good people,” Jones said. “This covers only civil actions, not criminal.”

Without codification, Jones said, case law can change the common law.

“If you are an insurance company, trying to quote rates based on common law shifts, that’s difficult,” Jones said. “With codification, things change more slowly.”

Jones originally authored and prefiled the bill last fall. Later, the House Republican caucus added it to its agenda for 2014.