(Santa Fe, NM) – As many public schools across the state prepare to reopen for in-person learning this week,  Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales and Richard Valerio, Executive Director of the New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority (NMPSIA) today made clear that individual teachers and educators are not legally liable for any COVID-19 infections that may occur in schools.  Morales and Valerio felt it was necessary to reassure educators following the distribution of a letter last week from NMPSIA to school district superintendents and the Public Education Department.  That communication caused some misunderstanding among several educators. The NMPSIA e-mail addressed the issue of liability for school districts only, and the importance of complying with the State’s public health orders and other rules and policies that guide school re-entry.

“We want to be perfectly clear: teachers, educators and staff in our public schools and charters will not be held liable in the event of a COVID-19 infection outbreak.  It’s important to clarify this fact after some unfortunate misinterpretation of NMPSIA’s e-mail to superintendents.  We will protect all of our educators and staff who are on the front lines of this pandemic today, and we are extremely grateful for their contributions to our students and our communities,” said Lt. Governor Howie Morales, a former classroom teacher. 

“We know educators will use and enforce COVID-safe practices in the classroom and in the schools. Safety is our top concern as we reopen.  I am also confident schools are taking the necessary and required steps to protect students and staff.  I don’t want any educators or staff to worry about this issue of liability – they have enough on their plates,” added Morales.

New Mexico’s school districts are required by the State to meet health and safety obligations under strict reentry rules addressing COVID-19.  School employees do not face legal liability under the requirements.

“In no way will teachers or school employees be held personally liable for litigation arising out of COVID-19.  NMPSIA sent the letter in an effort to support the State’s districts, charter schools and communities in determining plans and strategies for safely reopening schools in 2020–2021, and to mitigate any potential risks,” said Richard Valerio, Executive Director of NMPSIA.

NMPSIA offers general liability coverages which protect districts and schools and employees and members of boards or commissions.  These coverages include attorney defense costs as well as the cost of any settlement or damage awarded by a court.

NMPSIA was created by the New Mexico Legislature in 1986 to serve as a purchasing agency for public school districts, post-secondary educational entities and charter Schools. Through NMPSIA, member schools offer quality employee benefit and insurance risk coverages.  NMPSIA is governed by an 11 member Board of Directors. 

AP story: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2020-09-08/new-mexico-teachers-safe-from-legal-liability-amid-virus?fbclid=IwAR1l25ofc6FMIutzdvazAAHrZLkxTNcJqsSQK4TCDXTitWMM_nooH9cpo8g

KRQE story: https://www.krqe.com/news/education/individual-educators-staff-protected-from-legal-liability-in-event-of-covid-19-outbreak/