Governor Bill Lee has called a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to provide healthcare providers, schools, and businesses broad protections against coronavirus lawsuits. The special legislative session will begin Monday.
Professional Educators of Tennessee said:
"While we have been advocates for this legislation, we want to be very clear that we want to protect teachers and education support personnel from frivolous lawsuits for simply doing their jobs.
"There is presently a class-action federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan, N.Y. that already names school districts across the country as defendants. They contend that districts ignored federal law by failing to provide legally mandated services to kids who suffer from mental and physical deficits after the closure of schools in March. Parent activist Patrick Donohue said, 'These school districts violated the rights of 6.7 million students across the country by altering their educational programs.' Then added: 'They put the burden on parents to do the job of these school districts.'
"Mr. Donohue contends that remote learning is ineffective for special education children, especially those that may need one-on-one assistance. This particular lawsuit is 'demanding the resumption of full-time in-person special education for impacted kids, fresh evaluations for badly regressed children, compensation for parental expenses incurred during remote learning, and funding for additional staff.' Likely, this will not be the only lawsuit filed.
"Our point that we would stress to policymakers is that any legislation that ultimately passes our Tennessee General Assembly must also protect the educators or it will not be adequate. We are merely trying to keep all of our educators safe from potential litigation costs and civil damages just for doing their job. For parents or school employees, there is still legal recourse if there is willful misconduct or reckless or intentional infliction of harm.
"We have championed this issue for all educators because whether a school district chooses to go online for virtual education or meet in person for direct instruction, there will be critics. Educators who are on the frontlines should not be pawns in legal challenges. This legislation is a necessary step as we work together to prevent the spread of this global pandemic and try to educate all children in our state. We urge passage of legislation that protects our educators and commend Governor Lee and policymakers for their advocacy on our behalf."