Liabilities Transporting Students
A member calls the Counselling Department because her principal has told her she is expected to transport students to school functions in her own car as there is no money for buses.
The counsellor tells the teacher that she is under no obligation to transport students, for any reason. Even in an emergency, the teacher is free to refuse to provide transportation, and should transport students only if fully aware of the risks involved.
In the past, teachers often used their own vehicles to transport students to school functions. However, in today's litigious society, teachers must rethink this practice. There have been increasing numbers of cases of members being accused of inappropriate behaviour related to transportation of students. In addition, although a school administrator may assure teachers that the board's insurance will protect them in the event of an accident, this is not always the case.
Board insurance policies usually contain ceilings on pay-outs; additional amounts may then be recovered from the teacher's insurer. In the wake of an accident, teachers could face cancellation of their policies or a steep increase in premiums, especially if they have not previously notified their insurer that their vehicle could be used to transport students. Even if the teacher is not at fault, anyone involved in the accident could launch a civil suit seeking damages far beyond the liability coverage in the personal auto insurance.
If teachers are to be asked to transport students to school functions, including before- and after-school events such as concerts and football games, there should be a process in place to obtain parental consent. There should also be a protocol providing official board approval for both the function and for the transportation of students, before the event.
Furthermore, teachers who choose to transport students should ensure that: a) the board insurance policy will cover a situation where they transport students, and b) that the staff member has sufficient insurance coverage for personal injury or property damage to student passengers in case of accident.
In addition, records show that allegations of unprofessional conduct by teachers are on the increase. Teachers are advised to avoid one-on-one encounters with students because there are no witnesses to what actually occurs. Teachers who drive students in their own vehicles are placing themselves in potentially difficult situations if a student or their parents complain. This is not a risk that teachers should take, even for the child of friends.