Huntsville attorney explains immunity for educators as it relates to COVID-19

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – In a presentation to the state school board Tuesday, Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey suggested that mandating things in the plan, specifically sanitation practices, could lead to legal trouble.

“If we make that a mandate and a teacher forgets to do it. Do we set up our districts for potential litigation because we’ve mandated something?” he said.

Attorney Mark McDaniel said teachers, as public employees, have absolute immunity. But once practices become required, things can get tricky.

“The more rules and regulations we have, the more lawyers can look at them and say ‘well you didn’t do this.'” McDaniel explained. “It doesn’t matter how minute, you didn’t do it? You exceeded your authority and this child got sick because of it.”

Once you exceed your authority, immunity is no longer valid.

And while McDaniel said proving a child got sick at school would take a bit of work, he said it would be fairly easy for a lawyer to prove a teacher exceeded their authority in a court of law.

Especially as it pertains to teachers cleaning furniture and class materials.

The defense attorney said he’s represented both teachers and families, so he understands the concerns of both sides.

“Most people want to say ‘before I send my child back t o school what has to be done every day? How are you going to protect my child?'” the attorney said. “The teachers, the school nurses that are going to go into this every single day and they’re going to be faced with this. Now they’re looking at ‘well am I going to get sued?’ I’ve got to face getting sick, maybe dying, maybe carrying it home to my parents and grandparents.”

In March, Governor Ivey issued civil immunity protections for businesses and health care providers, including institutions of higher learning. McDaniel said it would be logical to grant the same immunity to primary and secondary schools as well.

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