Sovereign immunity, simply stated, is a doctrine preventing the government or its agents from being sued. Case law currently exists protecting teachers and other public school employees from civil lawsuits when the alleged wrongdoing (the reason for the lawsuit) was done while they were performing duties related to their jobs (likely an oversimplification, but I’m trying to keep it simple here).
Now we are being told by our elected officials in the state legislature to forget about even filing a civil lawsuit against a public school employee when a child gets injured or otherwise harmed at school. Sure, case law already exists, meaning prior lawsuits have set precedent granting school employees immunity from lawsuits for what amounts to negligence. But for the state legislature to draw that line, declaring sovereign immunity for public school employees, feels very much like an Us versus Them attitude.
The Senate Judiciary Committee gave HB64 a favorable report last Thursday, with eight committee members voting yes and one member abstaining. The bill now goes to the full Senate.
The reality of the law is this: when you drop your child off at school or you load your child onto a bus or when your child arrives in the parking lot of the school in a private vehicle, the adults at the school are not responsible for ensuring your child’s safety from harm. Period.
Students in private school have more rights guaranteeing them protection from harm than public school students.
Legislators claim that HB64 does nothing to change what’s already in place. And that is exactly my concern.
Be sure to read the fine print in the Alabama Public School Student’s Bill of Rights.
Sovereign immunity is good for the king, but is it good for the king’s subjects, in this case the children we entrust to the adults working in our public schools?
Read this post for more details on HB64. And no, Representative Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) nor the Legislative Reference Service have responded to my questions.