EducationPrimary EducationSecondary Education

Guns in Schools May Mean No Insurance. Oops! Awkward.

Insurance companies are starting to refuse coverage to public school districts that allow teachers to carry guns in class.

From USA Today, linked above:

A new Kansas law allowing gun owners to carry weapons in public buildings, including schools, has thrust a major Des Moines-based insurer into the national gun control debate.

The EMC Insurance Cos. insures 85 percent to 90 percent of all Kansas school districts and has refused to renew coverage for schools that permit teachers and custodians to carry concealed firearms on their campuses under the new law, which took effect July 1. It’s not a political decision, but a financial one based on the riskier climate it estimates would be created, the insurer said.

I have two immediate responses to this story:

1. WTF? No one saw this coming? No one even thought to CHECK with an insurance representative to see what the fallout might be from these laws?

2. Custodians?? I still remember the custodian from my elementary school. His name was Mr. Anderson and he was a million years old (he had white hair anyway) and he moved with quiet methodic purpose that inspired calm in the midst of trauma. If you threw up at your desk, Mr. Anderson appeared with his cart and magicked away the shame with mysterious pink sand, exhibiting not the least disgust or judgment. We loved him for it. And now these people want Mr. Anderson to carry a gun?

Well, the insurance companies that underwrite these school districts really don’t. A representative from Des Moines-based EMC Insurance Co. explains:

“We’ve been writing school business for almost 40 years, and one of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any on-site armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers,” said Mick Lovell, EMC’s vice president for business development. “Our guidelines have not recently changed.”


And Bob Skow, chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa, adds:

“It’s one thing to have a trained peace officer with a gun in school; it’s a completely different situation when you have a custodian or a teacher with a gun,” Skow said. “That changes the risk of insuring a school and magnifies it considerably.”


Uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers. Trained peace officers. Why, that’s crazy talk! Except, I guess, to these buzzkilling insurance

No trampolines. No guns. No happiness.

No trampolines. No guns. No happiness.

geeks, who all look like Toby from The Office in my head. Did you know it’s their fault schools can’t have trampolines anymore either? True fact. Here’s Bob “No” Skow again:

Insurance is all about risk and about pricing the cost of coverage in a way that correctly reflects it. That’s one of the reasons many schools have gotten rid of their trampolines, he said.


Why do you hate the laughter of children, Bob?

In all seriousness, this situation is deeply stupid. I never expected the voice of reason to thunder forth from an insurance company, but we have to take it where we can get it. Remember this study from 2011 that found that “having a gun in the home poses a household a greater health risk than a potential benefit”? Others have derived similar conclusions, both before and since. All evidence suggests that guns in the home carry more risk than benefit, especially for women and children. It makes absolutely no sense to amplify that risk by stashing an arsenal in a school in a bizarre effort to turn schoolteachers into armed bouncers. People don’t go into teaching because they dream of putting down assassins. We don’t imagine ourselves in Die Hard; we imagine ourselves in Stand and Deliver. Even CPR training made me anxious; I spent days worrying that I would be too afraid and shocked to remember what I’d learned if one of my students were in fact dying in front of me. In the chaos and terror of a school shooting, how many amateurs who have never experienced anything remotely like that situation before would actually manage to use a gun effectively? Insurance companies apparently believe the answer is: not enough to make it worth it. And they’re right.

They’re right by their own measure–the risk outweighs the potential benefits–but they’re also right for a reason only tangentially alluded to in their explanations: Gunning down madmen is not a teacher’s job. When districts (and legislatures) start putting guns in classrooms, they make teachers and other non-security personnel responsible for shooting people with them. Police officers and members of the military receive training and counseling not merely for the mechanics of killing someone, but for the emotional toll of killing someone. They receive years of such training and support, and they should. Will teachers also now need and receive such support? Bottom line: I don’t want to shoot anyone. I don’t want that responsibility or that opportunity. If I thought that was something I could do well, I would have gone to the police academy. Legislators have no business deciding that I must now add armed guard to my teaching duties. That’s a profession for reasons, and I chose a different profession, also for reasons.

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DrShell is an Associate Professor of English at a small liberal arts college. She teaches world literature, composition, popular culture, and speculative fiction and serves as faculty sponsor for the Secular Student Alliance. DrShell lives in tame suburbia with her husband and son and a pack of rescued pets, where she spends a lot of time running, taking Body Pump classes, and thinking about getting another tattoo.


  1. August 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm —

    And besides this, I really wonder how the interaction between teachers and students will be affected. And the general atmosphere of the school will definitely be affected as well.

    • August 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm —

      No kidding. I’m appalled when I look back and recall how my elementary and middle school teachers had paddles in their classrooms. I can’t imagine what it would be like if they had Glocks behind their desks.

    • August 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm —

      It will only take one unbalanced teacher shooting a kid for being bratty before this whole thing blows up. Sadly I suspect that the states in question would use such an occasion to outlaw teachers’ unions (by some bizarre twist of logic) rather than get rid of the guns.

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