Indiana Attorney General: New Law Protects Teachers from Lawsuits

August 18, 2009

Indiana teachers will be shielded from frivolous lawsuits filed over student-discipline disputes under the state’s new teacher-protection law being fully implemented in August, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office announced.

House Enrolled Act 1462 was passed by the Indiana General Assembly in April and became law July 1. If sued for disciplining a student, a teacher now will have stronger legal protections and can be represented in court by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

“If teachers have been reluctant to discipline out of fear of litigation, they can rest assured that the attorney general’s office will aggressively defend them in court,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said. “Classroom misbehavior and disruptions deprive students of their state constitutional right to a public education, and that’s the greater risk to Indiana’s future.”

The teacher-protection legislation was introduced in the 2009 session in response to incidents around the state where schoolteachers said they were reluctant to discipline students who were disruptive in class, out of fear of being sued. Governor Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Zoeller and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett have been strong proponents of the new law, bringing the matter to the attention of legislators last year and supporting its passage.

“A teacher who disciplines an unruly student needs the full support of the state against the child’s disgruntled parent who hires a lawyer and files a lawsuit. If the teacher acted reasonably and in good faith under the school’s policy, then the attorney general’s office will step in and defend that teacher,” Zoeller said. “We believe this new law will deter lawsuits from being filed in the first place, since plaintiff’s lawyers will know they will be up against the resources and authority of the State of Indiana through its attorney general.”

HEA 1462, now called Public Law 121-2009, contains several provisions dealing with school discipline and was supported by many educators.

The teacher-protection bill passed with nearly unanimous support in the General Assembly.

Under an existing statute, the attorney general’s office has the authority to provide teachers with legal representation. Public Law 121-2009 now extends that protection by giving teachers qualified legal immunity from lawsuits, if their actions to maintain school discipline were reasonable under the school’s policy and taken in good faith.

More information on the new law, is available on the attorney general’s Web site, www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/press/SchoolDisciplineBill.html.

Source: Indiana Attorney General’s Office

Topics Lawsuits Legislation Indiana

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