District school boards are seeking legal help to deal with the significant increase in insurance premiums

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state Board of Risk and Insurance Management is raising annual liability insurance premiums for the county’s school systems by more than 100%, raising concerns among the small county’s BOE members about where they’re getting the money to cover the increase.

BRIM says it needs more

Mark Scott, Secretary of State for Administration, said the problem has grown in recent years as BRIMs mandated insurance carriers have had to pay out millions related to multiple civil lawsuits against school boards over classroom physical abuse cases.

Mark Scott

“With so many claims coming in and even limited premiums coming in, the only alternative is to increase rates,” Scott said.

BRIM works by putting all 55 district school boards in an insurance pool, so a premium increase covers them all.

“Smaller counties are going to have a hard time absorbing this,” Scott admitted during an appearance on MetroNews’ Talkline last week.

The Roane County Dilemma

jeff mace

Roane County BOE President Jeff Mace told MetroNews the projected increase, contained in a Feb. 6 letter from BRIM, was “staggering.”

“It’s a projected increase of 150% to 225%. We’re currently paying an annual premium of $150,000 and now it’s going to be half a million dollars for us,” Mace said.

He said Roane County is working hard to keep track of its budget.

“We’re very budget conscious,” he said. “Many of our administrators have dual roles. We have a number of joint services with other counties including food services. We have already achieved these fiscal efficiencies to stay afloat.”

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The district does not have an excessive tax.

Roane County School Superintendent Richard Duncan said the county’s insurance claims history is good, with only two lawsuits in the last six years without large payouts.

“We’ve seen other (other counties) have problems, but locally we haven’t had any problems,” he said.


Scott hopes the legislature will pass SB 560, which would place a $1 million cap on school board liability claims.

Anthony Majestro

“If we’re able to limit injury caps, over the next few years we’re going to be able to lower those costs because we don’t get as many awards,” Scott said.

Anthony Majestro, a Charleston attorney lobbying for trial attorneys, said SB 560 gets his “blood boiling”.

“They go back and try to fix mistakes that they made on the victims’ backs and they shouldn’t be doing that,” Majestro said on Talkline.

Majestro said BRIM paid out millions in abuse claims. He said a decision by BRIM to cover private schools backfired. A 2020 settlement for 29 victims who were abused at Miracle Meadows boarding school in Harrison County resulted in a $52 million settlement, with more to come.

There was also an undisclosed settlement that same year relating to a Berkeley County special education abuse case, and there are civil suits in Kanawha County involving similar special education abuse cases.

“There’s a reason BRIM is selling (comparing) these cases because they can’t win these cases,” Majestro said.

Majestro said the state or local school systems need to do a better job of stopping the abuse in the first place. He said even cameras in special education classes hadn’t stopped the abuse.

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“I don’t know who is responsible for this not happening, but we trust the school systems with our children, we trust the administrators and the school boards to hire competent people and watch what they’re doing,” Majestro said.

Scott said BRIM is doing everything it can to mitigate the risk with school boards.

“We’re trying to educate and we’re doing everything we can to keep interest rates low,” he said.

Majestro said there is no evidence that BRIM practices risk management.

SB 560 could be on the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda as early as Monday.

Choices for School Boards

Mace and Duncan hope the legislature will issue a budget supplement to help school boards with their increased BRIM bills. Scott said there is an increase in BRIM funding in the governor’s budget, but that won’t help in this situation.

“The premium increase will still take place,” he said.

Richard Duncan

If that’s the case, Roane County is staring at a $340,000 raise. Both Mace and Duncan said the county would likely have to make staffing cuts to raise the money.

Mace said the county looks forward to passage of the Third Grade Success Act, which would add teaching assistants in the lower grades to help teach reading. He said any additions are likely unlikely now.

“An addition is the only thing that will get us through this,” Duncan said.