Schools Face Increasing Violence

Physical contact between students and teachers in one Minnesota school district tripled over the past five years.
By: | December 5, 2016 • 4 min read

Eight of 10 teachers nationwide report being victimized by students at least once in a school year.

The U.S. Department of Education said it’s a national crisis with both obvious and hidden costs for teachers and districts. In a July 2015 report addressing teacher victimization by students, (i.e., harassment, theft, property damage and physical attacks) the department cited more than $2 billion lost annually and lost work days approaching one million.


Bill Mayo, executive director, New Jersey Schools Insurance Group, is not surprised.

“We have incurred costs of more than $50 million in wage replacement and direct medical care over the last 10 years for workers’ compensation costs in categories of assaults on teachers,” he said. “And that doesn’t include soft costs like replacement teacher training over time.”

Bill Mayo, executive director, New Jersey Schools Insurance Group

Bill Mayo, executive director, New Jersey Schools Insurance Group

Mayo’s group operates a joint insurance fund on behalf of 400 school districts and the teachers’ collective bargaining units.

“We see injuries occurring from teachers breaking up an altercation between students, which is the second most frequent type of an injury,” he said. The most frequent stems from acting out by students with special education needs.

“The smallest category, probably representing about 5 percent or less, involves a direct attack on a teacher outside of a special ed environment.”

That’s not a large percentage and certainly is in accord with the Department of Education’s statistics, but extrapolate that 5 percent of student assaults to the 3.1 million teachers working in the U.S., and it equals more than 150,000 teachers reporting some form of physical assault this year.

And those would be only the ones actually reporting an incident.

Legislative Action

Someone surprised by the numbers is Mark French, president of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association and co-chair of the Student Behavior Workgroup created by the Minnesota legislature last year.

The group’s creation followed media reports of increased violence against teachers.

“While it does surprise me,” said French, “I can see why it might happen because schools are having to work with students who are coming [to school] with more home, family, community and society health issues.”

At Minnesota’s largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin, physical contact involving teachers and students tripled between 2010 and 2015, while the rate of student-related workers’ compensation claims at Minneapolis schools climbed from four incidents for every 1,000 students in 2010-2011 to seven in 2015-2016.

As a result, French and other school principals in Minnesota are interested in not only suspending or expelling aggressive students but in “what we can do up-front through programming like social and emotional learning, restorative justice and practices.”

French also acknowledged the enormous public liability interests at the center of the issue, which are now under consideration by Minnesota legislative committees, but are complicated by privacy concerns.

“Do school teachers and employees have the right to know about the history of an aggressive student who in enrolling into their school? There’s been keen interest in that,” French said.

Martin Brady Executive Director Schools Insurance Authority

Martin Brady
Executive Director
Schools Insurance Authority

Martin Brady is less convinced by the Department of Education’s numbers. The executive director of Schools Insurance Authority in Sacramento, Calif., said that in 2014-2015, it received 50 workers’ compensation claims related to student assaults on teachers.

A year later that rose to 75 claims; a 50 percent increase, yes, said Brady, but still a relatively small number with no real change in the severity of incidents.

“Fifty percent of these claims are due to special ed [students] and are typically bites and scratches. The other half is breaking up fights,” he said.

California’s experience appears to be borne out at school insurance pools across the country. Pools from California, Ohio, Idaho and New York cite so few claims that they consider student assaults on teachers a non-issue among their members, according to the Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRiP).

Another pool in the Midwest said there has been a modest increase in these sorts of claims, though the trend is far less troubling than other pools might feel.

One pool in the South has seen an increase of about 10 percent in the number of such claims in the last three years, but a decrease in severity — the total cost of claims even amid an increase in frequency has remained flat, AGRiP said.  And the average cost of these injuries is less than the pool’s remaining book of claims, it reported.

Still, Brady sees wisdom in reducing the risk of student assaults on teachers and lowering workers’ compensation and public liability claims. One example is external programming like California’s Community Matters, an innovative program designed to improve the social-emotional climate at Sacramento’s schools.


Its efforts mirror programs in New Jersey schools that analyze student behavior among “brittle” children, whose medical conditions and home environments put them at a higher risk of acting out or committing violence than other children.

What will not work, Brady stated categorically, are the more militant steps being promoted, often by people and politicians with little direct experience or understanding of the school environment.

“What I’m strongly convinced of after 30 years in this business is that guns and gates and alarms and cameras and metal detectors don’t work. We have to look at the psychosocial component and at cultural changes.”

David Godkin is a freelance magazine writer based in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected]

Risk Report: Marine

Crewless Ships Raise Questions

Is a remote operator legally a master? New technology confounds old terms.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 6 min read

For many developers, the accelerating development of remote-controlled and autonomous ships represents what could be the dawn of a new era. For underwriters and brokers, however, such vessels could represent the end of thousands of years of maritime law and risk management.

Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk

While crewless vessels have yet to breach commercial service, there are active testing programs. Most brokers and underwriters expect small-scale commercial operations to be feasible in a few years, but that outlook only considers technical feasibility. How such operations will be insured remains unclear.

“I have been giving this a great deal of thought, this sits on my desk every day,” said Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk, a major UK underwriter. Johnson sits on the loss-prevention committee of the International Union of Maritime Insurers.

“The agreed uncertainty that underpins marine insurance is falling away, but we are pretending that it isn’t. The contractual framework is being made less relevant all the time.”

Defining Autonomous Vessels

Two types of crewless vessels are being contemplated. First up is a drone with no one on board but actively controlled by a human at a remote command post on land or even on another vessel.

While some debate whether the controllers of drone aircrafts are pilots or operators, the very real question yet to be addressed is if a vessel controller is legally a “master” under maritime law.


The other type of crewless vessel would be completely autonomous, with the onboard systems making decisions about navigation, weather and operations.

Advocates tout the benefits of larger cargo capacity without crew spaces, including radically different hull designs without decks people can walk on. Doubters note a crew can fix things at sea while a ship cannot.

Rolls-Royce is one of the major proponents and designers. The company tested a remote-controlled tug in Copenhagen in June 2017.

“We think the initial early adopters will be vessels operating on fixed routes within coastal waters under the jurisdiction of flag states,” the company said.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.”

Once autonomous ships are a reality, “the entire current legal framework for maritime law and insurance is done,” said Johnson. “The master has not been replaced; he is just gone. Commodity ships (bulk carriers) would be most amenable to that technology. I’m not overly bothered by fully automated ships, but I am extremely bothered by heavily automated ones.”

He cited two risks specifically: hacking and fire.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.” — Rolls-Royce Holdings study

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, asked an even more existential question: “From an insurance standpoint, are we even still talking about a vessel as it is under law? Starting with the legal framework, the duty of a flag state is ‘manning of ships.’ What about the duty to render assistance? There cannot be insurance coverage of an illegal contract.”

Several sources noted that the technological development of crewless ships, while impressive, seems to be a solution in search of a problem. There is no known need in the market; no shippers, operators, owners or mariners advocate that crewless ships will solve their problems.

Kinsey takes umbrage at the suggestion that promotional material on crewless vessels cherry picks his company’s data, which found 75 percent to 90 percent of marine losses are caused by human error.


“Removing the humans from the vessels does not eliminate the human error. It just moves the human error from the helm to the coder. The reports on development by the companies with a vested interest [in crewless vessels] tend to read a lot like advertisements. The pressure for this is not coming from the end users.”

To be sure, Kinsey is a proponent of automation and technology when applied prudently, believing automation can make strides in areas of the supply chains. Much of the talk about automation is trying to bury the serious shortage of qualified crews. It also overshadows the very real potential for blockchain technology to overhaul the backend of marine insurance.

As a marine surveyor, Kinsey said he can go down to the wharf, inspect cranes, vessels and securements, and supervise loading and unloading — but he can’t inspect computer code or cyber security.

New Times, New Risks

In all fairness, insurance language has changed since the 17th century, especially as technology races ahead in the 21st.

“If you read any hull form, it’s practically Shakespearean,” said Stephen J. Harris, senior vice president of marine protection UK, Marsh. “The language is no longer fit for purpose. Our concern specifically to this topic is that the antiquated language talks about crew being on board. If they are not on board, do they still legally count as crew?”

Harris further questioned, “Under hull insurance, and provided that the ship owner has acted diligently, cover is extended to negligence of the master or crew. Does that still apply if the captain is not on board but sitting at a desk in an office?”

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Several sources noted that a few international organizations, notably the Comite Maritime International and the International Maritime Organization, “have been very active in asking the legal profession around the world about their thoughts. The interpretations vary greatly. The legal complications of crewless vessels are actually more complicated than the technology.”

For example, if the operational, insurance and regulatory entities in two countries agree on the voyage of a crewless vessel across the ocean, a mishap or storm could drive the vessel into port or on shore of a third country that does not recognize those agreements.

“What worries insurers is legal uncertainty,” said Harris.

“If an operator did everything fine but a system went down, then most likely the designer would be responsible. But even if a designer explicitly accepted responsibility, what matters would be the flag state’s law in international waters and the local state’s law in territorial waters.


“We see the way ahead for this technology as local and short-sea operations. The law has to catch up with the technology, and it is showing no signs of doing so.”

Thomas M. Boudreau, head of specialty insurance, The Hartford, suggested that remote ferry operations could be the most appropriate use: “They travel fixed routes, all within one country’s waters.”

There could also be environmental and operational benefits from using battery power rather than conventional fuels.

“In terms of underwriting, the burden would shift to the manufacturer and designer of the operating systems,” Boudreau added.

It may just be, he suggested, that crewless ships are merely replacing old risks with new ones. Crews can deal with small repairs, fires or leaks at sea, but small conditions such as those can go unchecked and endanger the whole ship and cargo.

“The cyber risk is also concerning. The vessel may be safe from physical piracy, but what about hacking?” &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]