TRENTON N.J. – When Gov. Phil Murphy closed all the schools in New Jersey due to the coronavirus pandemic, distance learning was implemented to make sure the educational process could continue. Now that New Jersey has flattened the curve, school districts across the state are working diligently to ensure a safe and healthy reopening in the fall.
However, in addition to the safety and well-being of staff and students, there is an additional concern which may prevent schools from reopening: potential COVID-19-related lawsuits. Assemblyman Christopher P. DePhillips wants to help bring New Jersey children back to the classroom and has introduced a bill that would remove this major hurdle school districts are facing.
DePhillips’ bill would provide civil immunity from lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 infections, eliminating liability on behalf of school districts that act in good faith by following CDC guidelines to protect teachers and students. However, if a school district is grossly negligent, it would open itself up to a lawsuit.
“School districts that do the right thing by following the CDC, Federal and State guidelines should not keep their doors closed out of fear of being sued,” stated DePhillips (R-Bergen). “Schools that remain closed because they are worried about potential lawsuits will be putting our students in a really tough spot. Our children have been in isolation for months already, while trying to navigate distance learning. We can all agree that the in-person educational experience is preferable to isolation and truncated school days at home. It is time to get students back in the schools. This bill will help the school districts that follow all recommended safety guidelines open their doors come September for their students and staff.”