Legal Update: School Violence Law

School Violence Compensation Requirements

As we are sure you are aware, recent data shows violent crimes are on the rise against our school employees.  According to data from the Tennessee Department of Education, there were 1,918 assaults of teachers and staff reported by Tennessee schools during the 2022-23 school year.  This number of assaults is roughly 700 more than the number recorded in the 2021-22 school year.

In response to these surging numbers, effective July 1, 2024, Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-5-714 has been amended to cover both salaried and hourly employees for lost compensation caused by acts of violence committed against them in the workplace.  In general terms, both salaried and hourly employees of local education agencies or public charter schools will be eligible to receive their full benefits up to one year from the date of the assault while absent from work.

The new law requires the LEA or public charter school to pay full salary and benefits, including health insurance benefits, until the employee is released by his or her doctor or until the employee is determined to be unable to return to work, for up to a maximum of one year. However, if the employee is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the employer will only be responsible to pay the balance of benefits due.

School systems should study the new law and develop plans to cover these benefits owed, as the employee will not be required to use any sick leave, personal leave or professional leave accumulated or granted, while also addressing the cost of a substitute or additional hire to perform the injured employee’s job during his or her absence.