FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate voted Friday to provide teachers with liability insurance coverage as a cushion against financial losses when forced to defend themselves against work-related lawsuits.

The bill would require Kentucky school districts to provide teachers with primary liability insurance coverage amounting to at least $1 million. The coverage would protect educators from civil legal actions “arising in the course and scope” of performing their school duties.

“In this litigious society that we live in, teachers throughout the commonwealth are faced with the prospect of having legal claims asserted against them by parents of students and potentially from others,” said Republican Sen. Max Wise, the bill’s lead sponsor.

“And often these claims have no merit, but the teachers are required to engage an attorney at great cost to defend against these claims,” he added.

Senators passed the bill on a 32-0 vote, sending it to the House.

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Senate Bill 3 would offer a second layer of coverage by establishing the Educators Employment Liability Insurance Program. within the state education department. The program would provide excess liability insurance coverage for teachers defending themselves against legal claims.

Both layers of insurance would be provided at no cost to teachers.

A funding request to support the liability insurance protection initiative will come next year, when lawmakers craft the state’s next two-year budget, Wise said,

The effort to extend liability insurance protection to educators comes amid discussions about how to overcome a shortage of classroom teachers in Kentucky. Wise said his bill would help attract and retain teachers by “providing them with comfort that they will be protected from legal liability and legal fees for their conduct while performing their duties educating our children.”

The liability coverage would not protect teachers against allegations of criminal conduct.

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