Building Ordinance or Law Coverage

The Sandner Group - Insurance Program Managers, Underwriting Department

Building ordinance or law coverage is an important coverage that is offered to all of the Illinois School District Agency (ISDA) members. This coverage can be purchased separately and should be seriously considered as a crucial piece of your property plan of coverage. In general, after a loss, this endorsement covers the additional expenses associated with rebuilding in compliance with local building ordinances. Since legally mandated changes and upgrades can add greatly to the cost of any building project, ordinance or law coverage is a vital part of your plan of coverage.

There are three different components of the coverage that make up the endorsement:

  • The first component refers to the actual coverage for building ordinance. This part of the coverage pays when, by law, the portion of the building that was undamaged by the covered cause of loss has to be taken down and replaced when a certain percentage of the building has been damaged. This percentage varies by municipality, but in many instances it is 50%. Without this component, your plan of coverage would only pay for the damaged portion, but not the expenses to replace the undamaged portion of the building.
  • The second component of the coverage is for demolition of the undamaged portion of the building. The coverage will pay for the actual cost to demolish and clear the site
  • of the undamaged parts of the same building.

The third component of the coverage is for the increased cost of construction. This part of the coverage will pay the added cost to rebuild the property in compliance with municipal or state building codes. The extra cost depends on the codes in place at the time of the loss, which could be significantly different from those that governed the building’s original construction.
For ISDA members, we offer a blanket limit of up to $5,000,000 per structure for all three components of the endorsement.
Make sure to ask your Sandner Group agent about this very important coverage. 

Student Aggression

A great concern in districts is the possibility for student aggression to arise on school premises. Students spend much of their lives in a school setting so that some may have a challenging time dealing with conflict and/or their emotions and may become prone to lashing out aggressively as an alternative to appropriate conflict-resolution skills. Aggression can come in the form of talking back or becoming violent and causing serious injuries to others.

An environment where students are aggressive and/or violent can cause not only severe injuries, it can also severely impact the rate at which students learn. Students and teachers who feel unsafe or threatened at school are far less likely to be successful. The best way to deal with student aggression is to prevent the behavior. That includes recognizing behaviors and situations in which aggression can arise as well as making sure that students and staff know how to react to conflict in an appropriate manner. Understanding the causes behind student hostility is important as well. There are a number of factors that can lead to student aggression. A number of factors including, personal traumas outside of the school setting, mental disorders, and environmental factors can lead to students aggressive behavior.

If your district experiences a high rate of student aggression, it is imperative to establish a committee to discuss how to respond to the hostile environment. This committee must  address both the incidents and the potential causes behind them. It is beneficial to include people who can provide helpful advice in recognizing, preventing, and responding to aggressive behavior, such as district security or local police as well as guidance counselors. All members of the district, from administration to teachers to custodial staff, must be involved in this process. The Sandner Group – Claims Management loss control specialists are able to provide claim history reports that will allow districts to determine how severe and common these occurrences are. They are also able to assist districts by providing valuable information and training to staff members.
There are many steps and solutions to consider when preventing student aggression. On the first day of class make it clear that aggressive behavior is unacceptable and be sure to implement the policy consistently. It is important to be assertive rather than defensive or forceful when dealing with a potentially aggressive student. Teachers should receive training on how to deal with an aggressive student as well as appropriate discipline if a  student acts aggressively.

Try to identify typical situations in which the student may become aggressive. Some students may have issues outside of school that cause them to react in certain ways to specific situations. Identifying potential triggers and reducing them to the best of your ability can provide the teacher with an opportunity to step in before a conflict escalates. Not only should teachers be able to recognize triggers but they should also understand that when students reach a point of aggressive behavior, they are not thinking rationally and must be calmed to a point where they are able to think through the conflict. The teacher must remain calm at all times in order to ensure that the student will also remain calm when dealing with conflict.

Many examples of student aggression in schools come from young students kicking, biting, scratching, or pushing as a way to respond to conflict. These reactions often come from a poor grasp of proper conflict-resolutions skills. Teaching students conflict-resolution skills and having them identify and practice these skills is a great way to diminish these responses. One helpful way in which to teach conflict-resolution to students is to provide them with group activities that address conflict-resolution skills. Students prone to aggressive behavior should be taught how to manage their emotions and how to calm themselves when they start feeling angry. Use positive reinforcement when you observe a student responding appropriately to a conflict.

Additionally, a great deal of injuries occurs from employees attempting to break up fights between students. Districts need to have a very specific response-plan for fights between students to ensure the safety of not only the students but also the staff member involved. One possible way to do this is to intervene before a conflict can devolve into a physical fight. Try to mediate and reinforce conflict resolutions skills that they may have already learned. Again, be assertive rather than defensive when dealing with angry students. However, if/when a fight breaks out between students, teachers should rarely, if ever, physically attempt to break up the fight.

The discipline for an aggressive student should be aimed at ensuring they learn that anger and/or violence is not the appropriate response when dealing with conflict. In-school counseling can be very beneficial in teaching students to manage stress and other triggers that can lead to aggressive behavior. The district may want to consider involving the student’s parents when dealing with aggressive behavior as well. More severe punishments, such as suspension and even expulsion, should not be shied away from when dealing with a student who repeatedly acts out aggressively and shows no sign of wanting to improve his/her behavior.

For more information on addressing student aggression see - “Preventing Student Aggression” Dr. Ken Shore and “Early Warning Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools” U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Illinois Tort Immunity Act: When Is a Gym Not a Gym?

by: Charles Denne Knell, Knell & Kelly, LLC

Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a governmental unit is immune from tort liability. However, in 1959 the Illinois Supreme Court abolished sovereign immunity; thus governmental units had the same tort liability as did other entities.

In response, the General Assembly enacted the Tort Immunity Act that limits a governmental entity’s liability in tort by granting immunities based on specific governmental functions.

One immunity under the Tort Immunity Act, which is important to school districts, pertains to property used for recreational purposes. Section 3-106 of the Act provides:

“Neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury where the liability is based on the existence of a condition of any public property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, including but not limited to:

  • Parks
  • Playgrounds
  • Open areas
  • Buildings, or
  • Other enclosed recreational facilities

Unless such entity or public employee is guilty of willful and wanton conduct proximately causing such injury.”

Dual Purpose Property

One Illinois Supreme Court case involving an Illinois school district addresses the question of whether a sidewalk surrounding a school was public property intended for recreational purposes.

The sidewalk at issue was used as a four square court and served as a place where children played.

The court rejected a “dual purpose property” test, asserting that immunity depends on the character of the property in question rather than the activity performed on the property.

If the property has been used for recreation in the past or if recreation has been encouraged on that property, then the school district is free from liability for any negligence. If an injured person can show, however, that the school district’s conduct was willful and wanton in nature, liability could still rest on the school district.

School Gym Controversy

A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision involving a different Illinois school district raises questions whether a school gymnasium is property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes.

In this case, the plaintiff slipped, fell and sustained injuries while he was running laps in gym class. Consequently, he filed a lawsuit against the school district. Count I alleged that the school district was negligent. Count II alleged that the school district’s conduct rose to the level of willful and wanton conduct.

He claimed that he fell because volleyball nets were haphazardly placed in the gymnasium and that the floor was in a defective condition. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit based upon the Tort Immunity Act.

The dictionary defines recreation as “refreshment of the strength and spirits after toil; diversion, play.” “Play” suggests an “opposition to work; it implies activity, often strenuous, but emphasizes the absence of any aim other than amusement, diversion or enjoyment.”
“Physical education” is defined as “education in methods promoting the development and care of the body and involving instruction in hygiene and systematic exercises and in various sports and games.”

The court states that “compulsory physical education” and “recreation” have different aims: whereas the former seeks to instruct, the latter aspires to amuse. Accordingly, gym class does not constitute recreation.

As to Count I, the case was remanded back to the trial court for further evidentiary discovery on whether the school gymnasium was permitted to be used for other recreational, common non-compulsory activities. If it was, then the Tort Immunity Act applied. If it wasn’t, the school district doesn’t have immunity for a cause of action predicated upon negligence.


To avoid liability, make sure your gymnasium, football fields, baseball diamonds, swimming pools, etc. are used for activities other than compulsory physical education classes. Also, permit extracurricular events and other non-compulsory recreational activities to take place in these areas.