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Insurance premiums could present hurdle in arming teachers

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“We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” they concluded.

But the desire to arm teachers remains.

After the shooting in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, lawmakers in seven states quickly introduced bills that would legalize arming teachers. Yet of those, so far only Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has signed a bill that permits school districts to arm trained school workers with handguns.

The shooting also renewed the issue in Kansas, where the statehouse is debating a new law that would make schools liable if they didn’t arm teachers.

The proposed legislation would make it so that insurance companies could not pull coverage, as some Kansas lawmakers hope to overcome the insurance hurdle that has stymied many districts across the country from pursuing the policy.

I think it is a situation where legislators who didn’t know anything about insurance are making rules that won’t work.

I think it is a situation where legislators who didn’t know anything about insurance are making rules that won’t work.

“That’s what worries me about this year’s bill,” said Kansas Sen. Lynn Rogers, who was a school board member of Wichita School Districts for more than 16 years. “I don’t know if you can make insurance companies provide coverage, or they might just leave the state entirely. I think it is a situation where legislators who didn’t know anything about insurance are making rules that won’t work.”

And there are examples of schools taking on rising insurance premiums because of similar laws.

In 2013, the Oregon School Board Association, which provides insurance coverage for most of the state’s schools, announced a new pricing structure for K-12 schools that decided to use armed personnel on their campuses.

It costs schools an additional $1,500 for each armed individual who has military training or equivalent experience, is a member of a city or county law enforcement agency and is certified by the Department of Public Safety Standards. For those with just the department’s certification, coverage is $2,500 more per person.

The new plan was not an opinion on arming school staff, the association said in the structure’s explanation. “Rather our intent is to help reduce the liability exposure to the Pool arising out of the use of armed personnel.”

Will arming teachers be possible in Florida?

The board of the Lake County School District in Florida met last week to discuss the results of a survey that asked teachers how they felt about being armed. Fifty-three percent of the staff supported the idea while 47 percent were opposed, according to school district chairwoman Stephanie Luke.

The board has spoken to the county sheriff and debated the issue in public hearings that lasted more than five hours, with the speakers about evenly split on the issue. Next, they plan to organize a student committee to represent the more than 42,000 members of its student body.

 Protesters attend the March For Our Lives just north of Columbus Circle in New York City on March 24, 2018. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

“Nobody wants to make the wrong decision,” Luke said. “If we decide that we want to have guns on campus and something tragic does happen, then you feel like you made the wrong decision. But if someone was stopped who was trying to harm your children then it’s the right one.”

But all of those conversations may be moot depending on what their insurance company tells them.

“It’s a discussion we’re having with our lawyer and our insurance company,” Luke said, emphasizing that those talks are only at early stages, as the board does not want to appear that it has come to any conclusions on a new policy. “But it would be more liability,” she conceded.

Insurance and safety experts see risk

School safety and insurance experts agree that adding a firearm to a classroom only increases the risk of gun violence — whether intentional or otherwise.

“Granted, [school shootings] are becoming more frequent, but it still is a rare occurrence,” said Tory Brownyard, the president of the Brownyard Group, an agency that insures security companies. “Putting a firearm in a school every day of the year, I feel, increases the exposure and potential risk of something happening.”

And two incidents that occurred last month would suggest Brownyard might have a point.

In early March, a Georgia teacher was arrested after he fired a gun at a high school and barricaded himself in a classroom for nearly an hour. Two weeks later, a California high school teacher injured three students when he fired a gun inside a classroom during a firearm safety course.

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Kenneth Trump (no relations to President Trump) heads the National School Safety and Security Services and is a frequent expert witness in litigation focused on school security. The common theme, he said, is typically human error. And adding a gun to that equation could lead to a troubling outcome.

“While a lot of these approaches from arming teachers and having kids engage heavily armed gunman to many other knee jerk unproven practices meet emotional security needs, the devil is always in the details of implementation and many of these approaches bring great risk or unintended consequences,” Kenneth Trump said.

Normal in some schools

Many smaller school districts across the country, however, say that arming their staff is the best way to insure safety at schools that don’t have nearby law enforcement officers.

Callisburg Independent School District, which is about 90 miles north of Dallas, successfully implemented a so-called guardian program in their schools about four years ago. Notably, though, the entire district is only responsible for slightly more than 1,100 students during the 2016-17 school year, according to the Texas Tribune.

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Israeli ground forces launch attacks on Gaza as fighting worsens | World News

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Israeli ground forces began launching attacks on Gaza in a widening of hostilities as Israel braced for more internal strife between its Arab and Jewish citizens following Friday prayers.

The Israeli military said air and ground forces were firing at the Hamas-run enclave, though it does not appear to mean the start of a ground invasion, with Sky News witnessing troops launching artillery and tank rounds from Israel’s side of the border.

“I said we would extract a very heavy price from Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force.”

Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted many of the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip

Thousands of Israeli forces along with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery are massing along the frontier with Gaza, preparing to push inside if given the order, in what would be a hugely significant escalation.

Unperturbed, Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets from the strip towards Israel into Friday morning.

At least 109 Palestinians have died since the exchanges began on Monday, including 28 children and 15 women, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Palestinian militants have said 20 of their fighters are among the dead, though Israeli officials said this figure is much higher.

Almost half of the deaths happened on Thursday – the deadliest day so far.

On the Israeli side, seven people have been killed, including two children and a soldier.

But this is a crisis on many fronts, as decades of Israeli-Palestinian trauma erupt into clashes on the streets of many towns and cities inside Israel – with Arabs and Jews, who had lived together peacefully, turning on each other, prompting warnings of a risk of civil war.

Synagogues have been attacked, cars torched and individuals beaten up by mobs in the worst internal violence in decades.

New protests could erupt following Friday prayers, with al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City a potential flashpoint.

It was at this walled compound – one of the most sacred sites in Islam, which is also revered by Jews and Christians – that violence between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on Monday sparked the first volley of rockets from Gaza into Israel that ignited the wider crisis.

A Palestinian boy looks at ruins of buildings which were destroyed in Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Pic:  Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock
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The blockaded strip is home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee. Pic: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

There is of course a regional dimension as well.

On Thursday night, three rockets were fired towards Israel from Lebanon. They landed harmlessly in the Mediterranean Sea in what appears to have been a show of solidarity with Gaza by Palestinian groups in Lebanon rather than the start of a separate offensive.

With so much at stake, frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to try to broker a ceasefire.

Egyptian officials have been speaking with both sides as have officials from the United Nations. The US has dispatched a senior diplomat to the region and Russian President Vladimir Putin has added his voice to those calling for both sides to de-escalate.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also backed the Israeli leader by saying “there has not been a significant overreaction”.

He said the goal is to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centres”, and called the effort “a work in progress”.

The UN Security Council is due to hold its first public session on the situation on Sunday after the US objected to an open session on Friday, apparently wanting to give diplomacy a little longer to have an effect.

However, with bombardments between the two sides – unprecedented in their intensity – entering their fifth day, there is no obvious sign that diplomacy is cooling heads.

The Israel Defence Forces has hit close to 1,000 targets in Gaza, including multi-storey buildings, rocket launch sites and individual Hamas military commanders. But this blockaded strip of territory is also home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee.

Overnight, masses of red flames illuminated the skies as deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake.

The strikes were so strong that people inside the city, several miles away, could be heard screaming in fear, according to the AP news agency.

At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow Palestinian militant group, have fired close to 2,000 rockets towards Israel. Many were shot down by the country’s air defence system but some have penetrated deep into Israeli territory, including the commercial capital of Tel Aviv, sending families racing into shelters.

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Fresh uncertainty for UK tourists as Portugal extends ‘state of calamity’ until 30 May | UK News

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Britons hoping for a holiday in Portugal when travel restrictions lift next week are facing fresh uncertainty after the country extended its “state of calamity”.

The second-highest level of alert is going to remain in place until 30 May at the earliest, almost two weeks after the country is added to a “green list” of destinations where holidaymakers can go without having to isolate on their return.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for travellers seeking a quick sunny break, as many of the other countries on the “green list” are either closed to tourists, too cold, or too remote.

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Portugal would have been one of the few options for sun-seeking British tourists

Other popular hotspots such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France are on the amber list, requiring 10 days of isolation and two COVID-19 tests on return to the UK.

The new restrictions cast a shadow over the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea that is due to take place in Porto on 29 May – an event that has already been moved from Turkey, which is on the red list.

When asked whether restrictions on travel from the UK would be lifted, Portuguese Cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said she had “no information to give yet”.

In comments reported by the BBC, she said: “Work is going on and as soon as there is a decision it will be announced, but no decision was taken in this cabinet meeting.”

She said British fans could still come to see the football game but they would need to fly on charter planes, arriving and leaving on the same day.

On Thursday, the world’s largest travel firm warned it may be forced to cancel holiday flights to Portugal, just as the UK allows them again, because of a continuing EU ban on non-essential travel from countries outside the bloc.

TUI, which told Sky News earlier this week that people were giving up on booking a break abroad because of a lack of clarity on the rules, said holidays could not happen unless “borders are open”.

The “state of calamity” means non-residents of Portugal can only enter if their travel is essential, a COVID test is required within 72 hours of departure, and even those with a negative result can still be refused permission to board a flight or be made to quarantine in government-approved accommodation on arrival.

It is understood the UK government has been speaking with Portuguese representatives this week about unlocking travel between the two countries.

The government is also talking to the European Commission about how to safely reopen travel on the continent, the PA news agency understands.

Portugal has reported 840,929 cases of COVID-19, with 16,999 deaths.

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COVID-19: Doubt cast over Tokyo 2021 as Japanese towns ditch plans to host Olympic athletes | World News

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Japanese towns have dropped plans to host Olympic athletes – in what is a further indication of the disruption that could affect the Games.

Over 500 towns are registered to host international Olympians for training camps and cultural exchanges before Tokyo 2020 starts.

However, 40 towns have abandoned plans, concerned they will overburden medical resources amid a fourth wave.

There have been calls in Japan for the games to be put off or cancelled
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There have been calls in Japan for the Games to be delayed or cancelled

The reluctance of towns on the outskirts of Tokyo is the latest signal of the unease among people in Japan over scheduling the Games during a pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 was postponed last year and is scheduled to start on 23 July, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and a state of emergency in the capital.

Regions scheduled to host athletes have been hard hit, including the eastern region of Chiba, where the US track and field team had been due to have a training camp.

Chiba cancelled plans to welcome the American athletes on Wednesday and governor Toshihito Kumagai said hospital beds cannot be guaranteed for athletes as they should not be given preferential treatment.

Okuizumo was going to host India’s hockey team for a training camp but it has also ditched these plans.

Seiko Hashimoto
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Politician and former Olympic athlete, Seiko Hashimoto, wants the Games to go ahead

The International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday that it is confident the Olympics would be a “historic event”.

But public opposition to the Games is growing as Japan struggles to cope with the latest surge in infections.

According to the latest figures, there were 7,521 new cases on Wednesday, including 969 infections in host-city Tokyo.

The country is in the midst of a fourth wave, with the games set to begin in July
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The country is in the midst of a fourth wave, with the games set to begin in July
Hokkaido has been running test events for the Olympic marathon but recorded over 1,000 cases on Wednesday
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Hokkaido has been running test events for the Olympic marathon but recorded over 1,000 cases on Wednesday

Hokkaido, which is hosting test events for the Olympic marathon, reported 1,029 cases on Wednesday.

Some athletes are also questioning whether the Games should go ahead, with tennis stars Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka raising their concerns.

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Anti-Olympics protest in Tokyo

Nadal said he was unsure what his calendar will look like this summer, while Williams’s doubts stem from the possibility of not being able to travel with her three-year-old daughter Olympia.

Japan’s world number two Osaka said on Tuesday that rising COVID-19 levels in Tokyo are a “big cause of concern” and said she was not sure if the Games should go ahead.

One of Japan’s most prominent executives and SoftBank’s chief executive Masayoshi Son has also voiced his concerns – saying he is “afraid” of hosting the Olympics during a pandemic.

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