Jerry Davich: Is there insurance against school bullying?
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org January 18, 2013 6:56PM
Dawn Kirk and her son Julius Kirk, 15, are photographed at their Crown Point, Ind. home Wednesday January 16, 2013. Several of Julius' teeth were damaged when he was hit by a fellow Crown Point High School student in October. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 20, 2013 6:08AM
When Dawn Kirk’s 14-year-old son, Julius, was punched in the mouth by an older student in a Crown Point High School restroom last fall, she reacted as any parent would.
She contacted school officials about the incident, she later called the police, and she immediately took care of her son’s injuries, including costly dental problems. Kirk’s son is a special education student and he is, admittedly, “not perfect,” but the attack was unprovoked, she said.
“This kid, who was 17, called my son a squirrel prior to the incident, told him he was going to kick his ass, then sucker-punched him in the mouth,” said Kirk, of Crown Point. “This kid then hit Julius a few more times when my son was on the floor bleeding.”
Her son ended up with three cracked teeth with a punch so forceful that his porcelain crown from two years ago was also damaged.
The attacker, whose name I am not revealing, was expelled from school for the year, I’m told. Kirk took his mother to small claims court to pay for the roughly $2,000 dental bill.
“The kid’s mom showed up, where she cried bankruptcy and got the case dismissed,” Kirk said. “So we are left hanging high and dry, expected to suck up every bit of out-of-pocket expense.”
Kirk contacted the school, asking for financial help to cover the dental bill. Crown Point Community School Corp. Superintendent Teresa Eineman referred her to the district’s chief financial officer, Matt Ruess.
“He told me that if I had purchased school insurance, my son’s three cracked teeth would be covered,” Kirk said. “Without school insurance, there’s nothing they can do.”
“So all 2,000-plus students should buy Crown Point school insurance in case of bullies?” Kirk asked. “Why would I possibly foresee this happening?
School insurance? Isn’t that only for student athletes, typically football players? No, I learned.
Eineman told me that school insurance is an option for parents to supplement their family insurance plans. It’s offered to all students’ parents each school year in case they either don’t have insurance or for additional coverage if needed.
It’s designed to help cover medical bills for playground injuries, a slip in the hallway, or student athlete injuries, she noted. Not for alleged bullying incidents such as what happened to Kirk’s son.
Eineman also noted that “circumstances are in dispute” regarding the incident between Kirk’s son and the other student on Oct. 4, 2012. She could not comment on it.
Not uncommon for schools
Not to diminish the seriousness of yet another in-school bullying incident, which I’ve written about several times through the years, I am intrigued by the “school insurance” issue.
I had no idea such insurance exists beyond student athletes. And, after talking with several region parents, neither did they.
“This is new to me,” said one Porter County parent whose teenage daughter was recently beaten by another female student.
Are your children covered by such insurance? Should they be? Is it worth the cost? Would it include injuries related to bullying or similar attacks? Which company does your school district use?
These are questions parents should at least ask, whether action is taken or not, if anything to avoid being blindsided like the Kirk family.
Crown Point schools use the K & K Insurance Group, based in Fort Wayne, as do other Indiana school districts. Its motto is “Insuring the world’s fun.”
The company did not return my phone call for more information, but its website states that school insurance “protects thousands of kids from the bumps and bruises of growing up,” including from football injuries and at-school accidents.
The company’s annual cost for coverage ranges from $25 to $215, depending on extended dental coverage and various plans, from at-school coverage to 24-hour coverage to medical accident high school football coverage.
Of course, there is no mention of bullying incidents or related injuries. But school insurance is not uncommon, and many parents purchase it.
I wondered if Kirk would now be purchasing that insurance for her son or her other children.
“The idea of school insurance is stupid,” she replied. “We have health and dental (insurance) already through my husband’s job and we pay a lot for it, too. Why should people have to double up and pay twice? If this were a mere accident, I wouldn’t be so upset.”
But to have her son attacked, his attacker walk away unscathed, and the school district not offer help, “Well, that’s ludicrous,” she said. “Am I supposed to buy school insurance for all four of my kids in case of an attack? That’s a sick mentality.”
Kirk has since pressed charges against the teenage boy, and she is awaiting paperwork before proceeding with further legal action.
“I used to scoff at people who litigate, but now I see why,” she said.
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