Following your money: $21M paid to settle lawsuits against schools since 2013

Since 2013, $21,380709.96 was paid out in school settlements.

(KUTV) -- We pay for insurance on our homes and cars. In the event that something catastrophic or unexpected happens, we file a claim with our insurance companies to hopefully get some help covering the expenses.

When it comes to schools in the state of Utah, that insurance isn't provided by a private insurance company. Rather, the schools are insured by the state. Payouts come from a a fund that gets its money from taxpayers -- in a round about way. Just like you and I, every school in Utah, and every state agency for that matter, pays in a premium based on how many claims were made the year before. Schools and state agencies are, of course, funded by your tax money.

So, Get Gephardt requested the public records to see what claims are being made and how much is spent to mitigate those claims.

Here are the headlines:

  • Since 2013, $21,380,709.96 was paid out in school settlements.
  • $563,246.64 of that was paid to cover charter schools.
  • $6,109,028.06 was paid to cover higher education.
  • $14,708,435.26 was paid to cover public schools.

One of the largest payout examples comes from last June. A former administrator in the Park City School District received $717,100 after she accused the district of wrongful termination.

That same amount, $717,100, was paid to a Utah County woman after an Alpine School District bus crashed into her, allegedly causing severe injuries.

Another large payout came in 2016 after Iron County School District settled with eight middle school employees for $340,000. The employees alleged they were sexually harassed by a school counselor, reported the harassment to a school principal and neither the principal nor the district took appropriate action, the complaints says.

The state of Utah has a risk management team which is in charge of deciding when most payouts are made, according to Marilee Richins, the deputy director of the Utah Department of Administrative Services. The exception comes with the larger payouts. State law says any claim settlement over $100,000 has to go to the governor for approval. Claims of $500,000 or more must be approved by the state legislature.

Richins says the risk management team has a challenging job balancing making sure people who deserve to be paid are paid and also being responsible stewards of taxpayer money.

"We're not in it for profit. We don't want to collect any more premium than we absolutely have to," she said. "We understand that we are paying these claims with the money that comes from you and from me, and we're very conscientious about making sure that it's fair to both parties."



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