The Limits of Insurance as Governance: Professional Liability Coverage for Civil Rights Claims Against Public School Districts

38 Quinnipiac L. Rev. 375 (2020)

Quinnipiac Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2020

65 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2020

See all articles by Marcos A. Mendoza

Marcos A. Mendoza

University of Connecticut School of Law; Washburn University School of Law; TASB, Inc.

Date Written: August 8, 2020


Insurance intersects with people throughout their lives, sometimes with elements that are unobserved or misunderstood. That is often the case with “insurance as governance,” a form of private contractual regulation. This theory assumes that insurers, to minimize their financial losses, attempt to shape policyholder conduct by employing private regulatory measures, primarily through underwriting and contractual loss prevention methods. Insurance as governance is about risk reduction.

This article addresses a question regarding civil rights — do insurers influence the civil rights policies of public school districts? A broad legal arc encompasses civil rights litigation against schools, from freedom of speech complaints to sex-based claims involving students. School boards purchase professional liability insurance to defend their operational policies and actions. Previous research has not examined whether insurers attempt to shape school officials’ conduct to reduce these claims. This article finds that insurer influence is surprisingly minimal despite the financial and potential societal benefits.

Landmark scholarship (Rappaport, Harvard Law Review, 2017) established that insurers could positively influence police officer conduct, resulting in fewer civil rights claims against police entities. But this school environment research determines that insurers of public schools do not employ assertive loss prevention methods to limit civil rights claims. This lack of private regulation is because school boards want and exercise significant local control authority, and the administrators of inter-local risk pools — the leading type of insurer discussed within — have political concerns about membership stability, leading to regulatory hesitation.

This empirical study makes two main contributions. First, it involves a discussion of why insurer private regulation does not linearly increase when school district civil rights exposures rise. This contribution includes a review of the school districts’ mutual ownership of the predominant school insurer, the inter-local pool; an examination of the strong local control desires of school boards; and an analysis of the attendant political concerns of the inter-local pool administrators. Second, it reviews the policy adoption process of school boards, notes how school officials interact with and tend to resist insurers, and documents how this socio-legal setting creates insurers’ reluctance to attempt conduct-shaping with school districts regarding civil rights. This article will further private regulation scholarship regarding governmental entities and allow scholars to reassess the reach of insurance as governance.

Keywords: Insurance as Governance, Private Regulation, Professional Liability Insurance, Public School Districts, Civil Rights, Interlocal Pools, Self-insurance, School Board Policies, Loss Prevention, Underwriting, Local Control, Governmental Immunity

JEL Classification: I21, I28, K12

Suggested Citation

Mendoza, Marcos A., The Limits of Insurance as Governance: Professional Liability Coverage for Civil Rights Claims Against Public School Districts (August 8, 2020). 38 Quinnipiac L. Rev. 375 (2020), Quinnipiac Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Marcos A. Mendoza (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States


Washburn University School of Law ( email )

1700 SW College Ave.
Topeka, KS 66621
United States

TASB, Inc. ( email )

12007 Research Blvd
Austin, TX 78759
United States
5124673614 (Phone)

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