Conn. bill would give immunity to security experts

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — State lawmakers are considering a bill that would provide immunity from civil liability for school security consultants, a measure that supporters say would help school districts attract specialists as they consider how to increase safety following last year’s deadly Newtown school shooting.

One of the backers, Republican Sen. Len Fasano, said the issue came to his attention when a building safety expert declined to provide security advice to North Haven Public Schools over concerns about liability.

‘‘Here’s a way to keep the kids as safe as possible, no cost to the state, no extra liability to the town that’s hiring the consultant,’’ Fasano said.

In 2008, the security consultancy MacNeil Environmental Inc. reached a $1.5 million settlement with victims’ family members and survivors of a 2005 school shooting in Minnesota. The security consultancy had been hired to provide a crisis management plan, train school officials and evaluate the school’s security weaknesses.

The Newtown elementary school gunman shot his way into the building on Dec. 14 before killing 20 first-graders, six educators and then himself. He had killed his mother at home before going to the school.

Under the proposal co-sponsored by Fasano and Republican Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, any person hired by a school board, charter school or regional educational center as a consultant and who designs a security plan for a school or a district would be immune from civil liability for damage or injury resulting from any errors. There would be an exception for damages and injuries caused by reckless and willful misconduct.

The legislature’s Judiciary Committee heard public testimony on the proposal on Monday.

The bill originally was part of the recommendations from the bipartisan task force’s subcommittee on school safety formed after the Newtown shooting. However, McKinney said that due to disagreement among members of the task force, it will not be included in the final package.

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