The constant quest for school safety

School safety is important, as seen by these two students walking in a school hallway.

Securing K-12 schools takes a multi-prong line of defense. The physical campus needs to be fortified against live, in-person attacks, while the school needs to shield its IT/network from cyberattacks, protect sensitive data and monitor threats against all three.

Statistics paint a disturbing picture.

A report by the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center found that there were 122 publicly disclosed cybersecurity incidents at K-12 schools in 2018. Most involved data breaches where bad actors—including students sometimes—obtained unauthorized access to private information.

In about the same timeframe, the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network found that at least 3,380 threats and incidents of violence were reported in K-12 schools in the 2017-2018 academic year—up 62 percent from the previous year. Shooting threats led the list (38.8 percent), followed by generalized or unspecified threats of violence (35.8 percent) and bomb threats (22.5 percent).

There are no national standards for making schools safer, but plenty of debate. As of November 2019, the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 167 bills had been enacted and eight resolutions adopted. School safety measures are decided primarily on a local or state level, resulting in a patchwork of regulations. For example, the Education Commission of the States found that only around 30 states allow security personnel to possess weapons in school and only about 42 states are required by law to conduct safety drills. Two recent initiatives, however, could significantly impact all K-12 school districts.

Trends in school security

First, in the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Congress passed the STOP School Violence Act, which authorized the use of $50 million annually “to help districts implement improvements to school safety infrastructure.”

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