What Challenges Schools Could Face in 2017
- By Michael Dorn
- January 1st, 2017
ILLUSTRATION © NATINKA
Lacking a crystal ball, I have been tasked with making
a good-faith effort to identify some likely trends for the next
year. During the Illinois School Board’s Association annual conference
in November, the ISBA executive director stated that school
officials needed to continually, “skate to where the puck would
be in the future” to make their schools safer places of learning.
With inherent limitations and this thought in mind, I would suggest
school officials consider the following possibilities for 2017:
- Continued acts of terrorism — The recent increase in the number of
terrorist attacks globally as well as in the United States indicates the
elevated risk of terrorism will probably continue for 2017. While terrorist
attacks on educational targets make up only about two percent
of all terrorist attacks worldwide, American schools and particularly
school buses have heightened risk for these frightening attacks.
- Continued risk of active shooter and active killer events —
Active shooter incidents on K-12 campuses date back to at least
1891, with the first active-killer attack occurring in a one-room
school house in 1764. Though still extremely statistically rare
events in relation to other types of school homicides, the indications
are strong that these types of attacks will continue to
occur and garner extensive media coverage.
- An increase in protests that impact schools — The United
States has seen a significant increase in both peaceful and violent
protests in recent years. We anticipate continued protests
at and near schools in 2017.
- Increased concern over cyber threats to schools. —
Increased hacking of security camera systems with remote
viewing capability will likely continue when encrypted devices
are not utilized. From lunchroom fights going viral to having
an individual or group hacking into a school’s security camera
system to conduct pre-attack surveillance and/or to take over
the school security camera system during an attack are valid
WHAT ARE IMPORTANT ACTION STEPS?
There are some practical steps school officials can take to address
these increasing concerns including:
- Update your emergency protocols for hazardous materials
incidents, bomb threats, explosion, food and beverage contamination.
- Verify that your student threat evaluation and management approach is viable. One of the most effective ways to prevent
active shooter and active killer events carried out by students
or staff is multidisciplinary threat evaluation and management.
- Robust suicide prevention programs are another opportunity
to identify and assist, not only students at high risk of suicide,
but a very small subset of who sometimes commit mass casualty
attacks before killing themselves.
- Consider the vulnerability of your school bus fleet for mass
casualty types of violence including mass shootings, multiple
victim-edged weapons assaults, hijackings and attacks using
fire or explosives.
- Verify that procedures for peaceful student protest and civil
unrest are adequate for recent increases in these situations.
Allegations of harassment, intimidation, bullying and violence
relating to race, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, transgender
status or political affiliations will likely continue to be high
- Consider including assessment of the vulnerability of school
security camera systems, proximity card systems that lack encryption
and other security systems that can be compromised
in your cyber security audit processes.
I hope these trends do not continue, but now is a good time to
consider that distinct possibility.
Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens website at www.safehavensinternational.org.