ESD 112 Insurance Programs Risk Alert
The internet allows access to information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can serve as a valuable educational resource to students. However, along with benefits, the internet can also bring many new threats. Students can fall victim to cyberbullying, inappropriate content, sexting, sextortion/ransomware, oversharing, online predation, and public threats of violence made against schools. Sadly, the number of troubling social media posts and threats of violence are growing across the nation. In an article featured in District Administration Magazine by Matt Zalaznick, “Threats of Violent Media Posts Close School Districts, Zalaznick reports that threats forcing school districts to shut down are happening almost every day somewhere in the U.S.

Fortunately, there are numerous steps schools can take to address cyber threats before, during, and after an event occurs. The following six-step planning process (*Adapted from the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center Cyber Security Fact Sheet) is a great resource to help school administrators and staff ensure they are prepared.

Step 1: Form a collaborative planning team
The planning team should be comprised of a core planning team, school personnel, community partners, and a school district representative. The team may seek additional input from IT staff, local, state, and Federal law enforcement, and emergency management. Consider including counselors, a bullying coordinator, and other mental/behavioral health professionals.

Step 2: Understand the situation
Identify threats and hazards to the entire school community using a variety of assessment tools. Assess those risks, and prioritize them for inclusion in the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). Consider conducting a Culture and Climate Assessment to evaluate student-teacher, and staff connectedness to the school, and potential student behavior problems. Another assessment to consider is a behavioral threat assessment. These are used to prevent targeted violence in schools by students, where a school is deliberately selected as the location for the attack and is not simply a random site of opportunity.

Step 3: Determine Goals and Objectives
After assessing the level of risk posed by threats and hazards, work to determine goals and objectives to achieve the best outcomes before, during, and after an incident.

Step 4: Development and Courses of Action
Develop courses of action that describe the who, what, when, and how to meet goals and objectives.

Step 5: Plan preparation, review, and approval
Create a draft plan and circulate it for review to obtain feedback from those responsible for implementing the document. Edit based on comments received, and move forward for approval from appropriate leadership.

Step 6: Plan Implementation and maintenance
The cyber plan should be maintained via regular reviews and revised when needed. As new threats are constantly emerging, planning teams may decide to review the cyber plan more frequently. Individuals with roles outlined in the plan are trained and exercises are conducted to evaluate the school’s or school district’s ability to respond to an identified threat or hazard.
For the full text on the article above and to access more information on how to respond before, during and after a cyber threat incident, reference the following links:

If you have any questions, please contact Trista Greenwood at or Wendy Niehaus at
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