School Districts Increase Emergency Alerts, Surveillance on Students

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School districts are saturating their campuses with surveillance cameras, with nearly four in five (79 percent) reporting that they use cameras at their schools--an increase of nine points over the last 12 months, according to a new report. But overall, according to CDW Government (CDW-G), which conducted the survey, schools are not keeping pace with "increasing threats."

The findings from the study--the 2009 School Safety Index--are similar in many ways to the previous two studies in the series, especially in districts' perceptions of the major barriers to the expansion of purchases and deployments in the area of physical security, preventing them from keeping pace. The three major barriers cited include budget constraints, a dearth of staff, and a perceived need for more security tools--consistent with responses gathered over the last three years.

The study is an annual benchmark for school security trends, covering data security, physical security, and emergency preparedness and provides a means for schools to compare themselves with a national average. This year's study polled 408 district IT and security directors and allowed them to rate their security on a scale of one to 100 using positive and negative indicators, each of which was assigned a certain value from which the final index totals were generated. The 2009 study polled district personnel from schools around the country in urban, suburban, and rural districts in April 2009. The study has a margin of error of ±4.8 percent at a confidence level of 95 percent.

Findings: Physical Security
As previously mentioned, the most popular physical security measure among K-12 school districts has been the deployment of security cameras over the last year, with 79 percent reporting that they have deployed such technologies. However, CDW-G cautioned that this figure might be misleading, as half of those districts only use the cameras out of doors.

Of the total deployments, 36 percent reported that that local police have the ability to monitor their schools' cameras in real time, statistically the same as last year's figure of 33 percent. Twenty-four percent reported plans to implement this within the next year.

The School Safety Index for the second year also measured the use of emergency/mass notification systems, finding that 70 percent of districts are using them, a massive increase over last year's 45 percent. Of those that have not implement emergency communications, 46 percent reported plans to implement such technologies in the next year.

Overall, on a scale of 0 to 100, the 2009 national average for physical security came out to 32.2.

Findings: Data Security
With 88 percent of K-12 districts having some form of WiFi in place--and 65 percent of the remaining districts planning to have WiFi in place in the next year--a massive 92 percentof districts are using "some type of encryption to protect data." The study also found that nearly all districts have AUPs in place, but only 40 percent reported actively enforcing the policies. Another 40 percent said they spend four hours or fewer per month looking into "questionable Internet activity," according to the report.

Overall, on a scale of 0 to 100, the 2009 national average for data security came out to 22.2.

A District Self-Assessment
In addition to the key findings, CDW-G has also made available a self-assessment for districts as a companion to the study.

The self-assessment allows schools to take a survey and score their safety based on results from other schools around the country. Users answer questions focused on data and physical security. Following the survey, participants will be given scores that can be compared with national averages generated from district IT and security directors this year.

Further information about the study, including a downloadable copy of the report and access to the free self-assessment tool, can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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