2022 is officially a wrap! As we look ahead to the 2023 calendar year, lessons and trends from the past 12 months can shed light on what may be in store for us in the coming year.
Based on our team’s collective expertise and experience, here are five things we anticipate schools will face in 2023:
1. A continued rise in threats
2022 set records for the number of school shootings in a calendar year. According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, There were more than 300 shooting incidents on school grounds in 2022, compared to 250 in 2021 and 114 in 2020. We saw this reflected in our work with schools across the country. From weapons on campus to “swatting” to threatening social media posts, nearly every school we worked with over the past year has seen threats of violence increase. Based on the continuing struggles with student mental health, we anticipate this trend will get worse before it gets better.
What to do:
School teams have already been working vigilantly to investigate and respond to each unique threat and incident, and this vigilance will be vital in the coming months. Invest the time now in creating or strengthening your school’s threat assessment system. Check out this Joffe Academy module on threat assessment for support. And consider developing a “connection assessment” system to flag and address behavior before it escalates.
2. A shrinking number of private security providers
The staffing shortages school security providers faced last year are still a persistent problem. One of the reasons for this is that security providers (much like schools) are facing rising costs of insurance coverage for things like cybercrimes and abuse. We’ve seen that some larger security companies are cutting back their insurance because they can’t justify the expense, while some smaller security companies are going out of business because they simply can’t afford to continue.
What to do:
If you are using a small security company (under ~10M in revenue), it’s a good idea to have a conversation with them about what the next couple of years will look like, and how they plan to recruit and retain employees in a shrinking market. As the market hardens and the number of operators in the industry shrinks, the capacity for insurability goes down and cost for premiums will continue to rise.
3. Increased tension around how to arm campus safety teams
The debates about whether or not to arm security will undoubtedly continue, but we expect to see a shift in the conversation about School Resource Officers (SROs) specifically. As police officers, SROs are inherently armed, but the question of how they should be armed has become a growing topic of debate. Some districts have already made the decision to allow SROs to carry “upgraded weapons” such as long guns and assault rifles, and others are considering a similar move.
What to do:
If you’re part of a school considering making a shift to upgraded weapons, our best recommendation is to start by listening to your community. Regardless of the type of weapons used in the line of duty, armed security makes some people feel safer, and it makes others feel less safe. This becomes even more true when larger more powerful weapons are involved. The most important thing is ensuring your community is bought into this approach before making any decisions that impact their safety, comfort and well being.
4. A deepening school healthcare crisis
It has become apparent that our nursing shortage is not going away, and that school nurses, which are in particularly short supply, are not likely to become more abundant any time soon. With fewer young people choosing to go into nursing, this is likely to be a persistent, long term challenge that will require some creative solutions. (This is one of the reasons we at Joffe have been relentlessly dedicated to training and placing health staff at schools through our health services program.) The pandemic pushed many schools to prioritize healthcare, but as Covid becomes less prevalent in our everyday lives schools have begun to shift resources away from student physical health.
What to do:
We strongly encourage schools to see student physical health as a vital component of a whole child approach to education, and to keep health related resources, including staffing and supplies/PPE, intact for the coming year. In addition to considering creative staffing approaches (we can help with that!) we also encourage teams to cross train staff on the basics of student health needs (including CPR/First Aid, and how to give student medication) to distribute health office knowledge. Additionally, communicating clearly and proactively with parents about the school’s health protocols and practices can help reduce confusion and avoid unnecessary conflict.
5. An increase in cyberattacks on schools
The number of ransomware attacks in 2022 set records, and many of them impacted schools - either directly or indirectly. Most notably, in 2022, the two largest school districts in the country – Los Angeles Unified and New York City – faced cybersecurity challenges. And experts believe that smaller schools and districts are particularly vulnerable because they often lack the cybersecurity resources they need to protect themselves from an attack.
What to do:
Campuses must continue to bolster their cybersecurity measures and practices. Here are a few ways to get started. If you’re interested in more targeted support, our team can work to conduct a tabletop or assessment of your school’s cybersecurity practices and protocols. Reach out to us to learn more.