What Challenges Schools Could Face in 2017

trends in education


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 concerns.


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 impact concern.
  • 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.

About the Author

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