Here are a few of the troubling trends that will most likely continue to affect education and healthcare security for the foreseeable future, as well as some links that can help you address these challenges.
Image via Adobe, by meeboonstudio
2022 was certainly a year to remember: Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, high inflation, increasing crime, staff shortages, and continuing political turmoil were just some of the developments that have had a huge impact on our nation as a whole. But when I drilled down into what specifically affected schools, universities, and hospitals this year, the impacts of certain tragedies and trends were no less significant on security, public safety, emergency management, and facilities management.
The following incidents, trends, and developments will undoubtedly affect campuses in 2023 and, in many cases, for years to come.
There is no question that the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has had a profound impact on K-12 schools throughout the nation. Uvalde’s local law enforcement and school officials have either been fired, resigned, or at the very least received scathing criticism for various mistakes (or nonresponse) made before and/or during the mass shooting. The investigations of the attack are ongoing, so I’m not qualified to comment on — nor do most of us really know — why so many things went wrong that fateful day.
That being said, the Uvalde tragedy appears to have prompted a great number of K-12 schools throughout our nation to pay much closer attention to campus access control and security. In Texas, officials have been conducting intruder safety audits of K-12 campuses around the state. Each audit takes an in-depth look at school safety, with inspectors checking exterior entry points, as well as how schools manage visitors.
In the U.S. as a whole, 80% of the K-12 respondents to our 2022 Campus Safety Access Control and Lockdown Survey said they’ve conducted security site assessments within the year, with 33% saying the last time their campus conducted a security site assessment was within the month. Let’s hope this greater focus on security continues.
If you need to conduct a site assessment of your own school, this 8-point inspection checklist is a good start.
Unfortunately, not every trend prompted by the Robb Elementary School mass shooting has been positive. I know of at least two instances (in Texas and in Arizona) where parents tried to enter schools during lockdowns because they were afraid law enforcement wouldn’t respond to reports (which turned out to be false) of a gunman on campus.
These incidents (and probably others that didn’t get media coverage) highlight the need for all schools to have a well-thought-out and realistic student-parent reunification plan, as well as a plan for how information will be conveyed to parents before, during, and after an incident. Idaho Office of School Safety and Security Analyst Guy Bliesner and I presented “Planning for Student-Parent Reunification and Mass Notification During a School Emergency” in November, so I encourage everyone to check it out.
Since June, numerous high schools and even some middle schools have received hoax active shooter threats. This type of threat, also known as “swatting,” involves someone making a prank call to emergency services (usually police) so a large number of police officers or the SWAT team will be dispatched to a particular location. The practice is dangerous and can result in law enforcement accidentally shooting innocent victims.
Districts in Georgia, New Hampshire, Montana, Florida, Oklahoma, and many other states have been bombarded with these hoaxes, and, for the most part, no suspect or suspects have been apprehended as of the writing of this article.
The rise in swatting incidents is even more worrisome considering the rate of real active shooter attacks has dramatically increased recently. Although we don’t have the active shooter incident data from 2022 yet, we do know the number of victims either killed or wounded in 2021 in these events increased by more than 48% compared to 2020, according to the FBI. Additionally, in 2021 the number of active shooter attacks increased 52.5% compared to the previous year and 103.3% compared to 2018 and 2019.
When looking just at K-12 schools, there were 93 school shootings with casualties at U.S. public and private elementary and secondary schools in 2020-2021 — the highest number in 20 years, according to Reports on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2021. It’s important to note that during the coronavirus pandemic, “school shootings” included those that happened on school property during remote instruction. That said, compared to 2000-2001 when there were 23 school shootings, the number recorded in 2020-2021 nearly quadrupled.
These troubling stats highlight the need for appropriate active shooter training and plans. Long-time Campus Safety contributor Lt. John Weinstein opined in his July 2022 article that the term “active shooter” must evolve, along with law enforcement’s response, policies, and training on active incidents. Read his article now on the steps he believes campuses should take to improve their handling of active assailant incidents.
One bright spot in the school shooting data, however, was the fact that nonfatal criminal victimizations dropped from 51 to 11 per 1,000 students, ages 12-18 over the past ten years.
Numerous historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) received bomb threats, starting back in January. The FBI believes that one juvenile is responsible for most of the racially motivated threats from January 4 through February 1. However, no suspects have been apprehended for the distinct set of threats primarily targeting HBCUs received between February 8 and March 2, affecting at least 19 institutions.
Hospitals that provide transgender medical procedures to minors have also been targeted with bomb threats and other types of attacks. The problem has gotten so bad that in October, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Children’s Hospital Association urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
North Carolina A&T State University was one of the HBCUs targeted with bomb threats this year. In his article, Jermaine Cherry, the school’s police chief, shares how his campus handled the threats and how preparations helped mitigate their effects. Read it now.
Institutions of higher education appear to not be paying as close attention to campus physical security as their peers in K-12 and healthcare, according to the 2022 Campus Safety Access Control and Lockdown Survey. Only 25% of colleges and universities have conducted monthly or quarterly site security assessments. Twenty-seven percent said they don’t know how often their campuses conduct security assessments, and another 11% said their facilities never conduct these types of reviews.
Additionally, only 31% of higher ed respondents said 91-100% of their classroom doors can be locked from the inside (57% of K-12 schools can do so).
Another troubling trend uncovered in the 2022 Campus Safety Access Control and Lockdown Survey is that 15% of respondents have purchased door-blocking/barricade devices. When broken down by sector, those percentages are:
Door-blocking/barricade devices generally don’t comply with fire codes or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even in the jurisdictions that do allow this type of equipment, campus protection professionals need to remember that there is a whole host of other reasons why the vast majority of these devices are dangerous and a bad investment. Click here and here for the many reasons why campuses should not be using this type of equipment, as well as guidance on how to acquire and install access control solutions that are code-compliant.
It’s no secret that hospitals experience the highest rate of workplace violence in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare workers accounted for 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in 2018.
Another study conducted earlier this year by National Nurses United found that 48% of hospital nurses reported a small or significant increase in workplace violence, which is a 57% increase from September 2021 and 119% increase from March 2021.
In response to the rising rate of incidents, the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) warned hospitals in November that they must protect their employees and patients from violence.
In light of this development, hospital security programs should expect to experience even more scrutiny from CMS in the coming months and years.
Fortunately, the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) has released three new publications that could help hospitals more effectively address their security challenges. Check out my podcast/video interview on IAHSS’ new incident data initiative for more information. Also check out Campus Safety Senior Editor Amy Rock’s podcast/video on how hospitals can change their organization’s culture to help mitigate workplace violence.
Campus protection professionals must not only address the risk of security incidents, such as shootings and assaults. Climate change also wreaks havoc on campus operations and promises to do even more damage in the future.
Such were the findings of a study published in September, which found that even relatively weak hurricanes pose a serious flooding threat to hospitals on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. According to the report, the effects of climate change on sea levels expected in this century increase the odds of hospital flooding by 22%. The study also found that at least half of the hospitals in 25 of the 78 metro areas could flood in a Category 2 hurricane.
The following 10 metro areas are where a Category 2 hurricane threatens access to hospital care most:
It would be wise for hospitals to include in their plans climate change’s impact on campus safety, security, and emergency management.
According to a report released this month from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a lot more adults, especially those with children who are minors, are now against mandatory childhood inoculations for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The survey found that 28% of adults say parents should have the option to not vaccinate their school-age children, even if not being vaccinated poses health risks for others, up from 16% in 2019. For parents of children under the age of 18, 35% oppose requiring childhood inoculations, up from 23% in 2019.
Measles is highly contagious and can cause brain damage, deafness, and even death. Until a few years ago, it was nearly eradicated in the U.S. However, lately anti-vaccine sentiment has led to fewer children being vaccinated, which has led to outbreaks of measles. Although anti-vaccination sentiment was increasing before the pandemic, the debate over COVID vaccinations, which became so politically charged, exacerbated vaccine hesitancy among the public.
In light of this hesitancy, K-12 schools will most likely see an increase in outbreaks of these preventable diseases in the coming years. Hospitals, too, could be affected with a greater number of children being admitted to emergency departments for medical care.
Fortunately, the CDC has resources available for healthcare providers and parents to help encourage routine childhood vaccinations. They can be found here.
Although school shootings get the most attention from school security executives, a school or university is much more likely to encounter individuals experiencing mental health challenges. And according to the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021 released in May, nearly half of LGBTQ+ teens and young adults considered suicide in 2021. That year was the third consecutive year rates of suicidal ideation increased among LGBTQ+ youth (ages 13-24).
Fortunately, there are some protective factors that reduce the risk of LGBTQ+ teen and young adult suicide. According to the report, LGBTQ+ youth who had lower rates of suicide attempts had access to spaces (online, school, and/or home) that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity. Sadly, however, only one in three LGBTQ+ youth said their homes were LGBTQ-affirming.
Additionally, the study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who could change their names and/or gender identification on legal documents reported lower rates of attempted suicide. The rate of suicide attempted among transgender and nonbinary youth whose pronouns are respected were half of those who did not have their pronouns respected.
I’ve long been a big proponent of anonymous phone and texting hotlines and apps where students, parents, friends, and other members of a campus community can report concerning behavior and suspicious activity. Over the past several years, many school districts and/or states have adopted this technology, including West Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wyoming, and others.
One of the many benefits of these hotlines or apps is that they address a wide range of risks, from active shooter threats to student mental health challenges. (Usually, most of the tips received via these systems report threats of suicide.)
In August, Michigan’s OK2Say report stated the state’s tip line received a record-setting 6,255 tips in 2021 — a 67% jump from 2020. More than half of the tips were received following the Nov. 30, 2021 shooting at Oxford High School that killed four students and wounded seven others.
Of the tips received, 28.6% (1,786) were related to planned school attacks, dozens of which forced schools to temporarily close. In the previous school year, only 52 such threats were reported. The report also found that 34 tips resulted in the confiscation of weapons.
Other leading tip categories included:
Michigan’s experience with its OK2Say program is even more evidence that anonymous tip lines/apps work.
Ransomware attacks happened at a record pace again in 2022, although, as I write this article, this year’s data hasn’t been published yet.
In just the first quarter of 2022, ransomware detections had already doubled the total number of detections for all of 2021, despite increased law enforcement pressure on ransomware gangs and an IT community that was highly aware of the threat. In November, Tessian reported that 94% of organizations experienced a spear phishing or impersonation attack, and 92% suffered ransomware attacks over email this year.
Vice Society, a ransomware group, has been specifically targeting the education sector, with the Los Angeles Unified School District and Cincinnati State College falling victim. The ransomware gang appears to be financially motivated and targets organizations with weak security controls that can be forced to pay the ransom, and education and local government fit that bill.
The scourge of ransomware attacks won’t slow down anytime soon, so campuses must continue to bolster their cybersecurity measures for the foreseeable future. Check out our October article on developing a third-party cyber risk management program so your campus won’t be ransomware’s next victim. Read it here.
These are just some of the trends and developments that caught my attention in 2022. There are many others, such as vaping on K-12 campuses, Title IX’s sexual misconduct rule changes, the ongoing opioid epidemic, the lasting impacts of COVID-19 on the viability of healthcare in the U.S., Clery compliance, and more. Feel free to comment below on what other positive or negative trends or developments you’re seeing in education and healthcare that I’ve left out.
Although there are many challenges we continue to face, I hold out hope for 2023. Lots of folks in the campus safety space are doing great work and providing helpful guidance, technology, and programs that could help hospitals, schools, and institutions of higher education improve public safety, security, emergency management, and facilities management on campus.
To that end, let me share just a few more articles/content Campus Safety ran this year that could bolster your protection efforts:
Have a safe and happy new year!
Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
In this webinar, attendees will learn the observable behaviors people exhibit as they head down a path of violence so we can help prevent the preventable.
This discussion will help participants analyze, understand, and assess their own program effectiveness.
Follow Us On
Ⓒ 2022 Emerald X, LLC. All rights reserved.