Protecting Schools Globally Through Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM)
This blog post started out as a School Safety Week post on LinkedIn but due to the subject matter it quickly expanded to a length that requires a blog post or article.
While the US is often portrayed in the media (at least in the US media) as the nexus of a school violence and security crisis, violence is a threat that is not unique to US schools.
While the driving factors and methods of attack may differ country to country, schools almost everywhere need to consider their own unique risks related to violence and other types of security incidents. 2023 has seen attacks against schools, students, and teachers at schools on every continent except Antarctica. These have included:
January 2023 – An eleven-year-old student at a school in Mexico City, Mexico opened fire with two guns killing a teacher and wounding several students.
February 2023 – Two men armed with a knives and an axe entered a college in Perth Australia and threatened and chased students and employees.
March 2023 – A student from a nearby high school entered a junior high school near Tokyo Japan armed with multiple knives and stabbed a teacher.
March 2023 – A group of students at a school in Dindigul, India beat another student to death.
April 2023 - A man jumped over the wall outside a daycare center in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina and attacked students with an axe. This is just one of an increasing number of school-based attacks in the country.
May 2023 – A teenager in Western Australia hid in a nearby parking lot and fired multiple shots into classrooms at a university in Western Australia.
May 2023 - A student at a school in Belgrade, Serbia opened fire on his classmates killing eight and injuring others.
May 2023 – A police officer in Peshawar, Pakistan opened fire on a school bus carrying students and teachers killing an eight-year-old girl and injuring several others.
June 2023 - a student at a university in Ontario, Canada stabbed three other students in what authorities classified as a hate crime based on gender identity.
June 2023 – A student in a school in Indonesia started his school on fire, purportedly in response to bullying by his peers.
June 2023 – Militants affiliated with the Islamic State attacked a secondary school in western Uganda killing thirty-seven students and kidnapping others.
July 2023 – A twenty-five-year-old man entered a kindergarten in Guangdong province China and killed and injured multiple children with a knife.
August 2023 – Four people were killed when a rocket or suicide drone struck a school in northeastern Ukraine.
August 2023 – A sixteen-year-old student at a school near Dresden, Germany stabbed an eight-year-old student and then set himself on fire.
September 2023 – Gunmen entered residences at a university in northwestern Nigeria and kidnapped over thirty mostly female students.
September 2023 – A fifteen-year-old student at a school in Gloucestershire, UK stabbed a teacher at his private school.
October 2023 – Over one hundred students at a private school in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti were forced to spend multiple days trapped in their school as armed criminal gangs engaged in street warfare outside the school.
October 2023 - the terrorist group Hamas targeted Israeli schools killing and kidnapping students during their attack into Israel.
October 2023 - a man who had allegedly previously pledged alliance to the Islamic State attacked a school in France killing a teacher and injuring three students.
As school security practitioners, what should we take away from this? There are very few if any schools that are completely immune to the risk of violence and other crime, but it helps us to approach school security from an enterprise security risk management (ESRM) standpoint.
Firstly, what are the things that we need to protect at the school? Obviously the most important of these are the school’s people, but secondarily we must also protect and preserve the school’s ability to conduct its business of education, its reputation so that parents and others feel safe sending their children to the school, as well as its physical assets.
Secondly, what are the realistic threats to those the school has a duty to protect and its assets? These can vary significantly depending on the location of the school an urban school in the US has to worry not only about the potential for a targeted active shooter attack, but also the potential for gang violence to spill into the school; a school in an active war zone such as Ukraine, Israel, or Yemen has to worry about the potential for rocket attacks; and schools in parts of Africa need to be concerned with attacks of large bands of fighters intent on kidnapping their students.
Thirdly, how well do the school’s existing security measures work to prevent those realistic threats from negatively effecting those the school has a duty to protect and its assets? Where are the existing gaps in that coverage?
Lastly, what measures can be put in place to close those gaps, which either:
Deter the potential threat from attacking the school.
Detect a potential attack and alert responders.
Delay the threat from negatively impacting the schools, its people, and assets until responders arrive.
Defend against the attacker, typically in the form of responders who can force the attacker to cease their attack.
While no one can guarantee a perfectly safe environment implementing a reasonable approach to school security through the use of ESRM can significantly improve the school’s ability to protect its people and assets.