Safeguarding Your School in Cyberspace

As more schools become more digital, cybersecurity has become a growing area of concern. Learn what cyber-secure schools look like, and how school administrators can create safe digital environments for students and staff.

Safeguarding Your School in Cyberspace

Thursday, March 5, 2009; Read the Transcript

As more schools become more digital, cyber security has become a growing area of concern. While most school- and district-level administrators know that keeping students safe online and protecting school data from hackers are important, not all educators are prepared to address those issues, and many aren’t knowledgeable about how to set up online safeguards.

Learn from the experts what cyber-secure schools look like, and how school administrators can create safe digital environments for students and staff.

Moderator Katie Ash, a staff writer for Education Week and Digital Directions, was joined by our guests:
Jeffrey L. Hunt, director of e-learning at the Institute for Online Learning at the Frontier Campus of the Indian Prairie School District 204 in Naperville, Ill., and a member of the advisory committee to the Consortium for School Networking’s Cyber Security for the Digital District initiative

Michael Kaiser, executive director of the Washington-based National Cyber Security Alliance

Background reading:

Safeguarding Your School in Cyberspace(03/05/2009)


12:36 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Howdy


Jeanne McCann: Hi Folks, we’re not quite ready to start yet, just opened for questions.


Katie Ash:

Hello everyone! We’re opening this up for questions, so please start sending them in now! We’ll start the chat here in about twenty minutes.

12:54 Moderator: Katie Ash: We’re going to be starting in about five minutes here, so keep the questions coming!

12:54 [Comment From Gerald]
Will there by a transcript of the chat made available?

12:54 Moderator: Katie Ash: To answer Gerald’s question: a transcript will be available right after the chat on this page.

12:57 Michael Kaiser: Hello Michael Kaiser from NCSA is here.

1:00 Moderator: Katie Ash: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s chat about how to create a cyber secure school district. I’m here with two guests who know a lot about this, and today they’re going to try and answer as many of your questions as they can. We’ve already got quite a few lined up, so let’s get started.

1:01 Moderator: Katie Ash: Maybe a good place to start would be a question for both of you -- what does a cyber secure school district look like?

1:02 Jeffrey L. Hunt: For students a place for them to work with their peers with web 2.0 tools but not be exposed to the dangers of the internet

1:02 Moderator: Katie Ash: What about you, Michael? What do you think?

1:03 Michael Kaiser: A cyber secure school is district is on that addresses online security issues holistically and recognizes that it is a combination of a broad curriculum in cyber security, safety and ethics, a strong focus on securing the networks that children use in schools and continued involvement in parents in reinforcing the cyber security messages the school is teaching.

1:03 Moderator: Katie Ash: Excellent. Jeff, we have a question from one of our readers that maybe you can answer. Here’s Rachel’s question:

1:03 [Comment From Rachel]
This pretty basic, but what is web 2.0?


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

Web 2.0 is made of software tools (blogs, wikis, podcasts) that anybody can uuse to create content and make it available to others.

1:04 Moderator: Katie Ash: And just a reminder to our readers: we have a lot of questions and comments being submitted here, and we’re going to do our best to get to as many as we can.

1:05 [Comment From Guest]
Katie- Could you give us some info on the guests? Thx.

1:06 Moderator: Katie Ash: Why don’t you guys take a second to introduce yourselves to the readers?

1:06 Jeffrey L. Hunt: I am director of E-Learning at Indian Prairie School District 204, a large suburban school district near Chicago

1:07 Michael Kaiser: I’m Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. We are public-private partnership focused on empowering a digital citizenry to use their computers safely and protect the cyber infrastructure. We focus on four key audiences: home users, K-12 education, higher ed and small- to medium-size businesses. You can find us at

1:07 Moderator: Katie Ash: Great! Now that we know a little bit about you guys, let’s go back to the Web 2.0 question, which I think is on a lot of people’s minds right now. Here’s a question from Julie.

1:07 [Comment From Julie Stratton]
My question concerns the use of wikis and blogs. Our school is looking into using these wonderful collaboratove tools, but are there issues/safeguards/etc. we should consider? Thank you

1:08 Jeffrey L. Hunt: I suggest that the district bring the software into the school district so that the content created is not necessary available to the internet. Students can read each other’s work. It is only available to students and teachers.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

Also so that the content does not have a permanent life on the Internet


Michael Kaiser:

I would introduce the tool slowly and have a system where students can demonstrate using it safely and securely using basic skills such as setting up accounts with secure passwords and abiding by acceptable use policies.

1:10 Moderator: Katie Ash: That’s a good point. And that brings up the issue of what students need to know about those tools before they can use them safely. Here’s a question from Mike that addresses that issue.

1:11 [Comment From Mike Donlin]
The Broadband Improvement Act is requjiring that all schools & districts which receive E-Rate dollars actively teach internet safety - including cyberbullying. What is in place to help us all do that? And do you have any idea how it will be monitored?

1:11 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Monitoring will likely be a state issue

1:12 Jeffrey L. Hunt: You may be required to file a curriculum plan with your state dept of education, depending on the state.


Michael Kaiser:

On the cyberbullying issue, NCSA has partnered with CyberSmart! to help distribute cyberbully curriculum tailored to specific age groups and can be found on our Web site.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

You may have to have your plan tied to your technology plan that has the e-rate requirements addressed in it

1:13 Moderator: Katie Ash: Maybe we should talk a little about what the Broadband Improvement Act is and how it affects schools.

1:13 Michael Kaiser: In general, we believe schools should address cyber security and safety through the lense of what we call C3, which is a comprehensive approach to teaching Cybersecurity, Cybersafety and Cyberethics.

1:13 [Comment From Andy Mann - Michigan]
Cyberbullying is a growing issue in schools. While sites such as iSafe and NetSmarts have some curriculum, I like some of the resources from other sites. Here are three I recommend. Do you know of others? NSBA and CyberSmart Cyberbullying Curriculum (free) Seattle Public Schools Cyberbullying Prevention Curriculum (free) Hazelden Publisher’s Cyberbullying Prevention Curriculum ($99)


Moderator: Katie Ash: Those are some resource for cyberbullying curriculum from Andy


Michael Kaiser:

We distribute the same CyberSmart! curriculum that the NSBA does.

1:15 Moderator: Katie Ash: To switch gears a little bit: here’s a question from Allen about other aspects of cyber security.

1:15 [Comment From Allen Swanson]
When you say, “a strong focus on securing the networks that children use in schools,” what are the issues beyond a secure firewall. Once that is in place are there other aspects of security that schools should be addressing?

1:16 Michael Kaiser: True cyber security is a combination of all the right tools and online behaviors for everyone in the school setting from students to teachers to staff to administrators.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

It is a state of mind

1:16 Michael Kaiser: This translates not only to firewalls but having full suite of security software tools and policies in place to protect personal information.

1:16 Moderator: Katie Ash: Can you elaborate on that, Jeff? What “state of mind” creates a secure digital environment for schools?

1:17 Michael Kaiser: It involves training everyone to understand the value of personal data and how people can be impacted if it is unintentionally made public.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

It goes to Michael’s statement that we need to think about cybersafety and we have to act on it.

1:17 Moderator: Katie Ash: I see


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

Such as virus free computers

1:18 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Computers that we can recover to an operable state.

1:18 Moderator: Katie Ash: Maybe this would be a good time to talk about what different people need to be thinking about in terms of cyber security. Here’s a question from Debbie about that.

1:18 [Comment From debbie]
What is the principal’s and central office’s role in ensuring school cyber safety?

1:18 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Administrators who understand that this is not “kids being kids.”

1:19 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Trespass and breaking and entering virtually are crimes.


Michael Kaiser: Administration play a critical role across several different areas:

1. They set the tone about the importance of cybersecurity and safety
2. They should understand the kind of security issues their schools are facing such as cyberbullying, harassment, etc.
3. They should make the case for strengthening the curriculum and the networks and any additional funding that requires.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

That’s part of the state of mind -- administrators, teachers and students understanding the power of their data networks for learning and that personal information needs to stay that way.

1:21 Moderator: Katie Ash: And besides administration, who else needs to be involved in conversations about creating a safe digital environment for students and faculty?

1:21 Jeffrey L. Hunt: The entire community (Boards of Education, parents, citizens, . . . .)


Michael Kaiser:

It is simple: Everyone from students to teachers to parents need to be involved.

1:22 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s a follow up question for you, Jeff, from Marianne.

1:22 [Comment From Marianne]
Jeffrey, if one of the essential components of 21st century skills is to collaborate, are we really serving our students by limiting them to only use tools that let them collaborate within the brick walls of the school. Don’t we need to find some strategies for allowing them to truly step into the bigger world so that we can help them learn how to navigate that safely? Isn’t it like trying to teach then how to drive a car without ever really getting into a car?


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

The collaboration can occur from home. It should be password protected.

1:23 Jeffrey L. Hunt: However

1:23 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Students make mistakes and we should allow those mistakes to be made

1:24 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Those mistakes should not be permanent records on the Internet

1:24 Moderator: Katie Ash: OK, great.

1:25 Moderator: Katie Ash: We have a lot of questions about how to get all those parties we talked about a few minutes ago involved in the cyber security conversation.

1:25 [Comment From Susan Jenkins]
What are some suggestions of ways to get these people involved and on board?


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

Start with a small circle of intersted parties and grow participation through user groups and community events

1:26 Moderator: Katie Ash: Michael, what do you think? How do you get all the right parties sitting around the table?


Michael Kaiser:

Nothing gets people’s attention better than real, tangible data about what’s going on. One place to start would be looking at a K-12 study that we recently completed that shows that only 22% of teachers are comfortable about teaching cyber bullying.

1:28 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Get one school interested, get a school librarian interest, get a grade level interested. Peer pressure goes a long way to energize a good idea. Get a school principal started with a blog to his public.


Michael Kaiser:

And another way is to activate your students to help them articulate the challenges they face online. A survey of peers would be helpful for decision makers to pick a starting point about issues to address.

1:28 [Comment From A. Deschner]
What are some of the most common pitfalls or mistakes that schools make in protecting student information and what needs to be done to correct these areas?

1:29 Moderator: Katie Ash: What do you guys think?

1:29 Moderator: Katie Ash: Where might schools be lagging behind, and what could they do to catch up?

1:30 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Sharing too much information with the wrong people. Stop printing and posting grades on the wall is a simple way to start the state of mind.


Michael Kaiser:

Schools need to remember that any data you collect is data you MUST protect.

1:31 Moderator: Katie Ash: Any suggestions on how to make sure that data is adequately protected?


Michael Kaiser:

Making the needed investments to keep their networks up-to-date with current software and other tools that provide security. Plus, as we have found most people who work in the schools are not educated about cyber security and may not know the behaviors they need to employ.

1:31 Moderator: Katie Ash: Karen has a good point:

1:31 [Comment From karen]
how is this being financed? Budgets are tight. No money for more of anything. Any ideas?


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

Access. Turning off accounts when employees leave.

1:32 Moderator: Katie Ash: Are there low-cost solutions to this problem, or does it simply need to made a high priority, even in times of low budgets?


Michael Kaiser:

The starting point is to ensure you are using all the tools you have in place correctly. Is your security software set to automatically update? Are you using passwords that are complex? Are you backing up your data and storing it in a remote location?


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

There are open source (freed) software titles that can help. Part of it is also making this to be a priority on some level.

1:34 Michael Kaiser: The key is the cost of not doing anything far outweighs the up front protection costs.

1:34 Moderator: Katie Ash: Michael, here’s a question for you:

1:34 [Comment From Lisa]
Michael, comment on the “full suite of security software tools and policies” what does this include in your opinion?


Michael Kaiser:

In general, security tools include anti-virus, anti-Spyware and a firewall in addition to browsers and operating systems that are up-to-date.

1:36 Moderator: Katie Ash: Also, if you guys know the links to any good free software, feel free to throw them out there. I know our readers are interested.

1:36 Jeffrey L. Hunt: CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) has a web site with questions that various levels of the organization should be asking. See

1:36 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s something that keeps coming up:

1:36 [Comment From Amy]
Now that students have blackberry’s and iphone’s it is harding for the adults (parents/teachers) to monitor the students use of the internet. Do you have suggestions to share on how to monitor cyber saftey now that students are using handhelds?

1:37 Moderator: Katie Ash: What sort of specific concerns do educators need to have about handheld mobile devices?

1:37 Jeffrey L. Hunt: We have to have a way to make these part of our schools

1:37 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Students have developed a powerful back channel for communication in our schools

1:37 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Yet, we try to prohibit their use

1:38 Michael Kaiser: We have to be consistent in our messages and our education. Mobile devices are computers.

1:38 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Find a way to bring them into the school for communication and learning.

1:38 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Consistency is part of the state of mind


Michael Kaiser:

It doesn’t matter what you use to access the Internet, the same behaviors need to be used regardless of device.

1:38 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s a thought from Mike

1:38 [Comment From Mike Donlin]
That;s a big part of the problem. All this requires training, training, all levels. And there is very little - if any - time or money to do that.

1:39 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s an issue that I think a lot of schools face:

1:39 [Comment From Beth M]
What about filtering websites for students and staff? How can students be productive with web 2.0 if so many sites are blocked?

1:39 Moderator: Katie Ash: How do you strike the right balance between protection and access to educational opportunities?

1:40 Michael Kaiser: Agreed that is a big issue. We found that 90% of teachers had less than 6 hours of professional training on C3 issues. However, we need to find ways to provide basic education around these issues for teachers.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

That’s a local decision that you have to work on. The curriculum department should decide what is unblocked not the technology department

1:41 Moderator: Katie Ash: That’s a good point, Jeff. It’s good to distinguish which responsibilities fall where.

1:41 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Isn’t learning a curriculum issue?


Michael Kaiser:

Our goal is to make cyber security second nature. That means starting early and teaching kids about online safety before they use the computer, repeating those messages and not allowing broad use of the technology until students demonstrate competency in using the tools safely.

1:42 Michael Kaiser: we don’t let kids use scissors until they show us they can use them without cutting themselves or others.

1:42 Moderator: Katie Ash: We here at have heard anecdotal evidence that our site is blocked in some school districts.

1:44 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s a follow up to Jeff’s last response

1:44 [Comment From Scott]
I partially disagree with Jeffrey’s last... Curriculum staff and teachers can’t always see tech issues that might affect opening a site. They must make that decision with support from tech staff. It needs to be a collaboration.

1:44 Jeffrey L. Hunt: What tech issues are there with opening ed week?

1:45 Moderator: Katie Ash: Not sure, we’ve just heard that in some places, the site is blocked.

1:45 Michael Kaiser: When we focus too much on individual sites, we are not teaching the judgement skills, kids need to have to make good decisions about what is safe and what is not.

1:46 Michael Kaiser: Site blocking is not a perfect science.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

It’s a terrible science

1:46 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s a question from Patti about parents and students

1:46 [Comment From Patti Agatston]
It seems like any curriculum really needs to include take home messages for parents to encourage collaboration on issues such as kids having I-Phones and Blackberries. What are your recommendations on how schools can help “bridge the digital divide between parents and kids?”

1:47 Moderator: Katie Ash: Part of the problem for parents and educators, I think, is keeping up with the technology that kids are familiar with. A lot of times they know more about it than we do.

1:47 Michael Kaiser: We totally agree. Cyber security and safety is our shared responsibility and parent play a very important role in setting the tone about how the technology is used.

1:48 Jeffrey L. Hunt: We adults also tend to keep our technology until it breaks. Kids want the newest. They’ll upgrade frequently.

1:48 Michael Kaiser: Unfortunately, some parents feel their kids are more tech savvy then they are, however we need to remind parents that children expect them to help keep them safe.

1:48 Moderator: Katie Ash: Exactly, which can make it pretty hard to keep up.

1:49 Michael Kaiser: Focusing on the technology or delivery mechanism distracts us and makes us feel behind. We have to focus on the foundational behaviors that keep our children safe.


Michael Kaiser: At NCSA, we like to teach everyone about WWW.

Always ask Who, What, Why

1:50 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s another thought from Mike

1:50 [Comment From Mike Donlin]
We also include “homework” which involves talking to parents. It’s critical.

1:50 Moderator: Katie Ash: And here’s a good question from Sasha:

1:50 [Comment From Sasha Machado]
At what age (grade level) do we start to teach cyber safety?

1:50 Michael Kaiser: For example, before sharing information on a social networking site, we should be teaching children to ask who is going to see the information, what is the value of the information I am sharing and why would I want them to have it.


Michael Kaiser:

We believe that the cyber security messaging needs to start before school and in fact cyber safety and security should be raised to the level of other cultural safety messaging such as looking both ways before your cross the street and healthy eating.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:


1:52 Moderator: Katie Ash: That’s a good point, Michael. Looks like someone else agrees with you, too.

1:52 [Comment From Guest]
Cyber saftey has to instructed like stranger danger and drugs at home and since parents often did not grow up as digital natives-- parents we need to educate ourselves and perhaps ask schools for help in this area. Cyber safety starts in Kindergarten when they first get on computers

1:53 Michael Kaiser: Cyber security and safety education needs to start before children use computers. We train kids to cross the street before they do it themselves.

1:54 Moderator: Katie Ash: Here’s a question I’ve been curious about: how do you think our schools are doing in terms of cyber safety? If you had to give public education (as a whole) a grade, what would it be?

1:55 Jeffrey L. Hunt: C-

1:55 Moderator: Katie Ash: That’s pretty low!

1:55 Moderator: Katie Ash: What do you think the first step is to improvement?


Michael Kaiser:

Not so well...our study has found that only about a third of schools have cyberbullying built into their curriculum and only about 30% teach about online threats

1:56 Michael Kaiser: Moreover, we have found that more than 52% of teachers don’t understand how to ensure a Web site is secure.


Jeffrey L. Hunt:

To Michael’s points and the questions, we have many gaps and we have many strengths

1:57 [Comment From Guest]
C- because it is touched on by many classes but no depth.

1:57 Moderator: Katie Ash: Do you guys think that’s true?

1:58 Jeffrey L. Hunt: And there’s much to do with minimal resources (time, money, people)

1:58 Moderator: Katie Ash: Are there any good examples? Felicia wants to know.

1:58 [Comment From Felicia]
What states are doing the best job regarding cyber safety education?


Michael Kaiser:

We know that five states including Tenn. and Va. have mandated Internet safety to be included in the curriculum.

1:59 Michael Kaiser: We’d like to see more and we’d like to see adoption of the C3 framework as a more comprehensive approach to making our children digital citizens.

1:59 Moderator: Katie Ash: Anything to add, Jeff? I think we’re just about out of time.

2:00 Jeffrey L. Hunt: No


Michael Kaiser:

The other three states are Ga., NY and Ill.

2:00 Moderator: Katie Ash: Haha, OK.

2:00 Moderator: Katie Ash: Thank you both so much for answering all these questions.

2:00 Moderator: Katie Ash: And thanks to our readers for submitting such thoughtful comments!

2:01 Michael Kaiser: We encourage everyone to to read our K-12 Baseline Study. Thanks for including us today !

2:01 Jeffrey L. Hunt: Thanks -- have a safe trip home!

2:01 Web Person: Jeanne McCann: We’ll turn comments on after we close the chat so that people can continue the discussion, below. And we have a quick poll for you!


Thanks everyone. We’d love your feedback. What did you think of the format of this chat?
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2:03 Web Person: Jeanne McCann: Transcript will be available right here as soon as we officially “close” this chat, in a few minutes. Thanks again.

2:06 [Comment From Sandra Ramos]
This was very informative andd useful! Thanks

2:06 [Comment From vfranklin]
The Seattle Schools link for cyberbullying curriculum... states that that page is no longer found on there server


Web Person: Jeanne McCann: oops, sorry about that. i’ll see if i can find the right link.


Web Person: Jeanne McCann: Seattle: might be this?

2:09 Web Person: Jeanne McCann: Thanks again everyone!


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