Schools Tighten Security in Cyberspace

By Dessoff, Alan | District Administration, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Schools Tighten Security in Cyberspace


Dessoff, Alan, District Administration


A perceived terrorism threat to several public school systems (the FBI dismissed them as a false alarm) nevertheless has raised concerns about school security on the Internet.

The FBI said a computer disk found in Iraq that contained information about schools in six states had no connection to terrorism. The agency said it belonged to an Iraqi man, perhaps an architectural student, who was doing legitimate research.

What was on the disk came from a U.S. Department of Education report, accessible to the public on the Internet, on crisis planning for schools and communities. It contained building diagrams and other information about a number of U.S. schools.

The San Diego City Schools responded by removing the district's emergency procedures plan from its Web site, although it remains "a public document available to anyone who asks for it," says Steven Baratte, information services specialist. "But we made it one step harder to get."

The Smithtown, N.Y., Central School District, which was not among those threatened, took the floor plan of one of its schools off the Web, where it had been since 1999. "It was just a rudimentary plan for new parents, students and teachers" that was posted when the school opened in a building that previously had been used by a police academy, says Assistant Superintendent Meryl Ain.

Floor plans and other information such as transportation plans should not be on the Internet in the first place, says Kenneth S. Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm.

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