Cybersecurity is Still Paramount for Schools

By Stacey Pusey

Cybersecurity: Keeping Everyone Safe in Today’s Learning Environments edWebinar recording link


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Beyond just the ability to pivot and be prepared for any type of learning, the pandemic has brought new concerns with “Zoom bombing” and increased outside access to school networks. As part of a series on technology best practices for school district leaders, presenters in an edWebinar, sponsored by ClassLink and co-hosted by CoSN and AASA, discussed five key reasons why everyone needs to be on top of their cybersecurity plan and continuously evaluate its effectiveness.

  • Liability: Of course, the main concern is with a data breach and the district’s responsibility. District staff, board members, etc. can be held accountable if security measures aren’t in place or aren’t kept current. However, the bigger liability issue is with teaching and learning. Days or weeks of downtime can result in lost learning, especially with so many students taking classes from home.
  • Legal Requirements: All of the presenters emphasized the need for having a single person at the school be responsible for monitoring and advising about changes in the legislation. There are just too many laws from federal to local municipalities for occasional reviews. 
  • Professional Reputation: It only takes one incident for your school to get a negative reputation. Your families and communities are putting their trust in you, and they need to feel like you take that responsibility seriously. So, communicate often with them about what measures you’re taking, and when there’s an incident, be transparent. Tell them what happened, what you’re doing to mitigate it, and if any data was breached.

Cybersecurity: Keeping Everyone Safe in Today’s Learning Environments edWebinar image

  • Teaching and Learning: Even when talking about cybersecurity, people are at the center of the conversation. That’s because if the technology goes down, it’s the students and teachers who are impacted the most. In addition, it’s sometimes the students and teachers who inadvertently invite the cyber attack by downloading and using apps that haven’t gone through the district’s formal process. Educating all constituents, not just about the process, but also why it’s important, is essential.
  • Student Digital Records: Here, it’s not just about the district’s practices, but their vendors as well. Everyone needs to have the same level of attention to protecting student information. And while a breach may not always steal something as valuable as a social security number, even getting students’ names, addresses, and dates of birth can give a criminal enough information to steal an identity. Moreover, the impact of the theft might not be known until years later when the student applies for a loan or checks their credit.

All of the presenters said that due to the growing sophistication of attacks, they include cybersecurity training as part of professional learning. They educate staff about the types of attacks as well as what to do. The goal is to get everyone to step back and ask questions when a text or email message seems off, but overall, the main message is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by ClassLink and co-hosted by CoSN, AASA, and

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About the Presenters

Dr. Luvelle Brown was the 2017 New York State Superintendent of the Year. He has served as Superintendent of the Ithaca City School District in Ithaca, New York since January 2011. Prior to arriving in Ithaca, Dr. Brown served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, school CIO, and district-level leader in Virginia. Early in his tenure, Dr. Brown facilitated a community-wide, strategic-planning process that resulted in a new vision and mission. Conversations in homes, community centers, places of worship, and other local settings informed the vision of “6000+ Thinkers” and mission to “Engage. Educate. Empower.” The newly informed vision and mission has led to district-wide initiatives based on systems thinking, including integrating thinking skills into every classroom, shifting the organizational design towards a systemic approach, redesigning learning spaces, and numerous technology initiatives, such as systems-based visual mapping, game-based learning, innovative uses of social media, and 1:1 mobile device implementation.

Knowing every student by name, strength and need is the promise of Highline Public Schools in Washington. Under the leadership of Dr. Susan Enfield, the district is delivering on this promise by implementing a bold strategic plan committed to ensuring that students graduate bilingual, biliterate with the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that will prepare them for the futures they choose. Prior to coming to Highline in 2012 Dr. Enfield served as Interim Superintendent for Seattle Public Schools.

Dr. Chris Gaines is Superintendent of Mehlville School District in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Gaines previously served as Superintendent of Missouri’s Crawford County R-I and Wright City R-II school districts. Under Dr. Gaines’s leadership Mehlville is expanding opportunities for students. In 2017, the district opened MOSAIC, a personalized learning elementary school, and created the MyPath program, which allows high school students to create their own class. The AASA Digital Consortium visited these programs in the spring of 2018 to gain insight into emerging models of best practice using digital media to support engaging learning experiences. In 2019, Mehlville opened academies at each middle school to expand personalized learning experiences at the middle-school level. Dr. Gaines holds degrees from Southeast Missouri State University and earned his doctorate at St. Louis University. He is a member of numerous professional associations and served as the 2018-2019 President of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

An experienced information technology and information security professional, Amy McLaughlin has over 20 years’ experience building, implementing, and securing information systems, including 10 years’ experience in K-12 and higher education. As a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) she has been responsible for protecting data covered by a broad range of federal and state regulations including HIPAA, FERPA, and IRS 1075. She holds a Master of Science in information technology management and a Master of Arts in marriage and family therapy. Amy currently serves as the project lead for the CoSN Cybersecurity initiative and the Director of Information Services Student Health Services at Oregon State University.

About the Host

Ann McMullan is Project Director for CoSN’s Empowered Superintendents Initiative. Ann served as Executive Director, Educational Technology in the Klein Independent School District, near Houston, Texas until September 2013, when she and her family moved to Los Angeles, California. For 16 years Ann led the district team that provided professional development on technology and 21st century instructional strategies to 4,000 professional educators serving 50,000 students. Ann served as co-chair of Texas Education Technology Advisory Committee which developed the Texas Long Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020. Today, Ann is based in Los Angeles working as a public speaker, writer, and education consultant focused on leadership and planning to meet the needs of today’s students. Ann serves on the Project Tomorrow advisory council and is a leadership consultant with Executive Service Corps of Southern California, serving non-profit associations. Ann co-authored Life Lessons in Leadership, a guide for leaders ages eight to 88.

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Stacey Pusey is an education communications consultant and writer. She assists education organizations with content strategy and teaches writing at the college level. Stacey has worked in the preK-12 education world for 20 years, spending time on school management and working for education associations including the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group. Stacey is working with as a marketing communications advisor and writer.