13 obstacles that top districts’ current safety concerns

Social media use, including TikTok challenges, has been identified as the most prominent issue among school SROs. What else made the list?

As of April 4, there have been at least 87 school shooting incidents on a K12 campus since the start of the new year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. It’s already dangerously close to 2020’s total tall of 116, which is why security is a top-of-mind issue for school leaders in 2024.

In an effort to capture the current state of school safety, Raptor Technologies recently published the findings from their 2023 survey of nearly 300 members of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) about the challenges educators and SROs currently face.

Respondents brought up a number of concerns that might have negative impacts on school safety, including artificial intelligence. Although nearly 60% of survey takers say they’re “unsure” about its effects, a number of folks listed several implications that ought to be taken into consideration, including:

  • Technology failures and limitations
  • Training staff and students
  • Misuse, such as cyberbullying
  • Data privacy and cybersecurity

“This emerging trend underscores a broader theme observed in the survey responses: a need for more comprehensive understanding of technological advancements and their effects on school security and students’ wellbeing,” the report reads.

But most importantly, respondents were asked to identify what they believe to be the most pressing safety obstacles currently affecting their school districts. Here’s what they said in order of most to least common:

  • Student social media use, such as TikTok challenges
  • Funding for security updates
  • Mental health issues
  • Budget for additional SROs
  • Bullying
  • Untrained school staff
  • Physical security
  • Hardware/badge panic button lacks functionality
  • Inconsistent drills
  • Lack of true safety plan
  • Lack of admin support
  • No visitor or volunteer screening
  • Lack of board and/or community support

The newest addition to this list represents the most commonly-named concern among school safety professionals: social media’s impact on student well-being. Nearly 64% of respondents said this is currently an issue in their schools.

Additionally, the survey highlights the growing need to protect students in this digital age as concerns about social media, cyberbullying and AI grow.

“Issues like cyberbullying, online predators and challenges posed by social media platforms like TikTok are becoming increasingly relevant,” the survey reads. Social media’s pervasive nature has since been amplified by the impacts associated with cyberbullying and online predators. School districts are also currently dealing with a troubling trend brought forth by generative AI: deepfakes.

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It’s important that school leaders recognize the signs of distress in students early on so that intervention can take place. The authors of the survey have identified several warning signs specific to elementary, middle and high school students that you should be on the look out for during these times:

Elementary students

  • Overreacting to minor issues
  • Stomachaches and headaches
  • Hiding
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Regression behaviors (sucking thumb, baby talk, clinging to a trusted adult)
  • Poor eating habits
  • Easy to startle

Middle and high school students

  • Withdrawing from friends or activities
  • Dramatic changes in students’ grades
  • Becoming secretive
  • Presence of bruises
  • Self-harm
  • Irregular attendance
  • Excessively tired, unkempt or hungry

“Proactive measures are essential, including tools that enable staff to collect and analyze data on student behavior,” the survey reads. “These tools can help in early situations from escalating and maintaining students’ academic engagement.”

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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