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North Dakota schools prepare to weave in cybersecurity curriculum

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Mike Moen

(Prairie News Service) October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and in the near future North Dakota public school students will be more knowledgeable about the topic.

The state recently adopted a law requiring such curriculum in K-12 schools. High schoolers will have to take either a computer science or cybersecurity course to graduate. Districts have until next summer to develop and approve their own integration plans for these courses.

Ned Clooten, superintendent of Devils Lake Public Schools, said digital threats are not going away anytime soon, and argued it is important students have the ability to learn about them before they reach adulthood.

"Hackers (are) trying to get access to our personal information," Clooten pointed out. "Cybersecurity is a real risk."

Devils Lake has already been offering computer science classes, and Clooten predicted a fairly smooth transition to enhance curriculum under the new law. But he acknowledged it might be harder for smaller districts to add enough staff and other resources, especially amid a nationwide teacher shortage. The North Dakota Center for Distance Education is offering technical assistance for schools needing more help. 

Clooten noted another benefit is potentially giving students a pathway to an in-demand career. 

"There's definitely a wide range of jobs available in cybersecurity already," Clooten observed. "I only see that growing in the future."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for information security analysts are projected to grow by more than 30% over the next decade. Those predictions come as educational institutions, corporations and other large entities report security breaches, in addition to the prevalence of digital scams targeting individuals.