A California congressman has introduced a bill in the House to strengthen school districts’ cybersecurity by providing $25 million in grant funding over the next five years for that purpose.

Rep. Josh Harder, D-Calif., is sponsoring the Protecting Students from Cybercrimes Act, a bill which comes a little over a year after a malware attack in the systems of the Sylvan Union School District that caused an estimated $1 million in damages. Sylvan Union is located in the congressman’s district.

“Even before the pandemic, we saw schools in the Valley become victims of cyberattacks – with more students learning from home, we need to take even more proactive steps to protect them,” said Rep. Harder, in a press release.

According to the release, the grants could be applied to strengthen networks, install cybersecurity software, and support schools in their efforts to offset the cost of cyber incidents. The bill also would establish scholarships and apprenticeships for students interested in cybersecurity fields.

In a recent nationwide survey, over half of educators said their students are not learning about cybersecurity. 75 percent of educators said their students had a “medium or high” level of interest in learning about cybersecurity career paths, but more than two-thirds (67 percent) of educators said their students have a low level of awareness of steps needed to obtain a cybersecurity job.

“I particularly appreciate the inclusion of apprenticeships and career opportunities for our students in this emerging field,” said Scott Siegel, superintendent of California’s Ceres Unified School District, commenting on the bill. “The School Cybercrime Protection and Preparedness Act would provide us with the opportunity to shore up our defenses against a growing and real problem for school districts.”

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