IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

North Dakota Mandates Compsci, Cybersecurity Education

The new legislation, slated to take effect in 2025, will add graduation requirements, provide for the training and certification of teachers and make technology courses available to adult education outlets.

An aerial view of the North Dakota Capitol building.
Starting with the 2025-2026 academic year, students in North Dakota public and private schools will have to complete a class in computer science or cybersecurity in order to graduate from high school, according to a new state law.

The law, signed March 24 by Gov. Doug Burgum, takes effect July 31, 2025. Individual school districts are required to approve their plans for implementing the requirement by July 1, 2024, said state Rep. Mike Lefor, R-68th Assembly District, who sponsored the legislation. He believes this new academic requirement will eventually make North Dakota’s workforce more competitive in the technology sector.

“We want to make the state more attractive to new companies, and local kids will be able to compete for those jobs,” Lefor told Government Technology.

Under this law, students must complete and pass a one-unit course in either computer science or cybersecurity between the start of their freshman year and end of their senior year. In most districts, students earn one unit by completing a class that runs for a full academic year, Lefor said.

Many school districts already had optional computer science electives. Under this law, Lefor said, the state will pay for the trainings and certifications existing teachers will need to teach computer science and/or cybersecurity courses.

In an interview with Government Technology, North Dakota State School Superintendent Kristen Baesler said individual school districts can choose whether to incorporate the mandate into their math or science requirements. With science, for example, a district may allow students to choose between biology, physics, chemistry and physical sciences in selecting the other two units for the three-unit requirement. She also said the certifications are not limited to current math and science teachers; educators who specialize in English, social studies, physical education and other subjects can become involved in this initiative as well.

The legislation amends the North Dakota Century Code, which states the minimum course requirements for high school graduation. The law does not increase the overall number of units required for graduation or change existing requirements in other subject areas.

For high school students, the goal of these courses is to provide a basic understanding of coding, algorithms and cyber threats. Baesler also said computer science and cybersecurity instruction will be required in grades K-3, but at those levels the focus is on basic computer functions, Internet safety and awareness of technology careers.

“The idea is to teach them [students] appropriate use and basic fundamental knowledge,” Baesler said. “This is information for their every day world that should be harnessed for good, not harm.”

The law also requires the state to fund the same computer science and cybersecurity courses for adult education outlets, which in addition to schools can include libraries and workforce centers that help residents obtain employment.

Lefor said North Dakota lawmakers have been brainstorming ideas for years now to improve the technology skills of the state’s current and future workforce. He maintains that this legislation is not based on any similar programs in other states.

“This is something we put together here,” he said. “I’m tremendously excited about it. I think we all know how important cybersecurity is in our future.”

Within the past two years, state lawmakers in Hawaii, Nebraska and Mississippi have moved forward with similar legislation requiring high school students to complete computer science courses.
Aaron Gifford has several years of professional writing experience, primarily with daily newspapers and specialty publications in upstate New York. He attended the University at Buffalo and is based in Cazenovia, NY.