Published September 02. 2020 02:45PM
Zoom hacking is on the rise across the nation, and the phenomena hit close to home this week during a Palmerton Area School District kindergarten orientation.
During the virtual session, held through the popular video conferencing program, a user posted racially insensitive remarks, which could be viewed by anyone in attendance.
It is unknown if the comments actually came from a Palmerton parent or if it was what many refer to as an “internet troll.”
“We can’t confirm who made the comments,” Superintendent Dr. Jodi Frankelli said on Tuesday. “Regardless of who made them, the damage was done. The comments were intentional and hurtful and we want the school board, faculty, parents and community to know we don’t condone those comments.”
Technology director Dan Heaney said the incident occurred after the district had opened up the chat feature to give parents an opportunity to ask questions of the moderators and have a back-and-forth dialogue.
Going forward, however, that option will no longer be available in Zoom sessions hosted by the district.
“Guests will now have to use the question and answer feature,” Heaney said. “We will not allow anonymous questions. Only questions the panelists are answering will be seen. That way, if something comes across that is inappropriate, it will not be seen by the meeting attendees.”
Before the orientation, as the district does for its board meetings, it posted a link to the Zoom session on its website.
Heaney said the user who made the racially insensitive remarks on Tuesday logged off immediately after making them.
Hazleton Area School District recently had similar issues when up to 30 people including children were in a meeting during which a user shared pornography and racial slurs.
With school starting on Tuesday in Palmerton, Heaney said the district is not using Zoom for its virtual learning component as it did in the spring.
“Only students in the specific courses will be able to access the online classes through Schoology platform or Google Meet,” he said. “The only way to get access to those classes is to be a member of that course.”
Palmerton updated its harassment and discrimination policy last year, Frankelli said, and that, along with a Title IX policy, will be posted clearly on the website.
“We want to ensure that all of our students,” she said, “have equal opportunity to access our programs and activities without discrimination of any kind.”