AUSTIN, Texas - You may have heard of photobombing, now in the age of a pandemic and virtual school, Zoom bombing is a new phrase.
"We have been a part of a growing trend, an unfortunate trend in public schools during this time, of encountering Zoom bombs,” said Leander ISD spokesperson Corey Ryan.
Leander ISD sent out a note to River Ridge elementary parents, informing them that a fourth-grade class had been bombed with inappropriate material. The perpetrator entered the class under a student alias.
“That person entered and proceeded to show pornography during a class using screen share. The teacher immediately took it down,” said Ryan.
According to district officials, it's not the first time. “This situation was unique but we have had Zoom bombs and encounters with persons acting and sharing illicit content on Zooms this year and even last year, last spring,” said Ryan.
The district immediately notified the Travis County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating, as well as Zoom, which sent a statement that reads:
“We have been deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents, and Zoom strongly condemns such behavior. We have recently enabled meeting passwords and virtual waiting rooms by default for users enrolled in our K-12 program, and also updated the default screen share settings to ensure teachers are the only ones who can share content in class. Zoom is committed to providing educators with the tools and resources they need on a safe and secure platform, and we are continuing to engage with all of our users on how they can best utilize Zoom’s security features to protect their meetings. We take meeting disruptions extremely seriously and where appropriate, we work closely with law enforcement authorities. We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind to Zoom and law enforcement authorities so the appropriate action can be taken against offenders."
In the meantime, the district is looking at long term solutions, like using the purchased version of Zoom and reminding students to not share passwords. Once the district gets the licenses, Ryan said they plan on having each child log into class with unique passwords.
“We just want to tell our parents that are out there and students that we are here, we are sorry and we are continuing to get better in this new world to maintain safety and security,” said Ryan.
The full letter to families is as follows:
Dear River Ridge Elementary School families,
Our students’ safety and security, both online and in-person, is our highest priority. I am writing to express disappointment and sadness about an incident that occurred on our campus today. River Ridge joined the growing number of campuses throughout Leander ISD and the state with interruptions to our classes by an unwelcome guest to Virtual Empowered Learning.
During a fourth-grade Zoom meeting, the teacher admitted a person using a student’s name into the class. At that time, inappropriate sexual content was displayed for about a minute before the teacher was alerted and ended the meeting. My staff immediately notified law enforcement and began an investigation. We are in contact with the affected families and will follow the district’s protocols once the investigation is complete.
As a principal, I am heartbroken that any of my students, families or staff had to experience this situation. We ask you to join us in reminding our children about the safety risks that occur when sharing information such as classroom links and passwords. Thank you for your continued support of River Ridge Elementary.
River Ridge Elementary School