Zoombombing disrupts first week of Extended eSchool

Libertyville High School encountered Zoombombing incidents during the first two days of Extended eSchool, resulting in the restructuring and authentication of all District 128 students’ Zoom accounts. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 25, District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea announced via email that Wednesday, Aug. 26, would be an asynchronous learning day for all students due to the Zoombombings. He also announced that if any of the Zoombombers were students, then they would be disciplined. 

Zoombombing is an intrusion of a video conference call, usually done by internet trolls and hackers. Last Wednesday, Students learned independently, aided by teachers, without virtual classroom meetings via Zoom or Google Meet.

The Zoombombings encountered by District 128 staff occurred in multiple teachers’ virtual classrooms. One of these events transpired during LHS teacher Mrs. Keske’s Sophomore PE class, Sports and Fitness Practicum. This was during Mrs. Keske’s 1st period class on the first day of Extended eSchool, Aug. 24. 

“It felt like an eternity, but it probably only was about 30 seconds,” stated Mrs. Keske. “After I realized what was happening, I shut it down right away.”

Following the event, Mrs. Keske was able to contact her department supervisor, Ms. Patti Mascia, and assistant principal Mr. Eric Maroscher. As the class was being recorded, Mrs. Keske was also able to share this recording with the two of them. 

Mrs. Keske’s experience was one of the first Zoombombing encounters LHS teachers faced this school year. According to the District 128 Head of Communications, Mary Todoric, “The Zoombombings contained very disturbing racial slurs and graphic sexual language.”

The severity of the comments made during Zoombombs prompted LHS Principal Tom Koulentes to address students and their families via email. 

“My heart is heavy as I recognize these Zoombombs were clear signs our school environment was not as safe as it needed to be,” wrote Dr. Koulentes. He laid out that it was his job to ensure the safety and respect of all students and staff at LHS. This segued into Dr. Koulentes explaining the goals of LHS in regards to safety and racial equity for all students.

“If Black classmates, staff, and families are not safe in our school, then our school is not safe for any of us,” explained Dr. Koulentes. 

District 128 was not the first school district to encounter crude comments and remarks through Zoombombing. This method of virtual disruption has been seen in various other school districts across the country, while also infiltrating non-school meetings as well. 

According to Fox News Chicago, Hinsdale High School, located southwest of Chicago, recently had various eSchool disruptions by an 8th grade student. This student Zoombombed multiple Hinsdale classes by mooning the Zoom camera and using racial slurs. The student has since been identified.

District 128 worked to implement and update its own security measures on Aug. 26 through staff training. According to District 128 Educational Technology Director Mick Torres, staff training “involved over 500 administrators, teachers, and support staff.” He went on to explain via email that “training was exclusively with the use of Zoom in an educational setting and was provided by dozens of district instructional coaches.”

Later that same day, another email was sent out to District 128 parents and students. This email outlined new measures that would be put in place to guarantee Zoom safety for all students and teachers.

The email stated that District 128 students would have to authenticate their Zoom accounts by signing in through their District 128 Google accounts. Zoom sent emails to all District 128 students later that night in order to assist with the authentication process.

“I hope that the school’s new protocols prevent further Zoombombing,” remarked Mrs. Keske, who added that she was shocked that the school didn’t have these new methods in place before the beginning of the school year. Before the authentication process, anyone with a Zoom account could try to join any Zoom link, including those used by teachers.

Synchronous Extended eSchool continued for all District 128 students on Thursday, Aug. 27.