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Medford School District responds after explicit 'Zoom bombing' during Hedrick Middle School class

The Medford School District says that it is working with Zoom on an added security feature after the incident on Monday, while Medford Police continues to investigate.

Posted: Sep 28, 2020 5:13 PM
Updated: Sep 29, 2020 4:31 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — The Medford School District is moving forward after a man exposed himself to students on Monday during a Hedrick Middle School class conducted over Zoom

Beth Anderson, principal of Hedrick Middle School, said in an email to families on Monday afternoon that the man used a student's name to get through initial screening on the call. As soon as the teacher saw him, he was bounced off the call.

Photo courtesy Hedrick Middle School / Facebook

Anderson said that the school was able to track the man's IP address and filed a report with Medford Police. The District's IT staff have also been in contact with Zoom to lobby for better safeguards.

"This is absolutely unacceptable and we are appalled this occurred in one of our classrooms," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, there are people taking advantage of virtual meeting platforms nationwide, not just on Zoom, but on other platforms as well."

Families of the students who were present in the meeting have been notified, Anderson said, and the District is offering counseling services to students.

Until Zoom adds additional security, Anderson said that the school is taking several interim steps to make Zoom calls more secure. Students will not be able to join a call without their first and last names spelled out, will only be able to join a call if they are scheduled for that specific class, and will not be allowed back onto a call if they drop out of the meeting.

It is unknown at this time how many students were present on the call, how many saw the interloper, and what grade the students were in.

A similar incident happened to a Roseburg classroom in April, and Southern Oregon University reported a rash of incidents at the beginning of May.

Lt. Mike Budreau with Medford Police said that these cases are usually investigated by sending a subpoena to the internet provider in order to track down a physical address.

"However, it is not uncommon for the suspect to cover their digital tracks, making it difficult for law enforcement," Budreau said. "In most cases they are from out of the area, and possibly out of the country."

Budreau underlined that this issue — known colloquially as "Zoom bombing," but not limited to the Zoom platform — is happening nationwide as measures against COVID-19 continue to relegate many activities to online services.

Medford Police has been in contact with the FBI, so they are aware of the case, as well as others. If the offender does turn out to be across state lines, he could face federal charges.

"This behavior that this individual did is just appalling," Budreau said.

According to MSD public relations specialist Natalie Hurd, teachers in the district have conducted just over 19,100 classes via Zoom since the school year began. While there have been a handful of other "incidents," Hurd said the one on Monday was the first of this particularly egregious kind.

MSD is working with Zoom on a single sign-on option that will allow the District to authenticate users before they log in to a Zoom classroom, Hurd said. They anticipate having this feature live by next week.

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