SARATOGA SPRINGS — Geyser Elementary School parents who logged into an online forum Wednesday night were met with a rude surprise after someone breached the forum and posted a lewd video for viewers to see.
School officials quickly shut down the online meeting, which was scheduled for Geyser families to get school-specific questions answered by their principal.
Amy Grandy, the parent of an incoming kindergartner, said as the forum’s leaders played a video about new health protocols the district produced with the help of high school students, a voice came over the video and said, “don’t forget to disinfect your penis and balls.” Grandy said the voice sounded like that of a teenage boy.
A few moments later, she said, the image of a swastika appeared on the screen, and the voice addressed the principal and said something about her running a Nazi meeting. Then the view cut to a video of a man appearing to be masturbating, Grandy said, before school leaders shut the entire meeting off.
Grandy, who has opted to keep her child in the district’s all-virtual model for the start of the school year, said she did not blame the school for the apparent hack and noted they shut it down after it was evident what was happening.
“I don’t think it’s anything the school could have controlled,” she said.
In a statement Thursday, Saratoga Springs district spokesperson Maura Manny confirmed the Geyser forum was breached.
“During Wednesday’s virtual parent forum, an unfortunate incident occurred where an outsider gained access into the Zoom meeting and shared inappropriate content,” Manny said in the statement.
Manny said the district is in the process of implementing Zoom for Education, which includes additional security settings not included in the standard Zoom format, which was used for Wednesday’s parent meeting.
“The district takes the safety and security of our school district technology platforms very seriously,” she said.
The breach comes as Saratoga Springs and districts around the region near the start of a school year that will again rely on countless virtual classes and meetings. Earlier this week, Zoom users across the country, including many in schools, could not access their meetings as the company sorted through technical problems.
District officials emailed parents who joined Wednesday’s meeting to apologize, notify them the meeting had been breached and explain the district’s plan to use the upgraded Zoom for Education when schools resume. Grandy said the incident didn’t make her any less confident in the new school year.
“I’m thinking that is probably a little more secure than the typical Zoom meeting were were in last night,” she said. “I’m confident in the school.”
The incident came a night after a Schenectady Black church’s online Bible study was similarly disrupted.