Berkeley school district temporarily suspends use of video conferencing after man ‘Zoom bombs’ class meeting

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Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, temporarily suspended its use of Zoom and Google Hangouts for instruction Tuesday after a man disrupted a Berkeley High School class through “Zoom bombing.”

According to BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens, a man joined a class meeting on Zoom, exposed himself to students and shouted obscenities before being removed from the video conference call by a teacher. Stephens added that the Berkeley Police Department has been contacted about the incident, along with the students and parents involved. Several students were also cited for misbehavior on Zoom in separate instances, according to Stephens.

“I understand from the emails I’ve received from many of you that the real time online interaction between students and teachers has been a valuable relief from the sense of isolation during this Shelter-in-Place order,” Stephens said in a districtwide email. “The temporary suspension of video conferencing, which I hope will only last a few days, will allow us to evaluate the issues we’ve experienced in our first two days of Zoom.”

According to Stephens, other video conferencing options are also being explored.

Stephens added that the teacher whose class was disrupted followed all current guidelines about security precautions in Zoom, but the man still gained access. According to the email, Zoom and Google Hangouts are currently being updated to address public school-use concerns.

To address this, BUSD has started to incorporate Zoom into a student-friendly portal that already has BUSD verifications, as well as configuring a new “corporate” account that teachers can use to implement functions, including more control over muting and video feeds, adding waiting rooms and restricting calls to only those with BUSD email addresses. BUSD is also looking into how to reduce the participant size of Zoom meetings to allow for better controls, according to Stephens.

In the interim time, teachers are encouraged to make use of non-interactive curriculum, including pre-recorded lectures and uploads to Google Classroom.

“It is simply unacceptable to ignore a risk of this significance,” Stephens said in the email. “I’m hoping that it’s only a few days until we can resume, and I still feel committed to making this work.”

Check back for updates.

Kate Finman is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.