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RCSD abruptly stops online forum on reopening after Zoom bombing

Rochester City School District/Zoom
RCSD Supt. Lesli Myers-Small at Saturday's Zoom forum on reopening.

The first of five forums to be held by the Rochester City School District on its reopening plan for the upcoming school year had to be abruptly canceled soon after it started on Saturday after it was bombarded by a series of racist and obscene comments.

The comments were typed into the chat function of the open Zoom call and there were also comments scrawled on the PowerPoint presentation that District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small had started the session with.

When the obscenities first were written on the PowerPoint, that presentation was taken down, and soon after, the chat board was flooded with the racist and obscene comments. At that point, Myers-Small told those participating, “I apologize, I appreciate everyone taking their time but I’m seeing in the chat, really very disturbing things, so we will have to reschedule this.”

The forums are required by New York state to make sure that school districts are communicating with parents and others about the reopening plans. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has allowed districts to have in-class instruction after they submit their plans, but many school districts are expecting to use a hybrid plan, with some in-class and some remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The RCSD had originally planned to use that model for Pre-K through 4th grade, but Myers-Small recently announced that all students would participate in remote learning for at least the first ten weeks of the school year, due to complications involving health plans and other issues, and feedback from the community.

RCSD later tweeted that the forums on reopening will still be held, and additional measures will be put in place.

The district later released a statement:

"We apologize for this unfortunate incident, which involved the exposure of racial epithets and other graffiti on the screen. The Rochester City School District condemns such behavior and will work to make sure the upcoming Forums are different in format as to make sure this unfortunate incident does not happen again."

In a tweet, Myers-Small said the district will be sending a letter to Zoom asking the company to "release a specific plan to combat racial harassment on the platform."

Families are encouraged to go to this link for some of the information that was going to be shared Saturday about the district's reopening plans.  

You can get also get more details about the forums at:

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.