Kazoom: How WSFCS is handling Zoom bombings

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With the transition to online learning, Zoom bombings have become a pressing issue. West has been working diligently to handle this issue.

Meredith Watson, News Writer

Boom! Sudden wide-spread chaos can occur as one’s class meeting is “Zoom bombed”. As virtual classes have started, teachers and students have had to adjust to online settings and Zoom, the platform being used for school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people are using Zoom daily, but not without its complications, including crashing, lags and Zoom bombs.

Zoom bombs are unwanted guests that hijack a Zoom meeting, causing confusion. As the students look to their teachers on what to do, they are learning together how to handle an intruder in case one enters their online class.

Although zoom bombing has become rare as the year has progressed, the Triad reported at least two disturbing cases of bombings during the first week of school. A Southeast Middle School student was attending class when, behind him, another student yelled filthy words and made inappropriate gestures. In a neighboring county, WFMY News 2 reported, someone hijacked a class filling the chats with racial slurs and inappropriate language. Not only does this interrupt the class, it halts all lesson plans and discussions for the time being, while the teacher is forced to stop instruction and kick the person out.

Science teacher Christopher Putnam experienced a Zoom bombing but handled it as quickly as he could.

“It was on the first day of class, and a kid logged in as ‘iPhone’. Not knowing any better, I let him in, only to see a hooded figure smoking a cigar who yelled out some profanity. I immediately ejected him from the classroom. Now I check the students with my roll. Anyone who isn’t on the list doesn’t get in. It’s like an exclusive restaurant or resort. I like to think of it as Club Putnam where only VIPs are welcome,” science teacher Christopher Putnam said.

We are all learning Zoom etiquette and have found that students are not the only ones staying at home because of COVID-19. Many parents are working remotely as their job is implementing a “safety first” plan. Parents can now be seen walking in on their child during class time, distracting the student. Families have also disrupted their furry friends’ daily schedule by being at home, as some cats have been caught walking across the student’s keyboard, while dogs have been seen walking in the background of the student’s camera, giving their classes an up-close look at their pet. Although some of these bombings have been nerve-wracking, others have been quite entertaining, leading to some much needed laughter during this stressful transition. A lot of teachers love seeing pets pop up on their student’s camera, including math teacher Christina Koch, whose own kittens bomb her classes.

“I adopted my two kittens, Dottie and Kit, back in May to provide my kids and I with some excitement during quarantine. Recently, they have been very curious about my home office setup. My only Zoom bombings so far this year have been when one of the kittens has jumped up in front of me while I’m teaching or has snuck under the document camera while I’m working a problem! Behind the scenes they are causing trouble too. They are constantly trying to steal my pens and pencils, making noises with their toys, and climbing all over my notes and notebooks. It’s a wonder that I can concentrate on my classes with such active co-workers,” Koch said.

Despite these Zoom bombs, WSFCS has been creative with new ways to stop them from occurring. These strategies include a new security system that has been implicated from Zoom, plus the newly introduced “waiting rooms.” This area is where teachers personally allow students in, one by one, into their meeting to ensure that only their students “enter” the classroom. Principal Charles McAninch spoke on how West is controlling these issues.

“In an effort to reduce the opportunity for people to Zoom bomb West’s virtual classroom, I have asked for teachers to admit students one at a time with the student’s camera being on. Also, if the student is not on the teacher’s roster, those people should not be admitted. The district has changed Zoom settings so that only WSFCS email addresses may access our Zoom meetings. For students, the Code of Conduct still applies since our classes are in session. Depending on the level of severity, discipline could range from suspension to involving law enforcement,” McAninch said.

The county and state are encouraging students not to share Zoom links and passwords with their friends, family members, or social media accounts as it could increase the bombings. Although these bombings have been a major challenge, WSFCS is relieved that they have been less frequent and that the teachers have now been educated on what to do if one happens.