Two NHCS virtual classes hacked with inappropriate messages, parents say

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — In the age of online learning, there are a lot of new challenges. But now, parents, teachers and students are facing yet another challenge – cyber security.

Two moms in New Hanover County are worried after they say their daughters each ran into hackers on their virtual classroom Zoom calls.

“They’re in school, and they’re in our house and they’re safe,” Caroline Lytle, who has a 6th grader at Holly Shelter Middle School, said. “And the reality is, apparently they’re not.”

It’s a harsh reality Lytle and Heather Dant, who also has a 6th grader at Holly Shelter, came face to face with this week.

“When he took over her ID, she was dropped out of the class, and then he had the display black so no one could see, and he was just using the audio and the chat function to communicate with her classmates,” Lytle said.

Lytle says her daughter was on a Zoom meeting with her class when someone took over her account and started typing inappropriate messages. She says her daughter’s teacher called and asked if someone at home could’ve been using her computer, but they quickly figured out it was a hacker.

She says it left her daughter with a lot of questions about what the language used meant, and how the hackers got into her account.

“‘Do my classmates really think that’s me?'” Lytle said. “‘When I go to school, are they going to not like me? Is he watching me? Can he see me in my camera?’ It’s just uneasy.”

Around the same time, Dant says a similar thing happened to her daughter in a different class.

“I saw this look on her face,” Dant said. “She was on a zoom, and I went out and I overheard a voice. I overheard this voice of a boy say something, and I thought, ‘That doesn’t sound like a young, 11-year-old innocent little boy.'”

Dant says she walked in and then spotted inappropriate messages in chat before the hacker was removed.

Both moms says they’re happy their daughters’ teachers acted the way they did in letting them know about the issue and removing the hackers as quickly as possible.

But they say they wish the school district had addressed security issues before the year started, since some kids have been using these platforms since the spring.

Lytle and Dant say she would even like to see the district invest in more secure technology to keep this from happening again.

“They do not need to be scared to go to school ever,” Lytle said.

In response, New Hanover County Schools released the following statement:
the school district released a statement.

“NHCS is continuously monitoring and enhancing internet security to protect students, families, and staff against cyberbullying, internet hacking, and other online security threats. The school district prohibits student access to social media platforms through the district network and instructs teachers to use waiting rooms and additional identification measures to ensure only appropriate students are present in online classrooms. If the online actions reach the level of threats, malicious intent, pornography, illegal, and or criminal activities, an investigation of the Zoom/Google meet meeting is initiated by the school principal. Violations are being aggressively investigated and will be reported to law enforcement.

Guidance for participating in online classrooms, including password protection, link sharing, screen sharing, supervision, what to do if inappropriate behavior occurs, and more, is available on the district website at Cyberbullying policies, reporting procedures, and support resources are being shared through the NHCS website, social media, and Connect 5 calls/emails to families. Student Support Service and school counselors are available to provide social emotional support and guidance.”

Categories: Local, New Hanover, News, Top Stories