Hackers attack Prince George's County virtual back-to-school night with racial slurs

Hackers briefly took over a Prince George’s County virtual back-to-school night, using profanity and repeating a racial slur.

It happened Thursday during the Flowers High School back-to-school night on Zoom.

Cellphone video of the incident shows a school board member being interrupted first by music, then by live video of someone dancing, and then by several male voices repeating the N-word about 20 times over a minute.

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“The students were shocked. They didn’t know how to respond,” said Flowers teacher Zena Whitworth.

She said she saw about 600 students, parents, and staff in the Zoom meeting as it happened.

“I feel like you know that your audience is predominantly black, so to do that publicly,” Whitworth said. “And it wasn’t sexual, it was mostly racial. Repeating the N-word, saying something about the N-word. And it just made me feel like where have we come? We haven’t come very far.”

She said it was a stark reminder of the racism that exists and why she’s not comfortable teaching via Zoom.

A school district spokeswoman says while the Zoom login for the meeting was widely accessible, what happened is being investigated as hacking because the people involved managed to take over the meeting. She says it’s unclear who did this, whether it was students or outsiders.

After about a minute, Flowers Principal Gorman Brown regained control of the meeting.

“You had an opportunity to experience the challenges that are sometimes offered in our classrooms with our new technology,” Brown told people in the meeting. “I do apologize that what you witnessed here occurred. We are living in a challenging time and we just are going to remain resilient.”

Loudoun County Public Schools is also investigating after they say racial slurs and racist and sexual images interrupted classes last week The superintendent has said students are to blame. We’ve seen it happen across the country as virtual classes have resumed.

What’s known “Zoombombing” isn’t necessarily just a prank. Both the FBI and Justice Department have said it could be a federal crime.

Prince George’s County Public Schools says police are not involved in this investigation.