DOE bans schools using Zoom for remote learning amid security concerns

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DOE bans schools using Zoom for remote learning amid security concerns

(NEW YORK POST) – The city’s Department of Education has barred teachers and administrators from using the video conferencing platform Zoom for remote learning purposes over concerns about security breaches — such as “Zoom-bombers” who hijack the chat rooms.

In a Sunday memo obtained by The Post, DOE chief operating officer Ursulina Ramirez informed principals that Zoom should no longer be used — and that the platform should be replaced with Google Hangouts Meet or Microsoft Teams.

“We know how hard you and your staff are working to make remote learning a reality for students and families, and appreciate the ways in which you’re going above and beyond every day. We also know you share our concern for student safety,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to say, “If you are currently using Zoom for video conferencing, we are ready to support you in a transition as quickly as possible.”

Big Apple educators began using Zoom to remotely teach students after all city school buildings shuttered on March 16 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some of this might feel like a sudden transition, but we are here to support you,” Ramirez wrote. “We know how hard you and your staff worked to quickly acclimate to videoconferencing tools, and we urgently worked over the weekend to preserve some widely used options while establishing clarity on those that pose a risk to privacy or security.”

Still, some DOE employees expressed frustration with having to transition to a new platform for remote learning after many already spent weeks adapting to the new way of teaching.

“While I understand there were security issues with Zoom, we are in an unprecedented time and state of urgency,” one administrator told The Post.

“Educators came up with online learning plans and communities for their students with zero guidance and zero input from the DOE,” the school official said. “Many teachers established ongoing Zoom lessons with their students.”

The administrator added, “It took countless phone calls and steps outlining how to access these virtual platforms for parents and families, and now we have to change it and start from scratch again.”

The DOE letter states that that the alternatives to Zoom like Google Hangout Meets “are safe to use” for remote learning.

“In the coming days, we’ll share detailed how-to documents for your teachers and families to support the transition to Google Meet and/or Microsoft Teams,” Ramirez wrote. “In the meantime, your priority should be continuing instruction and services to your students.”

There have been recent reports of hackers “Zoom-bombing” or hijacking video conferences on the Zoom platform. In one instance, someone hacked a school meeting in Massachusetts and flashed swastika tattoos.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that “there’s been an effort” by DOE officials to work with Zoom in order to “ensure the privacy of our students to make sure their information could not be accessed wrongly” and officials “do not believe the company has cooperated.”

“We’re not going to put our students privacy and our students data at risk,” the mayor said, adding, “We’d like to use that capacity, but only if we can do it in a secure way.”

Zoom said in a statement that it’s “proud of the role we are playing during this challenging time and proactively engaging to make sure schools and other new users understand how to best use the platform.”

“Zoom is committed to providing educators with the tools and resources they need on a safe and secure platform, and we are in continued dialogue with NYC’s Department of Education about how Zoom can be of service during this time,” the company said.

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