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School reopening not the answer to Zoom breach

Medford school officials are reacting in the right way to an incident in which a man joined a remote Zoom class and exposed himself. Calls for the district to respond inappropriately are understandable but misplaced.

The incident involved a Hedrick Middle School class on Monday. An unidentified man used a student’s name to enter the Zoom session. The teacher immediately remove him from the session.

The district was able to track the IP address the man was using and file a police report. District officials are working with Zoom — a widely used video conferencing application — to make it more secure. At the same time, the district is taking internal steps to make class sessions more secure, including requiring students to log into a Zoom session by spelling out their first and last names, limiting participation to students scheduled for that class and not allowing anyone to drop out of a session and log back in.

Those are all prudent steps, and it’s hard to blame the district for not anticipating such a breach. Police should do everything they can to track down the person responsible and prosecute him.

What the district should not do is heed demands from many in the community to reopen schools despite the coronavirus pandemic. Social media comments on this story quickly devolved into a debate about resuming in-person instruction.

A random incident of an adult exposing himself to school children could just as easily happen on school grounds as over the internet. Schools are using remote instruction to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19 infection. Reopening schools to protect them from flashers would amount to a massive overreaction to a one-time incident that is preventable in the future while ignoring the public health threat posed by a deadly virus.

We understand parents’ frustration over having to cope with children doing distance learning at home. But this is not an excuse to change that too soon.

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