Non-SJS students invade Zoom meetings, disrupt classes


Photo Illustration by Celine Huang

Non-SJS members joined several Zoom classes after obtaining the meeting links and passwords from current students.

Russell Li, Assignments Editor

When Isaac Hernandez introduced himself to the Data Analytics class on the first day of school, senior Zoe Toy did not recognize him. Soon, Toy and her classmates began to wonder whether or not he was really an SJS student. Hernandez, with his video feed switched off and replaced by his name, claimed that he was new to the school, had not been added to the class roster, and did not have a working camera.

Hernandez was one of three separate incidents on Aug. 19 in which non-SJS members joined several Zoom classes after obtaining the meeting links and passwords from current students. Zoom invaders joined an AP English Language and Composition class and a US History class.

“I’d never seen the name ‘Isaac Hernandez’ before and didn’t see him on the roster,” said senior Tyson Luna, who presumed that Hernandez was new to the class. “We were just settling in, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.”

As mathematics teacher Rafael Contreras continued his opening day lesson, the Zoom invader began to post comments into the chat, two of which were addressed to Toy: “you kinda cute” and “drop your Snapchat.”

Zoom invaders joined a Data Analytics class, an AP English Language and Composition class and a US History class. (Celine Huang)

“I felt pretty uncomfortable,” Toy said, “especially because I’m the only girl in the class.”

Toy figured that another student invited Isaac Hernandez to the class and was just playing along.

Besides the unwanted attention happening in the chat, Toy said that the first class was actually pretty normal: “I was surprised that a non-SJS student would take the time to attend the entirety of one of our classes.”

The rest of Hernandez’s comments, while not as offensive as those made to Toy, were mostly off-topic. According to Luna, the intruder said that someone in the class “had a rectangular head.”

Not all Zoom invaders had the stamina to remain for the entire class, even an abbreviated 35-minute period just for the first day of school. In junior Bo Farnell’s AP English class, an unwelcome participant calling himself Ian Smith stayed for only 15 minutes before writing “Brb” in the chat and departing, to return nevermore.

According to Farnell, after participating in an icebreaker activity, Ian stayed quiet “until he popped on the mic and said that he had to leave.”

Toy emailed Dean of Students Bailey Duncan later that afternoon to report the incident and was relieved to hear back that administrators had already been notified about the Zoom invader.

“[A few] of my students came forward and told me what was happening and who they thought [Isaac] was,” Contreras said. “I am very proud that they made the difficult decision to inform me.”

Administrators sent out an email that afternoon informing the Upper School of the incidents. In the pushpage, administrators stressed the new Remote Learning Classroom Norms and Responsible Use Policy, which specifies that “students may not share Zoom links for classes, advisory, or any SJS activity with anyone outside of the school community” without permission from the Dean of Students or Head of Upper School.

Farnell said that the “inherent chaos” of the first day of school helped unwelcome participants avoid detection.

“The only reason we suspected a Zoombomber was because no one in the class was familiar with an Ian Smith,” Farnell said.

No Zoom disruptions were reported in any classes after the first day.

Contreras taught his Data Analytics class again on Friday, Aug. 21, and none of his students brought up the interloper. “This class, and all of my other classes, were entirely normal and smooth.”