A virtual celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month was disrupted with a series of chats and music blaring as presenters attempted to speak.
From the start the chat, which was for answering questions, sharing information and providing a vehicle for students’ feedback, took an ugly turn.
Users sent a series of smiley faces, and before long lots of spam chats including some with profanity were showing up on the Zoom screen – a distraction for everyone in attendance for the celebration.
The chat function was disabled.
But once the chat was disabled, another issue occurred.
People still found their ways to disrupt the October assembly by unmuting themselves and blasting music over the people speaking.
Yexandra “Yex” Diaz, a parent of a Common Ground freshman student, was interrupted in the middle of the poem she was reciting. That caused many students to not hear her poem, which was centered around celebrating Hispanic heritage. Other staff members were also interrupted while trying to give out their power awards.
Sharyn Lopez, manager of students and family engagement said, “Sometimes people forget that we’re in a learning environment since we are virtual.”
From reviewing the chat, it’s evident that once one person started it, everyone followed.
But it was never determined who interrupted the program.
Staff members were in a difficult situation because turning off the chat took away the voices of students who were using the chat for its intended purpose. But leaving the chat on resulted in the focus shifting from the speaker to what people were saying in the chat.
Monica Maccera-Filppu, executive director and interim school director, said the chat was turned off due to the spamming and distraction to other students.
The school did not identify the people that caused the disruptions but Lopez did say it was students.
“Students were spamming the chat and other students were getting distracted,” Lopez said.
“Students were being mean to other students. Most of the students started to focus on the chat more. We need to be clear about consequences and a respect agreement at the beginning of every power assembly,” Lopez said.
In the meantime, the school is deciding on how to handle similar disruptions in the future.
Maccera-Filppu is open to suggestions from students on how to handle future disruptions.
“Full names, but it’s hard to tell if students are changing their names since there were close to 200 people in the meeting,”Maccera-Filppu said that the consequences could include kicking people out to the waiting room and issuing warnings.
In the future, there will be a closer watch on the chat and participants list going into the next power assembly, considering the disruptions that happened at the most recent one.
Lopez organized the event around a Hispanic/Latinx theme with help from the following students: Ana Reyes, Darlenne Cazarin, Amy Solano-Cumbicos, Tifannie Reyes, and Reinalis Lopez.
Vanessa Maida is 17 and a senior at Common Ground High School, New Haven. Vanessa of East Haven, likes to write, paint and is interested in design and film.