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Someone posing as a student shouted racial epithets in a virtual classroom setting, according to Superintendent Joe Morelock.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Newberg School District is taking steps to deal with a handful of racist incidents in online classrooms.

Adding to the chorus of schools dealing with similar issues around the country, the Newberg School District announced Oct. 5 that it had been dealing with racist incidents perpetrated by someone who found their way into an online classroom.

The person shouted racial epithets and hate speech after posing as a student who was supposed to be in the classroom.

"We have experienced some incidents of unidentified individuals spewing racist slurs and racist talk into Google Meet class sessions," superintendent Joe Morelock wrote in a message to parents. "Our sessions are not open to all, but the person gained access by using the name of someone who should have been allowed in the classroom.

"These incidents are harmful, especially so to our students of color, and will not be tolerated in the Newberg School District. We apologize to the students in the class who had to experience it. We have seen incidents of this kind affecting schools and school districts across the nation and are saddened and angered that we are now victim to a similar incident in which an individual invaded our virtual classroom to spread hate speech."

District communications coordinator Gregg Koskela said the district's tech department has been working to figure out how these incidents happened, and at this point they believe they have identified the perpetrator. This person used a name that they knew was a student who was supposed to be in the classroom before using the hateful language.

"We're following our procedures with both law enforcement and discipline," Koskela said. "We work really hard to make sure our online stuff is secure, and this is an unfortunate incident. We are rolling out some changes to make Google Meets more secure and prevent this from happening again."

The school district passed an anti-racism resolution earlier this year and is addressing the matter with that in mind. Koskela said the classrooms are typically only available to students or families, so that made it easier to track down the culprit, who has been identified with their information given to local law enforcement. The district has assembled support staff for students who may have been offended or impacted by the hateful remarks.

"Unfortunately, we live in a world where people are going to try and do something like this, and it angers and sickens me," Koskela said. "We are making some changes that we believe will stop attacks like this."

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