WILLIAMSTOWN — The Zoom “bomb” that disrupted a classroom and shocked the Mount Greylock Regional School community Jan. 21 was instigated by two students in another school district. According to Superintendent Jason “Jake” McCandless, they were students of color.
McCandless, in reporting the results of the investigation during a Mount Greylock Regional School Committee remote meeting Thursday evening, noted that whatever the motivation of perpetrators, it is the perception of the victims that matters.
At the time, that perception was that it was a racial attack and caused shock and pain for the victim, whose log-in was used to enter the remote classroom, and who felt the racial epithets used during a song that was broadcast to the class in the unauthorized Zoom intrusion (known as a “bomb”) were directed at him.
“Motive sometimes doesn’t matter,” McCandless said. “What does matter is the victim’s perception of the event. Our first concern is for the victim and the family. In addition, the students and staff, and community, were shocked and hurt that day.”
He went on to say that this does not mean that racism is not a problem in Williamstown.
“Whether based in racism or not, racism and bias exist here, and in every school and community across the country. Anyone who says it doesn’t exist is deluding themselves. So, we have to continue our work to enhance our efforts against racism and bias,” he said. “Every human being belongs where they are because they are human beings.”
Earlier in the meeting, the committee heard from Stephanie Boyd, chairwoman of the Williamstown Planning Board, who was there to speak about the proposed cannabis-cultivation bylaw proposal, which could allow marijuana cultivation on properties abutting the school property.
Committee members expressed concern over the possibility of the smell from a marijuana grow affecting the air quality on school grounds.
“Impact on air quality would be a real concern,” said committee member Jose Constantine. He further wondered why the proposal allows the maximum size of 100,000 square feet of cultivation canopy, wondering if the impacts would be less if the grow was smaller.
Committee member Julia Bowen also was concerned about the smell, and suggested consulting with an expert on addiction issues who could speak to what affect the smell might have on someone with substance abuse issues.
In other business, the district’s business administrator, Joe Bergeron, reported that pool testing has begun at the school, with the staff trying out the testing strategy earlier Thursday. Students will start being tested when they return from the Presidents Week vacation Feb. 22.
He explained that students and staff are put in groups of five to 10 people and each group is tested and the results are taken from the entire group, rather than individuals. It’s much more efficient and cheaper. If a group comes up with a positive result, it will be retested and the results reported individually. Results take less than 24 hours. Then they know which person is infected and how to proceed from there.
Testing will be on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of every week, with each group getting tested once weekly. It is a faster and more effective way of determining the extent and source of infections at all three schools.
“This will give us the ability to operate safely and confidently,” Bergeron said.